“The accord is dead. There is no sense in deceiving Hondurans,” ousted President Mel Zelaya told Radio Globo early today, exactly one week after it appeared a U.S.-brokered deal had resolved the 4 month old Honduran crisis. Zelayistas are now asking their fellow Hondurans to boycott upcoming elections, still scheduled for the end of the month, says Reuters. Midnight Thursday was the deadline provided under last week’s pact to form a unity government and at various moments yesterday it appeared a compromise might be struck between Micheletti and Zelaya on this point. As El Faro reports, Roberto Michletti asked for the resignation of his own cabinet yesterday afternoon to provide space for a new unity government. The BBC adds that Ricardo Lagos, one of four members of the Verification Commission working Tegucigalpa, indicated Thursday that Micheletti himself seemed prepared to step down as president as soon as a unity government was formed. But, as Lagos went on to say, “Now the unity government has to work hard to make the other part of the accord a reality…that is, to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya.”
On Tuesday, Micheletti also requested that Zelaya present a list of 10 individuals who might enter a unity government cabinet. However, Mr. Zelaya refused, arguing that the Congress must first decide on his restitution, as outlined under Friday’s agreement. “The de facto regime has failed to live up to the promise that, by this date, the national government would be installed. And by law, it should be presided by the president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya,” Zelaya negotiator Jorge Reina remarked this morning.
For its part, the Honduran Congress seemed willing to continue to delay its vote the matter of Zelaya’s restitution until it had received the non-binding opinion of the Supreme Court, Attorney General, and Human Rights Ombudsman. As the Economist reports this week, it seems the wording of last week’s agreement was “calibrated to allow both sides to maintain mutually incompatible position.” And so the crisis continues, this time with increasing reports of violence. In the last two days, at least three small bomb explosions have gone off in and around Tegucigalpa at both pro and anti-Zelaya activities.
[Also this morning, Edward Schumacher-Matos offers an opinion on Honduras in the Washington Post, saying the knee-jerk reactions of both the Right and Left on the Honduran issue has left everyone with “egg on their face.” He writes: “The compromise leaves egg on the face of the OAS and an intelligentsia that refused to see Honduras as more than a banana republic that somehow could infect the region, only to be confronted by a Senate cabal that treats Honduras as . . . a banana republic that somehow could infect the rest of the region. The former see this impoverished backwater of 8 million people setting off a chain of military coups, while the latter see it setting off a chain of leftist dictatorships. The two share an equally misguided domino theory.”]
In other news around the region this morning:
· The New York Times reports on Paraguay and the recent dismissal of military leaders by President Fernando Lugo. As reported yesterday, the decision comes after rumors of a possible military coup against the Lugo government earlier in the week. Lugo continues to deny such rumors, telling reporters Thursday that “there could be small military groups that are connected to or could be used by the political class,” but that “the military does not show any intent of reversing the process of democratic consolidation.” The changes were in fact the third time in which Lugo has replaced high-ranking military officials since taking office some 15 months ago. The last time Paraguay was in the U.S. news was a few months ago when multiple women said Lugo had fathered their children while still a Roman Catholic bishop. On Thursday, amidst the latest mini-crisis, the AP reports that yet another woman has filed a paternity claim against the president. Lugo has five days to respond.
· In Mexico, the Wall Street Journal writes that amidst rising violence, some local officials are promising to take the law into their own hands to take out drug cartels. Mauricio Fernandez, a prominent mayor from the town of San Pedro Garza García, said this week he had in fact already “created an undercover group of operatives to ‘clean up’ criminal elements -- even if it had to act outside the law,” says the WSJ. “We're tired of sitting around on our hands and waiting for daddy or mommy Calderón to come to fix our fights. We in San Pedro took the decision to grab the bull by the horns,” Mr. Fernández said in a recent radio interview. “Even acting outside the limits of my role as mayor, I will end the kidnappings, extortions and drug trafficking. We are going to do this by whatever means, fair or foul.” This Wednesday alone, 29 people died in killings in Mexico believed to be drug-related, including the murder of a police chief in one Northern border city.
· The AP reports that 15,000 Venezuelan troops have been moved to the Venezuela-Colombia border in the latest escalation of an on-going conflict there. President Hugo Chavez says the military is being used to increase security, combat drug trafficking and root out paramilitary groups suspected to be operating in the area. Chavez has also vocally opposed the signing of a U.S.-Colombia military agreement, but Venezuelan officials said the troop buildup on the frontier has nothing to do with the pact signed last week.
· And finally, in Peru, there’s news of new Shining Path attacks on military outposts in southern Ayacucho. One soldier was killed the attack and three were injured. The AP says isolated highland bands of the Shining Path are growing as Peru’s drug trade increases.