Venezuelan Diplomats Defy Expulsion by Honduran Coup Regime

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry refused to obey an order by the coup government of Honduras to withdraw all Venezuelan diplomatic, administrative, technical, and service personnel from the Central American country, on the grounds that the de facto regime, which was installed following a military coup on June 28th, is illegitimate.

By James Suggett - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro (YVKE)
Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro (YVKE)
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Mérida, July 22nd 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Tuesday, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry refused to obey an order by the coup government of Honduras to withdraw all Venezuelan diplomatic, administrative, technical, and service personnel from the Central American country, on the grounds that the de facto regime, which was installed following a military coup on June 28th, is illegitimate.

"The Bolivarian government, having not collectively recognized the illegitimate authorities that have established themselves as the de facto government in the Republic of Honduras, does not recognize the contents of [the order to withdraw]," stated the Ministry. 

The Ministry warned the coup government that if it harms or subjects the Venezuelan personnel to any "offensive treatment," it could "incur a grave violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," signed at the United Nations in 1961. "The Venezuelan government will utilize all the necessary resources to preserve the integrity of its diplomatic mission in Tegucigalpa," stated the Ministry.

The statement concluded with an expression of solidarity with "the noble Honduran people," and with the hope that "their sovereign will... will be imposed upon the arbitrariness and attacks of its usurpers."

ALBA Bloc Expelled

The coup government also expelled the diplomatic officials from all member countries of the Venezuela-led integration bloc, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), of which Honduras became a member in 2008.

The member countries, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Venezuela had already withdrawn their ambassadors from Honduras to protest the coup, but had left the rest of their diplomatic personnel in place.

While the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations (UN), and several Latin American integration blocs have condemned the coup and recognized ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as the legitimate president of Honduras, the ALBA bloc has been the most fervent in demanding the unconditional return of Zelaya to the presidency. On June 30th, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the option of a "military intervention by the United Nations" should be considered if diplomatic means fail.

On Tuesday, the coup government's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marta Alvarado, said the expulsion of Venezuela and the ALBA countries "is a result of the threats to use force, the interference in exclusive Honduran affairs, as well as the lack of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country."

Clash in the OAS

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, made statements on Monday implying that the ALBA member countries had overstepped their authority in promoting Zelaya's unconditional return to power.

"In their eagerness to protect Zelaya, who is a member, [the ALBA countries] have taken very active, leading roles, forgetting that this is an issue for the 34 member states [of the OAS], and not six or seven," said Insulza.

Venezuela's ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, chided Insulza, and asked him not to make "declarations that tend to divide the orchestra." In defense of the ALBA bloc, Chaderton said, "We do not have an especially lukewarm manner of expressing our demands; they are vigorous positions."

Soon after, Insulza apologized and said his comments were intended "to demonstrate or to say that the 34 countries of the OAS - the 33 countries, because Honduras is excluded - are in the same position."

Chaderton also criticized the OAS for over-emphasizing the negotiations underway between Zelaya and the coup government, and for under-emphasizing the resistance to the coup by Honduran unions, civil society organizations, feminist groups, and others who have sustained marches, street blockages, and other forms of protest.

"By our judgment, support for an active, dynamic popular resistance can assure the successful return of President Zelaya," said Chaderton. "At times, [the OAS] speaks as though nothing were happening in Honduras except for a negotiation."

Venezuela and other ALBA nations have criticized the way the negotiations have legitimized the coup government by treating it as an equal negotiator. They have also objected to the mediation of the negotiations by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who was recommended by the United States government.

Arias's mediation failed last week, after the coup government rejected his seven-point proposal for reconciliation. Zelaya had accepted the proposal.

The proposal included the restoration of Zelaya to the presidency to fulfill his legal term, but required Zelaya to abandon his initiative to poll Honduran voters to see if they wish to elect a constituent assembly to re-write the national constitution, which the coup leaders alleged was the justification for the coup. The proposal also would have granted amnesty to the coup leaders, moved the upcoming presidential elections to an earlier date, and appointed a commission of Honduran, OAS, and other international representatives to oversee process.

On Wednesday, Arias presented a revised proposal that would bring Zelaya back to Honduras this Friday. Meanwhile, three major national workers federations in Honduras, which are leading the resistance to the coup, announced that on Thursday and Friday they will initiate a general strike and step up their blockages and occupations of major highways and public institutions.