The hope that talks between ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya and the country’s de facto head of state, Roberto Micheletti, would bring a quick end to the Honduran crisis was thrown into doubt Thursday. The two men arrived at the home of Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias but refused to meet with another face to face, instead meeting only with Arias separately, the New York Times reports. Mr. Arias said he did not believe day one of negotiations was a failure, however. According to his spokeswoman, “Now the hard work begins.” Outside Mr. Arias’s home, the strong emotions that the coup has aroused were visible. Supporters of Zelaya burned Mr. Micheletti in effigy, yelling “asesino” when they thought the former Honduran head of parliament was about to arrive at the Arias residence. According to the NYT, Zelaya only spent about an hour and a half talking with Arias, demanding once again that he be re-installed as the president of Honduras. Micheletti, for his part, was said to have stayed with Arias for about three hours, remaining steadfast in his defense of the June 28 coup. According to the Wall Street Journal, Micheletti then returned to Honduras and left a four man commission in Costa Rica to continue talks with President Arias. “The talks are a positive development, and Arias is the right guy, but negotiating the end to Central American wars may seem easy compared to this,” says Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue. The Honduran media published a CID-Gallup poll, capturing the complex and very polarized situation on the ground in Honduras itself. The poll, conducted between June 30 and July 4, shows 41% of Hondurans believing the coup was justified, while 28% were opposed, reports the WSJ. A significant percentage of respondents said they were not sure. However, the Honduran media, as the Washington Post writes, has been strongly criticized by many outside of the country for publishing one-sided pieces that have supported the actions taken by coup backers. One major paper went so far as to air brush out blood from a photo of a protestor killed Sunday. “Hondurans did not know what was going on. They clearly acted to create an information vacuum to keep people unaware of what was actually happening,” says Carlos Lauria of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Also, the U.S. announced it was suspending $16.5 million in military aid to Honduras and said some $180 million in development aid could be at risk as well if a settlement is not reached. And Venezuela decided to halt oil exports to Honduras on Thursday, saying it would not restart the flow of oil to the country until Zelaya was reinstated as president. Finally, the Post editorializes the Arias-led negotiations as well, arguing that the best solution would be to “allow Mr. Zelaya back into Tegucigalpa for the remainder of his term, which ends in January, in exchange for his pledge to abandon all efforts to change the Constitution so he can run for a second term.”
The Miami Herald runs an AP piece this morning on the G-8 meetings currently being held in Italy. The exclusive meetings of the world’s eight largest economies were opened up to five of the most emerging countries in the world, including Brazil and Mexico—what the AP calls a “tacit admission that their [G-8] leadership alone is not enough to fix the world’s major problems.” The so-called “G-5” “urged a resumption of the stalled Doha trade round, noting that the developing countries were particularly damaged by protectionist trends emerging from the global economic crisis. Stronger multilateral trading, they said, would play a role in promoting development and reducing poverty.” And Brazil’s Lula da Silva, meeting with President Obama was particularly active, arguing that the developed world must encourage technology transfers to developing countries if they hoped to reach stronger global regulations for greenhouse gas emissions.
And also today, far from the drug violence of Mexico, the emerging drug market of small-town Maine is examined. The LA Times writes: “New England may be thousands of miles from the producers and brutal drug enterprises of Mexico and Colombia. But a busy pipeline from Mexico resolutely moves heroin and cocaine to emerging markets as far away as coastal Maine, where more and more addicts fill courtrooms, jail cells, treatment facilities and morgues.” Detectives in the New England have created an unofficial anti-drug partnership, dubbed the Seacoast Narcotics Interdiction Force (SNIF), and “although their home cities have a combined population of only 40,000, they've shut down several local heroin and cocaine rings and racked up dozens of arrests in three states,” writes the paper.
In other news, the AP reports from Venezuela that the government of Hugo Chávez has instituted new regulations on cable television channels operating in the country. In addition, the licenses of some 200 radio stations were revoked Thursday. “The new regulations will soon require cable television companies that use largely locally produced content to comply with Venezuelan laws for broadcasters, said the country’s top telecommunications official.” Critics of the president say Venezuela’s strict broadcast laws include a measure “requiring all broadcasters to carry Mr. Chávez’s speeches” whenever he demands it.
And back to Honduras, the Miami Herald has a profile piece of Roberto Micheletti that is of interest. Known as the “stubborn mule” by those who are close to him, the MH piece says the de facto president has been in Honduran politics for over three decades, “long enough to be one of the fathers of the constitution that he says legitimizes his power,” and the coup which brought him there. But many working-class Hondurans resent Micheletti. “This guy has been in power for 30 years and he's never done anything to help the people,” says one Honduran. “Anyone who has ever had to ask him for something will tell you he's arrogant.”