TOPICS > Politics

Diplomats Search for Political Solution to Honduras Standoff

July 6, 2009 at 6:20 PM EDT
Loading the player...
Amid continuing protests in support of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, diplomats are attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution with the country's new leader. A New York Times reporter gives an update on the situation.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

GWEN IFILL: For more on the situation, we are joined in Honduras by Marc Lacey. He covers Central America for the New York Times.

Marc, welcome. Bring us up to date on what’s been happening there today.

MARC LACEY, New York Times: Well, it’s good to be with you. So yesterday — yesterday was just a stunning day, a really dramatic day. I was at the airport. There were thousands of supporters of the ousted president there.

And, all of a sudden, a plane appeared, a charter plane, and it swooped down low over the airport. Cheers rang out. But the airport was blocked by police and soldiers. It couldn’t land. And so this country remains in a standoff. There are still two people who claim to be president of Honduras.

GWEN IFILL: Well, now, we heard today, for instance, that Secretary of State Clinton has said that at some point this week she will meet with — I guess we call him the ousted president — Manual Zelaya here in Washington. Is that what you’re hearing?

MARC LACEY: Yes, yes. That meeting is supposed to go ahead tomorrow, and I think that’s significant. There’s also a delegation from Honduras of congresspeople and others who support the government, the interim government here. They are on their way to Washington today.

So it appears that people are talking in Washington. We still don’t know how this is going to end. We don’t know what the solution is. Both sides are really digging in their heels, but there’s at least talk going on, and so that’s considered a sign of hope.

Normalizing the situation

Marc Lacey
The New York Times
Offices are open. Shopping is going on. But behind that veneer of normalcy, there are soldiers outside all major government facilities here. There are soldiers ringing the airport.

GWEN IFILL: Now, the interim president, Roberto Micheletti, said that he is waiting for things to return to normal. So what's normal?

MARC LACEY: Well, there is traffic in the streets behind me. Offices are open. Shopping is going on. But behind that veneer of normalcy, there are soldiers outside all major government facilities here. There are soldiers ringing the airport. Most international -- most, if not all, international flights have been cancelled. And there's still a curfew in the evening.

So things are very tense. The interim government people here are worried about disturbances. And we hear reports of people being detained arbitrarily. Yesterday, the first one or two deaths happened when the soldiers opened fire. So it's not a country that's back to normal by any means.

GWEN IFILL: So the burden for this reopening the negotiations, returning to normalcy, is it on the OAS? Is it on the U.S. State Department? Is it on the United Nations, Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela? Everybody seems to be involved.

MARC LACEY: There's a lot of parties involved. There's a lot of parties involved. But it seems to be the Organization of American States that's taking the lead, and Washington has said that.

Washington plays a big role in this country. There's a real big U.S. influence here. Many Hondurans were educated in the U.S. Historically, the U.S. has played a very influential role here, a negative role, many people would say.

And so the OAS is considered the lead negotiator, but the Obama administration, the secretary of state will play a very big role in how this standoff is resolved.

Troop movements in Nicaragua?

Marc Lacey
The New York Times
So a lot of what's going on in this dispute is really trying to influence, is making outrageous claims, making exaggerated claims to try to influence the debate.

GWEN IFILL: Now, there has been talk of provocation and rumors of provocation involving, perhaps, Nicaraguan troop movements, even that flyover yesterday from the ousted president. Is there anything to back up, especially the idea that another country might be moving toward the border?

MARC LACEY: Right, right, right. Yes, we've heard that. And the interim president here, Micheletti, said that there are Nicaraguans, but he later clarified it and said there are small groups of Nicaraguan troops near the border and it doesn't appear that they're there under anyone's orders, and so it's really tough to gauge.

The Obama administration has said that they are not getting information of any massing of troops. And there isn't a sense in Washington that there's any sort of -- any sort of military invasion imminent or anything like that.

So a lot of what's going on in this dispute is really trying to influence, is making outrageous claims, making exaggerated claims to try to influence the debate. And we're not, I believe, going to see other countries clashing with the Honduran military; it doesn't appear to be the case.

Warning from the Catholic Church

Marc Lacey
The New York Times
The Catholic Church is extremely influential in this country. And church leaders have made very clear that they believe Mr. Zelaya's return would be an inflammatory act that could provoke people to violence.

GWEN IFILL: And one other body talking -- making efforts to influence the debate apparently is the Catholic Church, which has warned Zelaya to stay away?

MARC LACEY: Yes, the Catholic Church is extremely influential in this country. And church leaders have made very clear that they believe Mr. Zelaya's return would be an inflammatory act that could provoke people to violence.

And the church leaders made that very clear in a televised statement. And the church, the church has, in a sense, taken sides in this dispute that has divided Honduras. And we'll see how it plays out.

More protests anticipated

Marc Lacey
The New York Times
Tomorrow, though, it's going to be a fascinating day. Supposedly supporters of Mr. Micheletti are going to take over the streets. They're saying they're going to get a million people.

GWEN IFILL: And finally, Marc, what's the sense of the place today, especially after yesterday's events? Does it feel like it's under siege? Does it feel as if things are about to turn the corner? Or is everyone just waiting to see?

MARC LACEY: I think the city appears to me to be fairly calm, yet there's also a tension behind the scenes and really an uncertainty as to how this is going to play out.

There was a protest today of people who support Zelaya, the ousted president. Tomorrow, though, it's going to be a fascinating day. Supposedly supporters of Mr. Micheletti are going to take over the streets. They're saying they're going to get a million people, which would be unbelievable, but they're planning a huge demonstration.

And their point, basically, is that the people are behind what happened last Sunday, that this is not an unpopular change of government, and they want to show that by having people pour into the streets. And they want the cameras of the world to be trained not on Mr. Zelaya, but on the people of Honduras.

GWEN IFILL: Marc Lacey, thanks so much.

MARC LACEY: Thank you.