November 13, 2009
Last week, chances were growing that the prolonged stalemate in Honduras may be broken in the near future. There is a broad consensus that ousted President Manuel Zelaya should be allowed to return to power for the last several weeks of his term, which ends in January. The question is, on whose terms? Would Zelaya be allowed to hold a constitutional referendum and thereby stay in office indefinitely, as he tried to do last summer? Through the efforts of U.S. and Latin American diplomats, a compromise was arranged.
In the past couple days, however, Zelaya has accused the United States of reneging on a commitment to return him to power. José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States, said the negotiations have broken down. He has taken a lead role in this mediation effort. Resolving this delicate issue is urgent because the country plans to hold presidential elections on November 29, and without OAS blessing, it may not be considered legitimate by other countries. See the Washington Post.
A unique aspect of this prolonged crisis is that Republican legislators led by Sen. Jim DeMint have declared their support of the de facto government, traveling to Honduras in recent weeks. The Honduran leadership has faced international isolation since Zelaya was ousted in July. Zelaya remains a refugee within the Brazilian embassy after sneaking back into the country in September.
Once again, Venezuelan President-for-Life Hugo Chavez is whipping up fears of war in South America. He ordered his armed forces to prepare for a war with Colombia, accusing it of conspiring with the United States against Venezuela. In response, Colombia appealed to the U.N. Security Council and the OAS to prevent hostilities from breaking out. Tensions began to rise again last summer when Colombia accused Venezuela of shipping weapons to the FARC guerillas, but nothing else has happened lately. See CNN.com. The idea that the United States would adopt an aggressive policy toward Venezuela with Barack Obama as president is unlikely in the extreme. As discontent rises in his country because of stagnant crude oil prices, Chavez seems to have no better response than to divert attention to imagined foreign threats.
In a move that set back recent attempts at reconciliation, a judge in Ecuador issued a warrant last month for the arrest of the head of the Colombian armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla. In March 2008 Colombian forces had attacked guerrillas who were taking refuge on Ecuador's side of the border, precipitating an international crisis. Since then, tensions have eased for the most part. One expert called the recent actions by Ecuador's government "schizophrenic." See CNN.com.
The former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, pleaded guilty to bribery and illegal phone-tapping charges last month. This came after his previous convictions for convicted of ordering the murder of 25 dissidents (in March 2009) and for having ordered an illegal search (in December 2007). It makes any political comeback even less likely than before, but his daughter Keiko Fujimori may run for president in 2011. See BBC. Fujimori is quite a tragic figure, achieving great things as President through audacity during the early 1990s, and then becoming intoxicated with power.