Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

From Costa Rica: Arias’ 12-Step Program for Honduras Remains in Limbo

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When they weren’t glued to the TV screen last night to watch their national soccer team take a lashing from the U.S., Hondurans were probably feeling the tension rise as their deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, and his entourage grew closer to crossing the border from Nicaragua.

Meanwhile, the so-called San José Agreement—which it was hoped would squelch whatever potential clash awaits Zelaya and restore his presidency after arrival—remains unsigned. Some wonder whether the 12-point roadmap proposed on Wednesday represents a failure for the chief mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Expectations were high for Arias to build bridges once again, as he had done across warring parties over 20 years ago in a way that knocked the socks off the world and Nobel Prize judges.

But, alas, it seemed by Wednesday that the Hondurans had thoroughly humbled Mr. Arias. He appeared visibly exhausted, even perturbed that evening after presenting the plan, which it seemed the de facto government of Roberto Micheletti was destined to dismiss from the outset.

Representatives of the deposed government, of course, seemed a lot more willing to follow the map since Arias proposed a portion of it last weekend. And why not? Point 6 of the San José Agreement calls for the Honduran Congress to turn back the clock to pre-June 28—the morning when armed forces raided Zelaya’s home and booted him to Costa Rica in his pajamas—and allow Zelaya to resume his presidential term ending in January 2010.

However, it makes a crucial point to prohibit Zelaya from pursuing the alleged agenda that got him ousted in the first place: the dreaded plan to hold a vote on presidential re-election. One Honduran journalist at Wednesday’s news conference asked Mr. Arias how he, as the mediator, will ensure Zelaya refrains from moving forward with the constitutional reform. Arias refused to answer.

Following the announcement, Arias spoke frankly to reporters. “You can draw up however many resolutions, however many agreements, but how will it become reality?” he asked. But he stands by his accord, whose details, sketched out over two rounds of talks in his living room, are “not written in stone,” he said.

“It seems to me that if this agreement fails it’ll certainly be much more difficult for any other proposal to be accepted by both sides,” Arias warned.

For the Honduran people, undoubtedly the victims in this whole debacle, it would be better if it were more like soccer. After the kicks and headers are said and done, each team shakes hands and it’s over.

Alex Leff is based in San José, Costa Rica, and is the online editor for The Tico Times, Central America‘s leading English-language newspaper.


Alex Leff is a correspondent for Reuters and GlobalPost based in San José, Costa Rica. He is also a contributing blogger to AQ Online.

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