Four members of the coup government in Honduras had their U.S. visas revoked on Tuesday, the latest in a string of U.S. efforts to find a negotiated reinstatement of ousted President Mel Zelaya. At a State Dept. briefing, spokesman Ian Kelly did not indicate which specific leaders lost their visas but did say those of all members of the de facto government are under review. There are reports, however, that the new president of the National Congress, Jose Alfredo Saavedra, and the judge who signed Zelaya’s arrest order one month ago, Tomas Arita Valle, are among those who have been targeted. This according to the Washington Post while Al Jazeera reports that the country’s human rights ombudsman, Ramon Custodio, and its de facto defense minister, Adolfo Lionel Sevilla, are also among those who have had their travel privileges stripped. In Nicaragua, Zelaya praised the State Dept.’s actions. “This is a coup that has been dead from the start, so they will have to abandon their position of intransigence in the coming hours,” he remarked to reporters. Meanwhile, Zelaya also called for a new round of protests from his Nicaraguan camp on Tuesday to commemorate one month since the coup d’etat forced him from power. While in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, members of the de facto regime said the latest actions would not push them to change their positions. “It's part of the international community's incomprehension of what is happening in Honduras. It's not definitive and it will not have major consequences for the future of Honduras,” Mr. Micheletti’s deputy foreign minister told the AP. The LA Times points out that while $18.5 million in U.S. military aid to Honduras has been cut off, the $180 million in development aid that the country receives each year from the U.S. has not yet been touched. However, as reported in the Miami Herald, the coup has had a significant economic impact on Honduran society, and beyond. The paper reports on some 107 cargo trucks that sit on the Nicaraguan side of the Nicaraguan-Honduran border. This spells economic trouble not only for goods headed to Honduras from its Southern neighbors, but also for Nicaraguan companies that use Honduras as a transit point for goods headed north to Mexico and the United States.
In other news, Venezuela also pulled its top envoy from Colombia on Tuesday, creating yet another cross-border dispute between two Latin American neighbors. President Hugo Chávez is threatening to stop Colombian imports as well after the Colombian government says it found anti-tank weaponry from Venezuela in the possession of FARC rebels. Venezuela and Colombia share some $6 billion in trade annually. Chávez also raised the possibility of shutting down a major gas pipeline that transports between 5.7 and 8.5 million cubic feet of gas from Colombia to Venezuela each day. And while tensions between the two neighbors are many years in the making, the most recent spat may be more long-lasting than before, say some analysts. “Accusations against Venezuela's government have been accumulating: drug trafficking, arms trafficking and connections to Colombian guerrillas. Venezuela has put itself in the eye of the hurricane,” says Elsa Cardoso of the Central University of Venezuela.
Also on Venezuela this morning, a piece by Simon Romero in the New York Times examines the struggle over cacao production in the country. The bean is sought after by Europeans and Americans as the raw ingredient for chocolate and the country produces about 1% of the world’s total cacao output. However, the crop is increasingly seen by the Chávez government as a “luxury product,” leading to intense labor inspections and investigations into land violations, complain some Venezuelan farmers.
And nearly 70 Haitians, attempting to migrate from the country in a large vessel, remained missing off the Turks and Caicos Islands yesterday as search teams vowed to continue their mission in the daylight. At least 15 were reported dead when the boat carrying the group capsized near a reef in the Caribbean.