Talks between deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya and the leader of the de facto regime, Roberto Micheletti, collapsed on Sunday when Micheletti rejected the terms of a resolution provided by mediator, Oscar Arias. The New York Times writes that Arias provided a 7-point plan to both sides over the weekend which would have restored Zelaya to power over a “unity government.” The terms of the deal would also have limited Zelaya’s presidential powers, moved up elections by one month to October, and provided amnesty for all political crimes committed by the two sides over the past weeks. According to Arias, Zelaya’s delegation had accepted all the terms of the proposal, but Micheletti refused to accept Zelaya’s reinstatement as president of the country. In the wake of the collapse, Arias is asking both parties to give him 72 more hours to seek a last-ditch solution to the impasse which he says could end with “a civil war and bloodshed that the people of Honduras do not deserve.” Meanwhile, Zelaya continues to insist he will stage a return to the country this week, perhaps crossing the border on foot in what an aide has called a “great march against oppression.” Reuters reports that Zelaya claims mass resistance is also being prepared within Honduras, and one Honduran analyst notes that “We could see violence if Zelaya tries to return by force.” A march on the Congress organized by pro-Zelaya forces is planned for today and a two-day national strike may occur on Thursday and Friday. The Wall Street Journal says that the de facto regime’s intransigence shows how Mel Zelaya continues to be mistrusted by most of Honduras’s “institutions and political class,” including the Church, business community, the courts, and the military.
Also this weekend, the Washington Post reports on the new GAO findings on drug trafficking and Venezuela. The Post’s Juan Forero says the non-partisan research office has concluded that corruption at high levels of the Chávez government and state aid to drug traffickers in neighboring Colombia have made Venezuela a “launching pad for cocaine bound for the United States and Europe.” According to the GAO, the amount of cocaine traveling from Colombia to Venezuela has risen from 60 metric tons in 2004 to 260 metric tons in 2007. The report goes on to call this a “lifeline” to FARC guerrillas who depend heavily upon the drug trade to finance operations in Colombia. For his part, President Hugo Chávez has rejected the report saying the U.S., as the world’s top cocaine consumer, has no right to lecture his country on drug issues. He added that his country has made important anti-drug gains since expelling the DEA in 2005. The GAO report had been commissioned by the Foreign Relations Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN). After the report’s release, Lugar said that its findings “have heightened my concern that Venezuela’s failure to cooperate with the United States on drug interdiction is related to corruption in that country's government.” A Democratic aide consulted by the Post said, however, that a review of U.S.-Venezuela policy following the report could interfere with Sec. of State Clinton’s work to improve relations with Venezuela.
More on drugs this weekend, as the New York Times also features a piece on drug smuggling from Mexico to the U.S. via small boats as the U.S.-Mexico border tightens. Both migrants and drug traffickers are increasingly taking to the water in an attempt to reach the U.S., border agents are reporting. The number of illegal immigrants interdicted off the coast has doubled in the last two years and the seizure of drugs, principally marijuana, has also skyrocketed from 906 pounds in 2007 to 6,300 pound last year. Also, the LA Times writes that drug trafficking is imperiling the journey of migrants to the U.S., perhaps adding to decreases in emigration from Mexico and Central America north over the last year. The paper says “migrants and drugs once occupied separate worlds. But tougher border enforcement has pushed the groups into the same obscure parts of the desert. The close company adds a new element of danger to migrants' already perilous journey, and may be responsible for a drop in immigration and economic decline in towns that depend on the migrants.” And, in the region, last Friday the last U.S. anti-drug flight took off from the Manta air base in Ecuador. Counter-narcotics operations have been centered in Ecuador for a decade and were credited with 60% of Pacific drug interdictions, but the lease on the base was not renewed by Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.
Also on Ecuador and Rafael Correa, the AP confirmed over the weekend the existence of a video showing Colombian FARC rebels discussing contributing to Correa’s campaign. Correa has rejected the video’s veracity. But if true, who knew the rebel group did political fundraising?
Two notes on Bolivia, reported by the AP. First, Evo Morales said over the weekend that he would like to extend the ALBA alliance, spearheaded by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, to include military partnerships between member countries and increased collaboration between the region’s political parties and social movements. And the leader of Bolivia’s coca growers union has said the union will support Evo Morales’s bid for re-election in December elections by having each member donate a pound of coca profits to his campaign.
On Cuba, and perhaps a new Obama approach to U.S.-Cuba relations, the Miami Herald reports that the U.S. has released new information about military cooperation between the two governments. Details of on-going “mass casualty exercises” between the two governments was reported to journalists recently. Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jack Sheehan called the “calibrated exposure a likely ‘trial balloon’ by an Obama administration experimenting with expanded relations with Havana.”
Finally, two opinions. Andres Oppenheimer in the MH writes on China in Latin America, arguing that while the Asian power has increased its profile in the region, it will not overtake the U.S. in the region any time soon. Conservative columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady adds her two-cents on continuing developments in Honduras, echoing past arguments that the crisis is merely a proxy battle for the U.S. to stand up to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, which, in her opinion, the U.S. has yet to do.