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Honduras: A Real Solution

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If rich nations really cared about Honduras, they would use the crisis as an opportunity to figure out how to create lasting benefits.

BY FRED BLASER

The Honduran mess is sad enough, with several people dead and a community divided against itself.

Unfortunately, the solution to the crisis proposed by most countries in the western world will do little to make the second-poorest nation in Latin America happier.

An international coalition comprising almost every western hemisphere country and the European Union has largely cut off aid to Honduras, as a way of pressuring the interim government to take back ousted President José Manuel Zelaya for the remaining months of his term.

But these gestures are not much more than a way of letting several rich countries pose as fearless defenders of democratic institutions: fearless because there is no risk involved in teaching moral lessons to small, weak countries.

Meanwhile, nobody in the Americas or Europe is urging that economic sanctions be imposed on China, basically a one-party state, which happens to own trillions of dollars of western debt, or Russia, a quasi kleptocracy, which sits on vast deposits of natural gas, without which much of Europe might spend the winter freezing in the dark.

PEACE PLAN NOT WRONG

There is nothing much wrong with the coalition’s peace plan.

Since western governments are united in assuring that Zelaya won't seek re election (the crisis started when he tried do so, despite a constitutional prohibition), the risk of renewed instability as a result of letting him return is small.

Reinstating Zelaya may not make the world safe for democracy, but even a modest step in the right direction helps.

In addition, the west would accept the results of national elections scheduled for November 29, meaning Honduras could move forward with a new government, which other countries recognize.

AFTER THE CRISIS

But when the crisis ends, the rich world will let Honduras fade back into obscurity, along with its chronic problems of widespread poverty and rampant, violent crime.

Wealthy countries will also go back to the pointless cycle of lending Honduras billions of dollars of taxpayers' money, a significant part of which will be wasted or stolen, after which the lenders will generously forgive the un-payable debt.

If rich nations really cared about Honduras and other developing countries, they would use the crisis as an opportunity to figure out how to help, in ways that create lasting benefits for both sides.

MODERN MARSHALL PLAN

The best option is a modern version of the Marshall Plan, which helped Europe recover from the devastation of World War II, thanks to the United States providing billions of dollars in financial aid, administered jointly by American and local business people and bureaucrats.

In Honduras' case, joint management of projects funded by a consortium of rich countries - along with transfer of expertise - would ensure that loans are invested productively, at the same time creating a stronger market for the lenders' goods and services.

Giving poor countries a moral lesson may make rich countries feel good.

Helping make poor countries rich, fair and secure would feel better.

Fred Blaser is a publisher with 13 years of experience living and working in Central America and Mexico. He is Co Chair of República Media Group, which includes Central America’s trilingual (English, Spanish and Mandarin) business and economics website Centralamericalink.com, and Costa Rica’s daily business newspaper, La República, among other publications.

 

 

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