Honduras renews relations “with countries that matter” as Porfirio Lobo celebrates

[Translation of an article from La Jornada of Mexico City for July 7, 2010.]

by Arturo Cano

Tegucigalpa, July 6 – “Minute 94. God is Honduran,” say the t-shirts still for sale in Valle de Angeles [a wealthy city 30 kilometers northeast of Tegucigalpa, popular with tourists], referring to a last-minute goal which last year helped Honduras qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. The rest was done by the United States team when it beat Costa Rica. Maybe that’s why the souvenir stores also sell US flags, displayed next to the t-shirts. Crowds of Christian gringos, who come here to proselytize and to see the sights buy them while flocks of musicians playing Mexican music follow them around.

In the capital and in San Pedro Sula, almost all the private schools have “school” [in English] in their names. In Comayagua, the city next to the United States airbase, the directions signs on the streets say “one way” [in English]. Busses traveling on them, which used to carry United States kids to their schools, now make up the bulk of public transportation in this country. On Sundays it it hard to find a place where you don’t hear hymns or loudspeakers spewing strict sermons by preachers, many representing  churches whose sees are far to the north. On those days it is hard to take a ten-minute walk without running into three or four Mormons in white short-sleeved shirts and wide ties.

These sketches help explain the importance for Honduras of relations with the United States. If you add that one fourth of the gross national product of the country comes from remittances sent by migrants, you will understand why Honduran diplomats declare, “We have re-established relations with the countries that matter.”

Well, in reality only one country matters, as demonstrated by the uproar among the Honduran elite resulting from the Independence Day party at Ambassador Hugo Llorens’ residence. Naturally, President Porfirio Lobo and his cabinet were there, the congressmen and the judges, the military and the police, leaders of the traditional parties and some business leaders. Notable in their absence from the scene were the desvisados, those whose visas Washington had cancelled because they supported the coup d’état. “With the exception of Adolfo Facussé, I didn’t see any of the desvisados or officials of the Roberto Micheletti de facto government,” says Víctor Meza, former minister of the interior in Manuel Zelaya’s administration and now part of a group negotiating with the Lobo government for the rerturn to the former president, living in exile in the Dominican Republic since last January 27.

But even more than the presence of Meza and other ministers of the overthrown administraton, the hot topic in the Honduran media these days was the presence at the party of Zelaya’s oldest son, Héctor, who was “one of the first to arrive.”

In the turbulent days of the curfews, Honduran media had dedicated a good deal of space, with a hint of morbidity, to the desvisados of the day, both politicians and businessmen. News stories on the cancellations of visas emphasized the patriotism and other virtues of those so punished, as though they were on their way to face the firing squad.

Meza explained it to foreign journalists: “For businessmen and politicians, the US visa is something like an identity card, a document that validates their national status, their identity, their personality, by law or otherwise. The visa is the key document, the formula that bestows personality on them, the link to existence, to a social life.”

Of course the visa is not the only thing. “The other document is the invitation to the annual Fourth of July party, the anniversary of United States independence. Those who get one see themselves as fullfilled, complete citizens, socially arrived. If the awaited envelope doesn’t come, the terror is abysmal, the anguish is infinite and the anxiety never ends..”

The extremes according to the president and Llorens

The truth is Héctor Zelaya’s presence at the fesitivities last weekend is especially surprising because a few days earlier his father had struck hard: “What we suspected then has been confirmed. The United States was behind the coup d’état.” And he said more, in a messge read last Monday, June 28, at the end of a march by the Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (FNRP). “Everything indicates that the coup was planned at the Palmerola military base, on orders from the Untied States, carried out clumsily by bad Hondurans.”

“Maybe he wanted to please his listeners from outside,” says a leader of the FNRP, among whose members Héctor Zelaya was eaten alive for attending Ambassdor Hugo Llorens’ party.

From the first weeks after the coup, Zelaya’s position and that of his collaborators has been to blame the former officials of the State Department, the well known hawks of Washington, but not the Barack Obama administration as a whole.

Not even the “listeners from outside” have taken that step. “At the time, from within ALBA, together with our brothers of the continent, came a worldwide denunciation and condemnation of this coup d’état and a year later nobody has any doubts about the participation of power groups from the United States in this deplorable operation,” a communiqué from the countries joined together as the Alternativa Bolivariana de las Américas declared on the anniversary of the coup.

While Héctor Zelaya was drinking toasts at a nearby table, President Porfirio Lobo and Ambassador Hugo Llorens were flattering one another and agreeing, in similar words, on what the diplomat had said. “We see that what most Hondurans want is reconciliation, although some small minority groups at both extremes, right and left, do not agree.”

Certainly, with Roberto Micheletti at its head, the extreme right, which attained its greatest victory when it blocked Zelaya’s restitution, is still committed to that role, currently sabotaging Lobo’s efforts to reincorporate Honduras into the Organization of American States.

The Supreme Court and the attorney general, the two organs that could open the door to the return of Zelaya by dismissing the charges against him, are controlled by “the businessmen who financed the coup d’état,” the FNRP holds.

Leaders of the Frente, furthermore, rejected invitations to the Fourth of July party and have declined to meet with Ambassador Llorens, who has invited them on more than one occasion.

That is where Porfirio Lobo’s strategy springs a leak, a strategy based on three central elements which analyst Eugenio Sosa explains: “First is to plot all his moves together with the United States.” The second is to align himself with the group of businessmen who “think they could have done worse than with the coup d’état and that they should learn lessons from the crisis although, clearly, without touching the economic model.” And third, a pact Lobo reached with the military: “Not to touch them judicially and to treat them well.” For the time being, Lobo has returned the military to key positions of power that had been left in the hands of civilians in the ‘90s.

All of this while the Resistance insists that “reconciliation cannot be attained without recognizing the truth of the coup d’état and of the offenses against human rights, including more than a hundred people assassinated, with no investigations, justice or punishment.”

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2 Responses to “Honduras renews relations “with countries that matter” as Porfirio Lobo celebrates”

  1. Honduras Renews Relations with Countries That Matter As Porfirio … « halloweencutouts Says:

    […] God is Honduran, say the t-shirts still for sale in Valle de Angeles , referring to a last-minute.This Blog Comments […]

  2. Mona Mehdy Says:

    Many thanks for this one, David. Not surprising that the entrenched power structure is celebrating itself but dismaying about Zelaya’s son participation. I hope that many in Honduras maintain a clear view of what the Lobo government represents.