After months of a virtual standstill in Honduras between democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya and regime leader Roberto Micheletti, we might be seeing the end of what one writer called, “The Little Coup That Couldn’t.” On October 29th, Honduras’ defacto leader Roberto Micheletti agreed to step down, allowing the Honduran Congress to decide whether President Zelaya would be returned to power. But, the fate of democracy in Honduras still remains to be seen.
The agreement, which was in part brokered by U.S. diplomats, along with key members of the OAS, signals a significant change in U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. Instead of backing the coup, the U.S. government actually used its diplomatic tools to help restore democracy in Honduras. The Washington Office of Latin America said in its statement about the agreement, "This is a very important signal to the Honduran government, and Latin America, that the United States will not support coup d'états in the hemisphere."
Still, the main credit for this step forward goes to the many Hondurans who kept organizing, kept mobilizing, despite all odds and all obstacles during the past four months, in an inspiring model of peaceful civic resistance. As the Center for Economic and Policy Research put it, "The Honduran people never gave up, defying repression every day to demonstrate in favor of democracy.”
But, many questions still remain. With so little time before the elections, will Hondurans really be able to freely choose? Will there be reforms that allow greater participation of a broader range of Honduran citizens in the decisions affecting their lives? Is a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution completely off the table? Will there be some real accountability and justice for the crimes committed in carrying out the coup, and for the human rights and civil liberties violations that occurred since June 28th?
Though tensions have begun to ease, it's still too early to call this a “victory,” as the agreement does not immediately put Zelaya back in office. The Honduran National Congress must first approve the deal to make it official, and now they appear to be delaying the vote that would put Zelaya back in power. Any delay on the restoration of constitutional order will jeopardize the fairness of the November 29th elections.
There’s a lot that might happen in the month ahead and we’ll be here to keep you updated.