Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Now Everyone's Gonna Want One

I guess the guys got jealous.

Alejandro Armengol at the Cuaderno de Cuba blog is citing a report stating Fidel Castro has recently met with the President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, for an hour and a half. And a photo of a recent meeting (above) between Dominican President Leonel Fernandez and Fidel Castro has recently surfaced. Zelaya described Castro as "lucid" and "looking very well."

According to the reports, both Presidents condemned the US embargo towards Cuba and discussed issues of further integration. Both visiting Presidents were interested in the successes of the Cuban educational system and introducing some aspects of the system back home.

The Honduras story is interesting. Back in January of 2006, Manuel Zelaya was elected President of Honduras and seen as a supporter of free trade with the US. And, by June 2006 he met with former-President Bush in a very friendly meeting showing further agreement on US free trade. But, that soon changed.

Early last year, relations between Honduras and the US started to change dramatically. Diplomatic and trade rows surfaced and soon President Zelaya was aligning himself with ALBA, an alternative trade block introduced by Venezuela under the Hugo Chavez administration seeking to further integrate the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to an article in the Economist, "Mr Zelaya’s motives seem clear enough. After growing at 6% for several years, the economy has slowed this year because of the problems in the United States, its main export market and source of both tourists and remittances." According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), "nearly two-thirds of the foreign investment in Honduras comes from [the US], and the U.S. is also Honduras’ chief trading partner."

At first glance, it seems like a big risk for the President of Honduras to align himself with the Cuban government and ALBA, especially when he's up for re-election this year. (The results will be very interesting.) But, according to the World Bank, "Honduras has one of the highest incidences of poverty and inequality in the western hemisphere."

With the economic problems in the US, where else are the countries of the South going to turn to? It only seems logical that they are turning to each other for socio-economic survival.

But, in Miami that logic is incomprehensible, and the Spanish media will easily dismiss it. Instead, they will all be shown as political pariahs.

[Excellent analysis of changing US-Honduras relations from COHA.]