In the last few weeks Honduran President Pepe Lobo has used questionable judgment and shown questionable motivation in recognizing two controversial state entities: Palestinian Territories and Kosovo.
Until recently President Lobo’s main achievement was to regain international recognition of his government after the 2009 coup. He also managed to stay out of ALBA and carefully court Hugo Chavez. The culmination of the government’s achievements took place on June 1, when Honduras was finally readmitted to the Organization of American States.
President Lobo embraced the high diplomacy circuit, craving attention from international courtiers. On August 26 Honduras recognized Palestine as an independent state giving its support for joining the UN’s General Assembly. While some think that Pepe Lobo wanted to buy the good graces of the ALBA group by supporting Palestine as a state, Honduras has found itself on the wrong side of the geopolitical struggle. Few Hondurans seem to understand the symbolism and consequences of their government’s stance.
While many Hondurans of Christian Arab descent might feel an affinity for their Arabic-speaking Muslim brothers in Palestine, some do not fully understand what living as a minority in a Muslim state entails. Unfortunately, it is not a happy picture.
Christian Arabs in Hamas-controlled Gaza are not a happy minority. Many Christians fear that their future in a Muslim dominative, perhaps eventually Islamic Palestine, would be a dire one.
Christian Arabs in Palestine and the Middle East keep their heads down, afraid to voice criticism of their Muslim neighbors and be attacked by them. I have spoken with many Christian Arabs living as a minority in Jerusalem, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, who have, often in lowered voice, explained to me how intimidated they are living as a minority in a Muslim country.
A Greek-Orthodox man in East Jerusalem told me he likes Israel and would like to apply for an Israeli passport, but he feels uncertain about the retribution he and his family would face from his Muslim neighbors.
With his pro Palestinian state vote, President Lobo has let down Honduras’ long time supporter and partner: Israel. Israel’s ambassador called the action a “stab to the heart of Israel.” But when the president of one of the most corrupt countries in the world answered that he made the decision “from a moral point of view,” you just knew the move probably had something to do with money.
To see who is making money on pleasing the Arab and Islamic lobby in the UN you don’t have to look far. In May a Saudi Arabian investor, Abdul Razzaq Bindawood, came to the “Honduras is open for business” conference in San Pedro Sula. He was considered one of the more serious investors at the event. Since the conference, he set a venture to export chicken and beef from Honduras to Saudi Arabia. “I wish we would at least sell our vote for money. But I think its just stupidity,” says a Honduran friend and Honduran embassy staffer for many years.
Perhaps. Unfortunately, President Lobo’s geopolitical waltz didn’t stop there. On September 3 Honduras recognized Kosovo, a Serbian autonomous province which broke away in 2008 and unilaterally proclaimed its independence.
While Pepe Lobo was hosted by the president of Kosovo with a state dinner, he was found to inadvertently be playing a high stakes game of geopolitics. For a price of a free meal, Honduras set yet another dangerous precedent–a precedent that a part of a country’s territory, perhaps its own, can secede from that country unilaterally. For example, Argentina refuses to recognize Kosovo in part because that recognition would send a precedent regarding the secession of the Falkland Islands. If Kosovo could decide to separate from Serbia, why can’t Darfur from Sudan, Northern Turkish Cyprus from Cyprus, Chechnya from Russia, and the Bay Islands from Honduras, for that matter.
President Lobo not only failed to grasp that possibility, but he has let himself be played. This is not only a game he doesn’t understand, but a game in which he has picked the wrong side.