The Australian parliamentary system is pretty amateurish when it comes to players manipulating the rules (strategically timed recesses, etc.) to get their way. Honduras’ de facto government got away with “leveraging” quasi-legitimacy for its Clayton’s coup (the coup you have when you’re not having a coup). The de facto government has used a parliamentary technicality.

The consensus internationally and domestically was that the legitimacy of the November 29 elections be recognised if and only if President Manuel Zelaya was reinstated. There were hurrahs and optimism when Roberto Micheletti (the de facto President) signed agreement to this on October 30.

This had been a sticking point with the coup regime since day one, with the US engineered accords under the sponsorship of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. President Zelaya had already signed away all objections to his own political agenda, (including polling people on whether they wanted reforms to the Honduras Constitution) and excluded only the condition of his reinstatement as President.

The coup regime’s recalcitrance in not accepting this single condition embarrassed the US administration (which designed the accord in the first place) and there was a general perception that it took a bit of arm twisting three months later, to convince Micheletti to sign an agreement that essentially would have cost nothing, politically.

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The US State Department visit by “heavy” Thomas Shannon was seen as a diplomatic master-play. But was it? Shannon had been around Honduras in the two weeks before the coup. And then there was that nasty little sub-clause hidden in the accord:

The agreement, de facto President Micheletti insisted, had to be ratified by the Honduras Congress, and the High Court. And Micheletti simply failed to convene the Congress (or Asamblea) that is currently in recess.

The deadline to reinstate Zelaya has passed (it was November 5 — the Opposition gave them another day), and the local Resistance Front determined to boycott the elections and withdrew the candidature of the only Opposition candidate. And it is still ambiguous how much of the international community will refuse to recognise the legitimacy of those elections if the US decides so. Meanwhile, with two weeks to go, the police are out in the streets preventing gatherings and censoring critical media.

The US State Department last weekend stated that the elections would be recognised whether or not Zelaya was reinstated. It is a gross betrayal of the aspirations of many honest people. If the US does not resile from that position it could create divisions within the OAS, with the ALBA countries talking about pulling out of the OAS if US interests so heavily dominate it. Panama, Colombia, Mexico and Peru would be expected to support a US line despite of the official position of the OAS, and the Obama administration’s political ambiguity. Democrat Congresswoman Jane Shakowsky currently visiting Honduras is clearly shocked at the conditions prevailing, describing at a   press conference in Tegucigalpa “a serious deterioration of Human Rights in Honduras since the coup“.

Observers are wondering whether the US is prepared to go so far in brinkmanship to breaking up the OAS. Specious legitimisation of the regime on November 29 could mean that the Obama administration is deferring a minor problem until it becomes a major one.

Warwick Fry has done a series of interviews from Honduras, since the beginning of the coup, mostly in English published as podcasts on here.

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