July 15, 2009
Failing to get anywhere through diplomatic channels thus far, the ousted president of Honduras, Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, declared that his supporters have the right to launch an insurrection to return him to power, and hinted that it could start this weekend. I'm sure there are a lot of "community organizers" and "grassroots activists" in this country who would sympathize with this zestful "people power" approach. But what would the consequences be: civil war? Somehow, that just doesn't sound like the kind of thing a responsible national leader would say. Zelaya was speaking in Guatemala prior to meeting with President Alvaro Colom, who shares Zelaya's leftist ideology. One piece of good news is that both the de facto president (Roberto Micheletti) and Zelaya held talks last week with the President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, who is serving as a mediator. The public statements of the rival claimants to executive authority in Honduras do not show any sign they are willing to compromise, however. See BBC and CNN.com.
Zelaya is still widely recognized by other countries' governments as the legal president of Honduras, and he may still prevail in his battle with the country's establishment, or he may accept strict conditions on returning to power for the last few months of his term. But the fact that he was planning to go ahead with a referendum over the strong objections of both Congress had the supreme court (which ruled it illegal) leave little doubt that he is a headstrong, reckless individual who could well bring about total disaster before this is all over.
The BBC recently had a report on efforts to preserve the vast Pantanal wetland region in southwestern Brazil, which is ten times larger than the Everglades. Agricultural runoff from the surrounding tablelands is the main threat, because of faulty soil management practices on the soy bean and sugar cane plantations. Sewage from new cities lacking proper waste treatment facilities is also a problem. "There are more species of birds in the Pantanal [around 700] than in the whole of Europe."