(Image credit: Reuters via UK Telegraph)
Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras on Monday and has taken refuge inside the Brazilian embassy in the capital of Tegucigalpa, while the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti continues to call for his arrest. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said, somewhat naively in my estimation, “he was hopeful Zelaya’s return could start a new stage in negotiations to end the Honduran crisis.” Jose Miguel Insulza, head of the OAS, said Honduras was responsible for the safety of Zelaya and the Brazilian embassy while thousands of Zelaya supporters massed outside the embassy and Zelaya himself remained almost antagonistically defiant.
The State Department has urged calm and restraint on both sides, but Zelaya’s physical presence within the country creates a powder keg of conflict that can easily be set off by a misstep on either side. It’s been my position from the beginning that Honduras had a right to remove Zelaya due to his unconstitutional attempts to lengthen his presidential term. Honduras made Zelaya a very good offer a few weeks ago that would have seen Micheletti step down and Zelaya able to return to the country if he renounced any claim to the Presidency.
Unfortunately, Zelaya has chosen power over what’s best for his nation. Despite what the OAS President claims, I will hold Zelaya responsible for whatever unpleasant outcome results from his reckless return to Honduras. Whatever his rhetoric about the will of the people, you can be sure that the only thing that Zelaya cares about is keeping his power. It’s an absolute travesty that America is backing him and punishing the interim government of Honduras with sanctions.
It’s also troublesome that Zelaya is a close ally of Hugo Chavez, who has in the past threatened military action over the situation in Honduras. It’s very conceivable that Chavez would lend the support of the Venezuelan military for Zelaya to retake control of the country, ensuring that Venezuela would again have a sympathetic and compliant satellite in the region. This is a tense and crucial time for the sovereignty of Honduras, and I pray a peaceful and beneficial end for the Honduran people will come about. We will see.