Carlos Alberto Montaner at PostGlobal

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Madrid, Spain

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a Cuban-born writer, journalist, and former professor. He is one of the most influential and widely-read columnists in the Spanish-language media, syndicated in dozens of publications in Latin America, Spain and the United States. He is also vice president of the Liberal International, a London-based federation devoted to the defense of democratic values and the promotion of the market economy. He has written more than twenty books, including Journey to the Heart of Cuba; How and Why Communism Disappeared; Liberty, the Key to Prosperity; and the novels A Dog's World and 1898: The Plot. He is now based in Madrid, Spain. Close.

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Madrid, Spain

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a Cuban-born writer, journalist, and former professor. He is one of the most influential and widely-read columnists in the Spanish-language media, syndicated in dozens of publications in Latin America, Spain and the United States. more »

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Mediating the Honduran Crisis

Common sense has been agonizingly slow to descend on the Honduran crisis, but it seems to have arrived in the form of Nobel laureate and Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. He is a democrat with very clear ideas, but although Hillary Clinton helped arrange for him to mediate the Honduran dispute, he will not be Washington's or anyone's tool.

Arias is no novice when it comes to resisting outside pressure. In the 1980s, during the last stages of the Cold War, he stood up to Reagan's government and created the conditions for Nicaraguans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans -- then embroiled in a shooting confrontation -- to negotiate peace. Yes, he had help from outside circumstances: perestroika, Soviet fatigue, and anti-Sandinista guerrillas. But he deserves the main credit for those accords, as the Nobel committee noted when awarding him the Peace prize.

This task seems simpler at first glance, but Arias should travel to Honduras to talk to other principal actors to get a clearer picture of the situation. Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti have had 30 years of friendship and only eight months of growing disagreement. Their families have maintained a cordial relationship. They are two businessmen who are devoted to politics, not two obdurate ideologues. They belong to the same party. In late 2008, Zelaya even endorsed Micheletti's candidacy within the Liberal Party so that Micheletti might succeed him in the presidency.

Paradoxically, that endorsement led to Micheletti's defeat in the primaries, because of Zelaya's chronic unpopularity. The nomination went to Vice President Elvin Santos, a man at odds with Zelaya, who certainly has a high probability of becoming the next president of Honduras.
What separates these two men? Actually, the same thing that today divides Honduran society politically: President Mel Zelaya's stubborn and unconstitutional insistence in dragging his country to the so-called "21st-century socialism" advocated by Hugo Chávez, against the will of Zelaya's party, of the rest of the republic's institutions, and of most of society. That's what precipitated the crisis. Zelaya's reconciliation with the nation and maybe even his return to the presidency must begin with his explicit renouncement of those actions.

Three things might yet cause Arias's mediation to fail. First, Zelaya's stubbornness. He is an inflexible person, indifferent to the reality that practically all the country's institutions, his own party, the army, the Catholic Church and most of his countrymen oppose his recent actions. Second, Hugo Chávez. He intends to sabotage any accord that might diminish his zone of influence. Third, public opinion. Many are convinced that Arias' failure will be a green light to initiate the violent reconquest of power, with aid from Venezuela, Cuba, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Already there are signs that Zelaya does not perceive these negotiations as the search for an accord where the two parties make concessions until they reach a mutually acceptable solution. Zelaya sharpened his discourse from the moment he spoke with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton until he landed in Costa Rica. It's as though he seeks the unconditional surrender of his adversaries, even though they hold real and total control inside his country.

The United States can still force Zelaya to take these negotiations seriously if it commits to waiting until negotiations end to make its next move in Honduras. If the United States sees proof that Zelaya's objective is not to rescue the Honduran legal and political system but rather to change it entirely, the U.S. must help prevent that. Nothing would please the Hondurans more. Nothing would be more convenient for the United States.

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