Meddle in Honduras But Not Iran? (Update)


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Hmmm… interesting.  On June 16th, President Obama said he didn’t want “to be seen as meddling in Iran.”

Now after this weekend’s military coup in Honduras we learn in a Wall Street Journal article today that:

The Obama administration and members of the Organization of American States had worked for weeks to try to avert any moves to overthrow President Zelaya, said senior U.S. officials. Washington’s ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, sought to facilitate a dialogue between the president’s office, the Honduran parliament and the military.

The efforts accelerated over the weekend, as Washington grew increasingly alarmed. "The players decided, in the end, not to listen to our message," said one U.S. official involved in the diplomacy. On Sunday, the U.S. embassy here tried repeatedly to contact the Honduran military directly, but was rebuffed. Washington called the removal of President Zelaya a coup and said it wouldn’t recognize any other leader.

Well it seems that the Obama Administration finds itself in agreement with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, at least as far as condemning the coup.  Chavez has gone so far as to threaten military action if President Manuel Zelaya is not returned to power.

In an official statement from the White House yesterday, President Obama said:

I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.

But yet, it seems like there was outside interference.  Today during a meeting with Columbian President Alviro Uribe he said.

It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections…. The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions in Central America and Latin America. We don’t want to go back to a dark past.

Now let me be clear (where have I heard that before?) I am not in favor of military coups.  He’s right in that regard.  There are issues at play here though as the Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Zelaya, a frequent critic of the U.S., has been locked in a growing confrontation with his country’s Congress, courts, and military over his plans for the referendum — planned for Sunday — that would have asked voters whether they want to scrap the constitution, which the president says benefits the country’s elites.

The Supreme Court had ruled the vote was illegal because it flouted the constitution’s own ban on such referendums within six months of elections. The military had refused to take its usual role of distributing ballots. But Mr. Zelaya fired the chief of the army last week and pledged to press ahead.

It would seem that Zelaya was trying to tinker with the constitution, pulling a Chavez, so to speak.  Perhaps we need to recognize that democracy is not always the same as liberty.  The installed president, Roberto Micheletti, is calling for elections in November as planned.

Micheletti said he would only serve out the end of Zelaya’s term, which ends in January following presidential elections set for November…  "We respect everybody and we only ask that they respect us and leave us in peace because the country is headed toward free and transparent general elections in November," Micheletti said.

Perhaps since there isn’t violence in the streets, protestors have been left alone by the Honduran army, and they are promising free and transparent elections we should back off a little?  Also perhaps this actually isn’t a military coup?  Perhaps open a dialogue?  Especially since Chavez it talking about military action, and he’s probably crazy enough to do it.  Maybe exercise the same caution that they were willing to exercise with Iran who has moved against the protesters?  Don’t meddle?

Update: The citizens of Honduras should be able to protest without reprisal provided they are being peaceful as well.  If this change in government is going to have any credibility they need to allow protests.  I’m A-OK with Obama “meddling” if there is a violent crackdown on unarmed protesters.  Right now it appears that they are using typical riot gear, non-lethal weapons (unlike Iran).

Sue, a friend of mine, on Facebook wrote a comment when I posted the link to this blog post there.

Our church has a team of mission workers in Honduras this week. This morning we received some news on the "coup" from them. It reads as follows:

“Thank you, we feel the prayers and God’s hand down here along with our WGO people and our church friends. Most are happy about the recent impeachment, there seems to be some question as to what role the the military played in this by the world media. However they were directed by the Supreme court of Honduras to arrest and exile him out of the country.

All services electric, phone and internet were turned off Sunday early until about 1 in the afternoon. Since then things have been normal. And most importantly everyone is asking for non-violence throughout this whole time including the past presidents allies. By the way the man who congress appointed as president is from the same party as Mel.

The team was kept at the mission house yesterday, but as of this morning is on a brigade site halfway down this mountain. We have our Honduran advisers monitoring the situation everyday and we reassess the safety issues in the evening. However, no worries up at the mission house at this point.

We know there will be demonstrations in the city today and tomorrow, although we do not know the size or location. However, remain assured that up to this point there has been no violence, or injuries or property damage as a result of this issue, no matter what several of the media is reporting (written before the article above). There has been no targeting of foreigners either by demonstration or threat. All airports and travel remain open, and this morning everyone is heading to work.

Continue to pray for the country and the people on both sides of this matter. And above all let God’s will be done.”

Also information on the historical use of the Honduran Army.

…in Honduras, going all the way back to the 1840s, battalion commanders had not only a military-command responsibility, but a civilian law-enforcement responsibility. They were closely equivalent to American sheriffs in many regards. Because of their ordinary roots, battalion commanders, officers and their soldiers were much less “classed” than elsewhere in Latin America. There never formed a significant rift between the people and the military.

Though attenuated nowadays from days of old, the Honduran army has long had a traditional role as keeper, and sometimes guardian, of civil order and has been viewed by the people as such.

What the Honduran army did last week in shoving Zelaya, a would-be puppet of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, out of office was not a coup by even the wildest imagination. It was Zelaya who was trying to mount a coup, by using an unconstitutional referendum (with ballots printed in Venezuela!) to justify remaining in office as long as he wanted. No one in government, including his own party, supported Zelaya.

In fact, the Honduran Supreme Court actually ordered the army to remove him, a perfectly sensible development because of the historical role of Honduras’ military in civil order.

If the Obama administration had stopped to consider Honduran history and culture (or had the State Dept. paused even to consult its own experts, it would not (one supposes) have been so quick on the trigger. But instead, it practiced “ready-fire-aim,” though without the aim, even too late.

HT: Fausta Blog for cartoon above, and last link.

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  • http://mattdabbs.wordpress.com/ Matt Dabbs

    So Zelaya was seeking to twist the courts to get an additional term in an undemocratic fashion and then Obama comes on the scene and says we need to put him back in place so things can be more democratic? Am I getting this right or am I missing something here.

  • M. Hovda

    1.This fiasco is in Obama's region i.e. Western Hemisphere, and tearing up it's Constitution.

    2. It's within Obama's “Pay Grade”

    OT You can go to youtube and enter Gangster Government in the search engine and come up with Congresswoman Michelle Bachman using those very words on the Congressional floor regarding the Obama Administration. She is quoting writer Micheal Barone.

  • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

    Pretty much what we see so far, oh Zelaya would have a “referendum vote” (which is unconstitutional) and I'm sure it would have been fair. Who cares if his Congress and Courts said no.

  • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

    I saw that, and posted it awhile back. That was good.

  • Argon

    “Hmmm… interesting. On June 16th, President Obama said he didn’t want “to be seen as meddling in Iran.””

    First, Honduras is not Iran. Second, we actually have diplomatic relations with Honduras and have worked with other diplomatic bodies.

    As noted in the Wall Street Journal article you linked, the US is currently in a hard place: 1) Historically, anti-USA sentiment in the region is tightly linked to previous US support of coups. 2) The US needs to thwart Chavez from gaining additional leverage.

    The article notes:
    Latin America analysts said the Honduran coup will complicate President Obama's efforts to re-engage a region where anti-Americanism has flourished in recent years. They said Mr. Chavez is likely to seize on the crisis to depict Central America as under attack.

    As a result, analysts said Mr. Obama will need to aggressively call for the reinstatement of President Zelaya, despite U.S. concerns that he is seeking to mirror Mr. Chávez's campaign to secure limitless rule.

    “It's very important for the U.S. to come out against the coup and make the point that the U.S. supports democracy unequivocally,” said Kevin Casas-Zamora, Costa Rica's former vice president and a senior fellow at Washington's Brookings Institution. “This would prevent Chávez from stealing the show.”