Can Arias broker a deal on Honduras?
Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias will begin leading talks today between ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the interim government.
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Arias was pegged for the role because he has the trust of both of the parties involved, says political analyst Eduardo Ulibarri, former editor of the Costa Rican daily La Nación.Skip to next paragraph
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"Though he's been a vocal advocate of Zelaya's return to power, his political ideologies are more aligned with the de facto government," Mr. Ulibarri says. "He also has the confidence of the United States, which was a very important factor in his selection as mediator."
In the 1980s, Arias negotiated peace agreements with the presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, calling for a national reconciliation and a ban on the use of any of the states' territories for aggression against one another, which ultimately earned him the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize.
A welcome opportunity
For Arias, who presides over one of the first countries in the world to dissolve its military forces, the offer to drive the peacemaking process is a welcome opportunity. "Costa Rica is happy to aid its brother-country Honduras to resolve this problem," he said. "The people of Honduras do not deserve to have more blood shed or innocent people dying in the streets of Tegucigalpa."
Zelaya had urged the US to take a strong stance in helping him resume power, but the US has seemed wary of doing so, possibly for not wishing to appear to pull strings in a region with a long history of US intervention.
The 'natural' choice
At a recent press briefing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Arias "the natural person to assume this role" because of his mediation experience. She also said the US would take a backseat. "I think it's fair to let the parties themselves – with President Arias's assistance – to sort out all of these issues. We hope at the end of this mediation there will be a return of democratic constitutional order that is agreed to by all concerned."
The leaders closely aligned with Zelaya, such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, have also taken a backseat at this stage in the process. Mr. Chávez had previously said he would not accompany Zelaya on his attempt to return home – which was thwarted by the military on Sunday – because he is too polarizing.
For many Hondurans, stability and a return to normalcy are sought no matter what ensues or who mediates. "At this point, it doesn't matter to most Hondurans if Roberto Micheletti retains power or if Manuel Zelaya returns," says journalist Jessica Figueroa, who is covering the mediation process for the Honduran daily La Prensa. "What is most important – to the majority of Hondurans – is peace."