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October 28, 2009

Obama and Honduras: principled stance leads to pragmatic moves
Posted by The Editors

This post is by NSN intern Luis Vertiz

Reports indicate the Obama administration will be sending high level officials as envoys this week to meet with both factions in the continuing drama of the Honduran coup. The crisis started when President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office, to be replaced by Honduran congressman and interim President Roberto Micheletti. The envoy trip will be the first time the Obama administration will directly lead negotiations between the two sides, as efforts by the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and regional diplomats have thus far faltered. The sticking point during these negotiations has been whether or not to allow former President Zelaya to finish his term in office, which is set to end in January. Obama’s strategy has been to allow the negotiations to move forward without direct US involvement, while at the same time waiting for an opportunity to confer recognition of any possible consensus.

President Obama has deliberately stayed out of negotiations in Honduras for two reasons. One: his Administration has a strong knowledge of the history of US intervention in the region and in Central America in particular. By avoiding direct early action in the Honduran crisis, they succeed in heading off the semblance of imperialistic US policy in the region. Direct intervention earlier in the Honduras crisis, when information was at its most opaque, would have only served to undercut policy goals the US wished to support, while proving evidence for the paranoid politics of anti-American leaders like Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Two: The Obama administration has consistently articulated a policy of supporting the political process over any particular party in Honduras, as they understand that democracy and the rule of law better serve US interests in the region than outright intervention on behalf of either politician.

A recent poll by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner concludes that, despite the breakdown in negotiations, there are plenty of areas of agreement within Honduras concerning a resolution to the crisis. As Mark Feierstein explains, Hondurans generally disapprove of Zelaya’s early exit from office, Micheletti interim administration, or any election being held under the Micheletti administration. For the most part, they support Zelaya finishing his term in office and want elections to be held on time and under his administration. Evidence of consensus is what the Obama administration has been waiting for and thus the timing for sending envoys to the country has been apt. Negotiations had to first be done by Zelaya and Micheletti so that areas of consensus came under their actions, not under of the auspices of the Americans. Since direct negotiations between the parties have stalled, now is the time for the Obama administration to directly lend its efforts to consolidating areas of consensus as a bridge towards a solution.

Sadly, conservatives have consistently supported Micheletti since the beginning of the crisis.. Under the sway of lobbyists hired by Micheletti, conservatives with no experience in the region, like Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, have time and again undercut President Obama’s actions in foreign policy for domestic political gain. Instead of trying to score cheap political points in Honduras by supporting the antagonists of anti-American politicians, President Obama has always supported a democratic process.  This has a greater chance of engendering good will towards America while sustaining a political system to better serve the interests of all Hondurans, and thereby create conditions for a legitimate and long-term solution to the Honduras crisis.

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The U.S. has actively blocked since August an OAS resolution not to recognize the elections unless Zelaya is restored: that's to avoid being imperialist? Sec. of State ignored the recommendation of her own State Dept. staff and that of Rep. Howard Berman to formally declare a military coup -- that was to avoid being imperialist?

Information was no more opaque on June 29 than it is today on the fundamentals of what has happened: the tiny elite that's accustomed to having its way in Honduras, and the military trained by the U.S. not to accept leaders who want to give the majority population more of a voice, overthrew an elected government in the expectation that the U.S. government would permit it.

And they have. This administration has carefully avoided steps that might have forced Zelaya's restitution in time to make a difference, such as formally declaring a military coup, freezing the coup supporters' U.S. accounts, cutting off all aid, removing the U.S. military "guests" from Soto Cano airbase, or truly working with the OAS to put teeth in negotiations back in July. They signaled clearly with the letter to Sen. Lugar that they would never take the only actions that might have restored the Zelaya government. And here we are.

The only bright spot is that months of daily struggle and organizing have unified hundreds of thousands of Hondurans behind a demand that is the only real resolution of the country's political crisis, its democracy deficit: a national constituent assembly to reform the constitution. The price has been high; the blood of at least twenty people is on the hands of the Obama administration as a result of its two-faced, half-hearted policy of "opposing" the coup. Not once has Sec. Clinton or Pres. Obama condemned the violence of the dictatorship that took over on June 28. I guess that would have been "imperalist intervention."

Look what John Kerry has posted on his own website about the actions of Zelaya:

"A push to rewrite the constitution over the objections of Honduras's top court, legislature, attorney general, and military is deeply disturbing."

http://innovation-politics.blogspot.com/2009/10/one-month-to-go.html

So, you have a liberal icon pointing out the undemocratic nature of Zelaya's actions. But, you also have the library of congress, the UN report, and various other reports that the administration has tried to silence, refusing to release the Koh report.

If you want to see popular support, look at the streets throughout Honduras when the qualified for the World Cup. If you want to see lack of popular support, look at the puny Pro-Mel rallies. If you want to see a real coup, look at what is Happening in Nicaragua. If you want to see the constitutional removal of a president by a 15-0 ruling of the supreme court, look at Honduras.

Viva Honduras! Viva 15-0!

I don't take my political cues from what "liberal icons" say or do, but from what the people of Honduras want, from the law, and from the principles of democracy and human rights.

But if one's position is determined by what Sen. Kerry says and does, then don't rely on outdated and selective characterizations.

Sen. Kerry opposes the coup. He has gotten involved directly, along with his House counterpart Rep. Howard Berman in getting the Library of Congress to retract and correct the hackwork done by one staffer at the Law Library to justify the coup as "legal". See here:
http://hondurascoup2009.blogspot.com/2009/10/us-congress-requests-correction-of.html

His statement of concern about the movement for constitutional reform was made before the coup, and is a separate issue from the illegal overthrow of an elected government.

Sixteen members of the House wrote to President Obama Tuesday asking him to clearly state that the U.S. government will not recognize elections held by the coup government, and to -- at long last -- denounce the violence and human rights violations of the coup regime.
See the letter here:
http://quotha.net/node/507

"Though we commend the administration for having strongly stated their support for the restoration of democracy in Honduras, we are concerned that neither you nor the Secretary of State has denounced these serious human rights abuses in a country where US influence could be decisive.

It is now more urgent than ever to break this silence. It is critical that your Administration immediately clearly and unequivocally reject and denounce the repression by this illegitimate regime. We can say sincerely and without hyperbole that this action on your part will save lives."

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"Though we commend the administration for having strongly stated their support for the restoration of democracy in Honduras, we are concerned that neither you nor the Secretary of State has denounced these serious human rights abuses in a country where US influence could be decisive.

Indeed a nice subject to discuss. I think this administration has carefully avoided steps that might have forced Zelaya's restitution in time to make a difference, such as formally declaring a military coup, freezing the coup supporters' U.S. accounts, cutting off all aid, removing the U.S. military "guests" from Soto Cano airbase.

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