Commentary Magazine


The Non-American Peace Process Continues in Latin America

They are not the comedy gold provided by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, but the daily press conferences at the State Department are sometimes a close second, generating open laughter from reporters as whoppers are stated and re-stated.

Here is the colloquy from today’s press conference with Spokesman Ian Kelly, which dealt at the end with the subject of Honduras:

QUESTION: . . . there was a story over the weekend saying that [acting president of Honduras Roberto] Micheletti had voiced or held out the possibility of amnesty for [ousted president Manuel Zelaya]. And his exact quote was, “Asked about the possibility of amnesty, he said, ‘If he,’ meaning Zelaya, ‘comes peacefully first to appear before the authorities, I don’t have any problem,’” with amnesty, although those weren’t—I mean, he did say with amnesty. Do you find that idea an appealing one as a way to try to reach an agreement?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, this is not an American process. It’s a process that we are putting all of—it’s a process led by Costa Rican President Arias that we are giving our full support to. And—

QUESTION: That sounds like an American process to me. (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: We are supporting this process led by President Arias. It is not an American—

QUESTION: Whose country is in what part of the world?

MR. KELLY: It’s not a process that’s being led by the United States of America. (Laughter.) And we just have to give – we have to give time for this process to work. And I’ll just—we—we’re—as I say, we’re standing firmly behind President Arias. He said late last week that he expects to sit down again within a week with the two parties, and these would be the kinds of proposals I hope that both sides can discuss.

QUESTION: What has the Secretary [Hillary Clinton] been doing on this, calls or anything over the weekend?

MR. KELLY: Well, over the weekend, it was mostly Tom Shannon, our Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and NSC Senior Director Dan Restrepo, who were—who had a lot of conversations. They met with President Zelaya upon his return Saturday. They discussed, of course, the talks in San Jose and, of course, reiterated our support for the restoration of democratic order in Honduras and, of course, for President Arias’s mediation efforts. . . .

QUESTION: Did President Chavez call—we have a report that President Chavez called Assistant Secretary Shannon over the weekend. Is that correct? And what kind of a readout can you give us about that?

MR. KELLY: It is correct. . . .

Note that the president behind whom the U.S. is standing firmly these days is Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias, not Zelaya or Micheletti.

The State Department meets with Zelaya (rather than the president installed by the Honduran Congress pursuant to the rules of the Honduran democracy) and takes calls from the Venezuelan pol he pals around with, but the unstated agenda may be the prospective repositioning of Zelaya under the diplomatic public-conveyance vehicle, since it now seems clear his arrest was not only legal but “rather well justified to boot.”

To call this a confused policy is to do an injustice to confusion.