Will Hondurans talk to or at each other?
TEGUCIGALPA – On one side is deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, who insists he must be restored to power.
On the other is his replacement, Roberto Micheletti, who insists his predecessor must not be allowed back in the country unless it is to face criminal charges.
In the middle is a Nobel Peace Prize winner from the Cold War era, Oscar Arias, whose self-confidence is likely to be challenged by a seemingly intractable conflict.
Does anybody really believe the talks today in Costa Rica will find a solution? That they are even taking place is something of a surprise.
Micheletti has looked like he would rather bury the family dog than go to the talks. He waited until the last minute to announce definitively that he would attend, perhaps mindful that his own hold on power is tenuous and leaving the country could be risky.
He could not have welcomed the announcement from the U.S. Embassy late last night that Washington was cutting off $16.5 million in military aid and was threatening to rescind a further $180 million in civilian aid.
The immediate response from the government was to accuse Nicaragua of denying Micheletti use of its airspace to fly from Honduras to Costa Rica. Nicaragua denied the allegation, and Micheletti arrived in San Jose this morning.
Zelaya has problems of his own. A GID-Gallup poll published in La Prensa newspaper on Thursday said 41 percent of Hondurans supported his ouster versus 28 percent who opposed it and 31 who said they didn’t know.
Many Hondurans believe he acted illegally but Zelaya has support from abroad given wide condemnation of the coup, including from the United States.
Zelaya’s best hopes for a return would seem to be to relinquish any dreams of staying in power beyond January and to give up the idea of a amending the constitution to lift presidential term limits. But can he possibly return when the army, the Congress and the Supreme Court — not to mention a sizable portion of the population — don’t want him back?
photo credits: Arias and Micheletti, REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate; Arias and Zelaya, REUTERS/Cost Rica Presidency/Handout