Important backers of the coup regime in Tegucigalpa are beginning to peel away from their hard line stance against ousted President Manuel Zelaya, agreeing that “something must be done to ease the political crisis engulfing Honduras.” This writes the LA Times today who reports on a tense Sunday meeting at the home of U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens which included OAS representative John Biehl (Chile), senior Honduran politicians, and members of the country’s business community. The paper says two significant results came out of the meeting: 1. Supporters of the Micheletti regime “have begun to temper their support for the de facto government they helped to install.” And 2. some now appear willing “to allow Zelaya to be reinstated and finish his term due to expire in January.” While the Honduran participants allegedly expressed their “visceral fear” that Zelaya had begun an “unwanted push toward socialism” in Honduras, the U.S. and OAS diplomats were said to have “repeatedly assured them Zelaya's authority would be strictly limited if he is reinstated.” One unnamed former Honduran president who attended the Sunday meetings tells the paper, “The international community [condemning the coup] has been unfair with us, but that pressure from the international community is what has pushed us to seek a solution.” Such a statement echoes that of business leader, Adolfo Facusse who told the LAT one day earlier that the business elite would give “a green light” to reinstating Zelaya should his powers be severely limited. However, Facusse seems to have added additional caveats Tuesday, maintaining that “Zelaya would be required to face prosecution on charges that Honduran courts have levied against him since he was deposed and demanding a 3000 man-multinational military force (including security forces from Canada, Panama, and Colombia) be brought to Honduras to verify and enforce the agreement.” Facusse also demanded compensation from the U.S. for the economic damage its sanctions have caused on the country. The AP adds that Facusse also discussed the idea of making current de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, a “congressman for life” as part of the proposal. Amb. Llorens is reported to have been meeting once again with politicians and business leaders on Tuesday while top military leader, Gen. Romeo Vazquez also remarked Tuesday that Honduras was “rapidly approaching a solution.”
However, there are still signs of skepticism. Speaking in Miami, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias discussed his most recent thoughts on the Honduran crisis as well, saying “the country can't have free and fair elections until its de facto government lifts a repressive decree that silenced opposition media and forbade public gatherings.” [Arias also had a great quote for reporters, saying “A coup dressed in fine silk is still a coup,” and, speaking of the Honduran constitution, the Costa Rican president said “I don't think there is a worse constitution on the face of this earth.”] RAJ adds that even while Micheletti (and the Honduran Congress) say a recent decree suspending constitutional guarantees could soon be lifted, various local radio stations are still being threatened with closure.
Outside Honduras, the New York Times and Washington Post both report on new high level talks between the Cuban government and U.S. officials that have occurred in the last weeks. State Dept. official Bisa Williams was in Havana to discuss restarting mail service between the two countries, but as the NYT writes, “Ms. Williams was also able to meet with a senior member of Cuba’s Foreign Ministry for broader talks and was given the opportunity to tour a Cuban agricultural facility and areas affected by hurricanes in the Western province of Pinar del Río.” Those talks are said to have included discussions on ways to increase cooperation on counternarcotics operations as well as migration issues. “Look at the momentum; look at the pace of these steps. It’s a departure from many, many years of practice,” CFR’s Julia Sweig tells the paper, while CDA’s Sarah Stephens says “While neither side is saying what was discussed, I believe that the president has authorized these talks because he has a plan for bridging the chasm between Cuba and the United States that has existed for 50 years.” The Post adds a bit of doubt, however, writing that the State Dept. denies the meetings were of great significance. “I wouldn't characterize this as any kind of a breakthrough,” spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Tuesday. But, again, Sweig says to the Post that “she knew of no other case in recent years in which a U.S. diplomat had been invited to extend a visit and discuss issues affecting Cuba. During the migration talks that occurred every six months between the two countries from 1993 to 2003, she said, both governments sharply limited the movement of each other's diplomats.”
From Argentina, the Wall Street Journal writes of massive worker protests occurring in Buenos Aires after a Kraft Foods factory shut its doors because of the economic recession. Kraft workers had occupied their plant for nearly three weeks before being forcibly removed by Argentina police last Friday. The WSJ’s Matt Moffett and Taos Turner write: “Street protests by unemployed workers -- albeit much larger than the current demonstrations -- contributed to the downfall of several governments that came before Mrs. Kirchner's and that of her husband and predecessor, Néstor. But several years of economic growth, along with the Kirchners' political adeptness, allowed the government to co-opt many union leaders, as well as leaders of groups of unemployed workers known as piqueteros.” That relationship may now be fracturing.
Also, the AP writes that Chile has invited a skeptical Peru to observe military training missions which Peruvians have interpreted as threatening and want canceled. The Miami Herald says a World Bank economist is predicting Latin America will grow by 3% next year and become a “a leader” in the global economic recovery thanks to banking reforms and increased trade ties beyond the region. And finally, the AP says a new line of investigations have begun against the son of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as a Chilean judge continues to unravel how the Pinochet’s made millions of dollars—found in secret overseas bank accounts after the dictator’s fall.
NOTE: Due to upcoming travels, morning briefings may not come out until later in the day on Thursday, Friday, Monday, and Tuesday. My apologies in advance.