Friday, September 12, 2008

Honduras' Zelaya "Skirting" the Fray

This is breaking news from Prensa Latina. A few minutes ago the Latin American News Agency reports that Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has “adjourned the ceremony to present Hugo Llorens' credentials as US ambassador to Honduras, expressing his solidarity with Bolivia and Venezuela.” It further reports that the ceremony was scheduled for Friday afternoon but Zelaya tasked his Foreign Minister Edmundo Orellana to notify the US Embassy that he would not receive Llorens' credentials until further notice.

The US Embassy Tegucigalpa’s website indicates that Ambassador Llorens was scheduled to arrive in Tegucigalpa today, September 12 but did not indicate when he was scheduled to present his credentials. The “until further notice” part of the report does not mean the new ambassador is being kick out too, it just means that he’s being left to stew in his office, unable to meet anyone because he has not been accredited officially by the host government. He won’t be able to do his job until that formality is done.

I wonder how long this postponement is going to last. Perhaps just long enough to satisfy regional camaraderie without disrupting bilateral relations with the U.S? Hmmn. It’s a snub and a half poke for sure, perhaps also as “soft” payback for our banning of Honduran melons earlier this year? I believe that ban went on for almost six months affecting the largest melon farmer who has reportedly 5,000 employees. Or it could last longer depending on how this trilateral diplomatic row is looking up tomorrow. But it certainly can’t go on indefinitely.

Ambassador Hugo Llorens who came to the United States as a 7 year old Cuban refugee 46 years ago is a career member of the Foreign Service with 27 years experience, primarily in the Latin American region. He most recently served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Spain. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Argentina. Earlier in his career, he also served as the National Security Director for Andean Affairs at the National Security Council. Ambassador Llorens received his bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and his master's degrees from the University of Kent at Canterbury and the National War College.

In talking about his background during the Senate confirmation hearing (PDF file), he said: “We arrived with a suitcase in hand and a buffalo nickel in our pocket, but knew we were richly blessed by America’s freedoms. We worked hard and had an unquenchable faith in America as the land where dreams come true.”

Also at this hearing, he promised to “support Honduran efforts to take full advantage of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s compact signed in 2005 that provides $215 million for building roads, as well as promoting rural development.” He also indicated that he will “seek to deepen the two-way trade and investment flows derived from the CAFTA-DR.”

I must add that we have a large USAID and Peace Corps presence in Honduras, a large overseas American community and over 50,000 American citizens visiting the country each year.

Can't these guys space this up a bit? I got to get some sleep. I won't be shocked if there's another surprise when I get up in the morning.

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