The selection of Costa Rican President Arias to mediate the dispute between former Honduran President Zelaya and the Government of interim President Micheletti appears to have been a wise one. It may be useful to speculate a bit about why and by whom President Arias was selected, as well as about the likely impact of these things on the power of Venezuelan President Chávez in Latin America.
The possible role of President Arias as a mediator was suggested to Zelaya during his 7 July Washington meeting with Secretary Clinton, and Zelaya agreed to it. Secretary Clinton promptly telephoned President Arias to ask for his help and he agreed. However, hers was not the only contact with President Arias regarding the Honduran situation: he had been asked the day before by Honduran interim President Micheletti to consider playing such a role. I am unaware of any reports indicating that Chávez had sought Arias' selection, and the United States Government has said nothing to indicate that it has been in discussions with the interim Government of Honduras; it seems not to have been.
Zelaya and Micheletti went to Costa Rica as contemplated, and are to meet separately with Arias. Their positions, at least for now, are unchanged: Zelaya says he must be reinstated and Micheletti says that's out of the question. As I suggested in the linked article, this may prevent, or at least postpone, a military confrontation between the Honduran military and forces from other countries, principally Chávez ally, Nicaragua.
During the 1980s, President Arias played a substantial role in efforts to decrease the influence of the United States over much of Latin America and to bring some measure of stability to the region. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for doing so. However, President Arias is not very chummy with Chávez. During his barely successful campaign for reelection as President of Costa Rica in 2006, Arias' principal opponent was Ottón Solis, much favored by Chávez.
Things seem to be happening behind, but not all that far behind, the curtain. On 7 July, the same day that she met with Zelaya and telephoned President Arias, Secretary Clinton submitted to an interview by Globovisión. The interview was at the State Department in Washington. Globovisión, one of the very few broadcast outlets in Venezuela still able to criticize the Chávez government, has been under vigorous attack by that Government, and may soon be closed; its principals are under criminal charges. Here are comments by a blogger in Venezuela, who does not much care for Chávez:
Questions were standard and Hillary responses standard . . . Still, she made it clear that things in Venezuela are not kosher and that she is aware of it.
No matter what, the interview does not solve anything, does not protect Globovisión from being closed though it makes very clear that the price Chavez will have to pay for it will be very high. Interestingly, the Honduras part . . . revealed how irrelevant Venezuela will become as negotiations keep going.
As soon as the interview was over I switched to VTV to watch La Hojilla reaction. I was not disappointed as Mario Silva was livid, as furious as I ever saw him. . . . Proving that the interview hit a raw nerve. The top was Silva belching "who named Arias?" betraying his resentment at 1) his boss not being on the forefront anymore and 2) that Arias did the most to block a commie takeover of Central America 20 years ago.
Alberto Federico Ravell, head of Globovisión, was interviewed on 8 July in Miami as he returned to Venezuela from Washington. He is convinced that
Clinton supports Globovisión's efforts to speak out against Hugo Chávez's government. . . .In every thing she said I was seeing a red beret . . . .It was incredible that the same day she met with ousted Honduran President Zelaya, she also met with representatives from a television channel that is seen by Chávez as part of the opposition.
I think that the full transcript of the Clinton interview confirms that she was, indeed, talking about Chávez, whose media censorship continues unabated. A somewhat different take on the interview is provided here. If, as claimed in that article, Secretary Clinton wanted to "to lower the temperature" in the United States' relations with Venezuela, neither her Globovisión appearance itself, nor statements such as these may have been the best way to go about it:
Clinton said that what the White House hopes to see "over the next months in Venezuela is a recognition that you can be a very strong leader and have very strong opinions without trying to take on too much power and trying to silence all your critics."