Against the backdrop of one of the region s worst political debacles in decades, a handful of Latin American presidents met at the 11th Tuxtla Summit on Costa Rica s north Pacific shore this week to reflect on a peacemaking process gone sour.
Touching only briefly on pre-planned agenda items such as the A(H1N1) flu virus outbreak, the economic climate and development opportunities, most of the conversation centered on the conflict in Honduras a situation that began a month ago when President Manuel Zelaya was marched from his home and country at gunpoint.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who has been in the middle of the crisis as the lead mediator, asked fellow heads of state for continued faith in the power of dialogue to resolve the crisis in Honduras.
Today I ask you not to give up on this effort, Arias told the leaders, including Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Let s not back down in the struggle for a peaceful solution to the Honduran conflict.
Framing the situation in Honduras in the context of other problems plaguing Latin America, Arias said, What is frustrating is to see how Latin America looks to be perpetually on the verge of development, trying to cross the threshold. Then it turns on its hinges like a revolving door to return to the same place it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
However, the fact that he was able to sit down with the feuding parties in efforts to resolve the crisis represents an important advance, Arias said.
Zelaya was not among the participants in Wednesday s summit at the JW Marriott Guanacaste Resort & Spa, but he sent members of his delegation.
Zelaya representative Aristides Mejía, who sat among presidents at the meeting, said, Honduras has lost its independence.
It s lost the liberty of press and liberty of transport. It s in a state of oppression For this we give our appreciation to other governments, who have been willing to help us look for a peaceful resolution.
Honduras de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, was not invited.
Although the country remains in conflict, with Zelaya camping out in Nicaraguan border towns (see related story, page 2), several developments this week gave regional leaders hope.
For one, the Honduran Secretary of Defense Angel Edmundo Orellana issued a statement this week that he supports a negotiation process like the San José Agreement which was drafted at the conclusion of peace talks in San José last week.
The head of the Organization of American States (OAS), who was among the participants in the Tuxtla meeting, viewed this as good news.
I interpret (this statement) as saying, Look, this is not something we did. It s not us who gives the orders or us who will pay the costs of this adventure, said José Miguel Insulza, OAS secretary general.
I think it is a positive representation of the armed forces in Honduras, which has shown their willingness to respect the San José Agreement.
Insulza plans to use this week s discussion at Tuxtla to inform the actions of the OAS in the coming days.
I don t think it will be possible to wait much longer, he told reporters. I hope we can work with the two sides for a resolution. The earliest response would be with President Arias initiative, the San José Agreement.
Aside from conversations about Honduras, the five heads of state in attendance signed a 73-point agreement, pledging action on issues ranging from drug trafficking to the lack of infrastructure. They resolved to promote the implementation of multilateral treaties on transnational organized crime and improve interconnecting roads and highways (see sidebox).
In his concluding remarks, Arias said, Given the enormity of our challenges, it s easy to lose hope. Many believe that the future is nothing but a dead end.
He added, The solutions are not simple and will not be absolute. Every victory is partial and every achievement is a step in a climb that never ends.