Zelaya's ultimatum

The negotiations between the opposing sides in the Honduras crisis have apparently reached an impasse, which prompted an ultimatum today from Manuel Zelaya, the Hugo Chavez acolyte ousted by the military, the legislature, and the Supreme Court.  If Honduras does not agree to reinstate him, Zelaya threatened to sneak back into the country and seize power:

An ultimatum from ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya left little room for compromise in U.S.-backed talks Saturday aimed at resolving a crisis that has become the latest test for democracy in Latin America.

Zelaya, who was forced into exile in a June 28 military coup, gave negotiators meeting in Costa Rica until midnight to restore him to office, threatening to return to Honduras in secret and attempt to retake power on his own if no agreement is reached. He indicated he would reject any power-sharing agreement, a proposal to be discussed at the talks.

“If at that time, there is no resolution to that end, I will consider the negotiations in Costa Rica a failure,” Zelaya said at a news conference Friday night at the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua. “I am going back to Honduras, but I am not going to give you the date, hour or place, or say if I’m going to enter through land, air or sea.”

He did not say what steps he would subsequently take. But earlier this week, he said Hondurans have a constitutional right to rebel against an illegitimate government.

Costa Rica did what it could to work out a diplomatic solution, but this has been an intractable problem since it erupted.  With both sides rejecting a power-sharing arrangement, the only offer Honduras could make would be amnesty from prosecution for Zelaya’s multiple violations of the Honduran constitution.  Zelaya would take nothing less than reinstatement, which Honduras rejects outright.

Could Zelaya return to foment a rebellion?  He’s got enough support at home to make that a real possibility.  It doesn’t take a majority or even a particularly large minority to make a successful revolution, after all.  The military would resist it — strongly — which could make this a bloody mess.  The real problem for Honduras isn’t a rebellion, but an invasion of Nicaraguan and Venezuelan troops to put Zelaya back in power and back to being a Chavez stooge.

If that happened, eyes would shift immediately to Washington to see how Barack Obama would react.  Will he make clear that the US will brook no foreign military involvement in Honduras, and back it up with a show of force in Central America?  Or will Obama waffle long enough to allow Chavez and Daniel Ortega an opening to invade Honduras?  Obama certainly has given them plenty of tacit encouragement thus far, and I suspect that Obama will do little but issue airy statements of regret in the event of a military invasion of Honduras.