By Lisa Sullivan
School of the Americas Watch
This past Saturday, Fr. Roy Bourgeois and I accompanied President Manuel Zelaya back to his native Honduras, almost two years after a military coup led by SOA graduates removed him from his country at gunpoint. The short flight
we took with him, from Managua to Tegucigalpa, was a journey packed with laughter, tears, songs, nerves, hugs, and decades of history.
Above all, this was an epic Latin American journey, a brief Latin American freedom ride of sorts. It was a moment to display to a world that does not often look this way, a loosely woven cloth of Latin American sovereignty and integration. As the only U.S. citizens invited to be part of a small group of international accompaniment, Roy and I felt extraordinarily privileged to be sharing this moment with our Latin American sisters and brothers.
Zelaya’s return was made possible by an agreement brokered by the presidents of Venezuela and Colombia, to the surprise of Secretary of State Clinton, who had logged thousands of miles in her own unsuccessful efforts to negotiate this accord. Though far from being the return to his rightful place as president and only one piece of a four-point accord, the return of Zelaya and the official welcome in his country is nonetheless a significant victory.
Almost as significant as the return itself, was the form in which it was negotiated: by two nations who put aside conflicts that often seem more imposed from without than created from within.
Blood brothers bound by their claim to Simon Bolivar, the Latin American liberator who was born in Venezuela and died in Colombia and dreamed of a united Latin America, these two nations unexpectedly unleashed a lightning bolt of hope that was felt the length and breadth of Latin America.
This was the emotion that dominated the group of 30 or so Latin American diplomats, ministers, social leaders and former presidents who prepared to board the plane with us in Managua. Uruguayan ambassador Julio Miguel Baraibar leaned over and whispered to me “this is not just the journey of Mel Zelaya home after a coup, it is a journey of each one of us. And, because it was negotiated by Venezuela and Colombia, it is a journey of Latin American unity”. Baraibar himself had spent over a decade in exile from his country’s military dictatorship, an experience not exclusive to him in that group…..
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