On July 24, like a scofflaw on the run, former president Manuel Zelaya briefly stood on Honduran soil daring the police or army to come arrest him. The government of Roberto Micheletti vows to execute the arrest warrant issued by the Honduran high court before the June 28 ouster of Zelaya. Micheletti is not afraid to argue the case against Zelaya.
Then unready to surrender, Zelaya swiftly retreated back to safety on Nicaraguan soil. After three days, Zelaya remains camped on the border, apparently declining an invitation to return to Washington to discuss options for solving the crisis.
The incident on the border demonstrated the characteristics of the deposed leader: folksy, deceptively pacific, yet headstrong, self-centered, an international loose cannon. For hours on the 24th, Zelaya stood in the company of the Venezuelan foreign minister and other foreign well-wishers, his every cell phone conversation, every utterance covered by Hugo Chavez’s television network, Telesur. Like the Pied Piper, Zelaya called for his backers in Honduras to rally to him and descend to the border to meet him, an open invitation to create a mob scene and certain confrontation that could easily lead to bloodshed. Three days later, the fervor of support for Zelaya already appears to be dwindling.
While leftist friends in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and elsewhere applauded Zelaya’s intemperance, anyone genuinely interested in stability, protection of life, and a workable resolution of the Honduran political crisis shuddered.
The Obama Administration, which still supports Zelaya’s return, is losing confidence in their man. Secretary of State Clinton remarked sharply on July 24, “President Zelaya’s effort to reach the border is reckless. It does not contribute to the broader efforts to restore democratic and constitutional order in the Honduras crisis. So we urge President Zelaya and all other parties to reaffirm their commitment to a negotiated, peaceful solution to the integrity of Honduran democracy and the safety and well-being of the Honduran people.” Zelaya’s non-appearance in Washington this week will not win him friends.
Genuine American leadership in Central America and the Western Hemisphere demands support for the preservation of public order, not rule by the mob, and the preservation of constitutional institutions and checks and balances. The Heritage Foundation has expressed its concerns that the Obama Administration’s lost sight of these fundamentals in Honduras.
For now, Secretary Clinton at least recognizes that the Administration is shackled with a loose cannon of an ex-president whose vainglorious visions of self-vindication eclipse any interest in the well-being of his nation. A solution to the current crisis will require a change of course and international recognition of the real constitutional issues that led to Zelaya’s removal from power on June 28 and continue to be at the core of a just solution.