Monday, July 06, 2009

Does Obama Really Want Democracy Restored in Honduras?

While the right-wing is busy denouncing President Obama for joining every nation of the world in condemning last week's military coup in Honduras, the reality is that the role being played by Washington is much more complex and contradictory. With each passing day, it's becoming increasingly clear that the Obama Administration is not committed to restoring democracy in Honduras.

The stakes are becoming much higher. Already we have at least 4 or 5 killed by security forces. We have thousands of injured. We have at least 651 arrested with no rights to habeus corpus. We have an indefinite suspension of citizen's constitutional human rights and free media. Soon we may have a lot more unless the US gets serious.

We should have known something was up when Obama's first reaction to the coup stressed the danger of "outside interference" when we knew the State Department had been intimately involved with events prior to the coup and that outside help would be the only thing to restore Zelaya to his rightful Presidency. We know the US holds all the possible diplomatic cards, given our tight economic and military relationships with the coup plotters, but we have refused to play them. Making the hesitation to support democracy clear the State Department pointedly refused to call a coup a coup, because it would have economic and diplomatic consequences. Comments coming out of Washington have been increasingly out of step with the world in categorically condemning the reasons for the coup.

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that US officials tried to persuade Zelaya from making the trip to his homeland yesterday. This could not have been just to "prevent bloodshed" (echoing the putschists), for the plane could have simply and easily been diverted to our Soto Cano military base. Refusal to consider that option shows where Honduran democracy rates in the scheme of things. Maintaining an Imperial outpost easily outweighs democracy I guess.

And check out this jaw-dropping quote from Davidow - Obama's "Special Advisor" to Latin America (from the Pose piece above):

"The threats against democracy in Latin America, and I don't in any way minimize what's happened in Honduras . . . are not those coming from military coups, but rather from governments which are ignoring checks and balances, overriding other elements of government.

I was amazed not only because of its foreign policy implications, but also in the timing. This clearly signals US displeasure with Zelaya and takes the position of the coupsters in the forthcoming legal arguments, whether in Tegucalpa or the Hague. We can debate the (frightening and hypocritical) larger point another day (I wonder if Mr. Davidow believes that Roosevelt "stacked the courts" and Garcia in Peru shuts down TV stations), but it is now clear to me at least, where the intellectual sympathies of this State Department lie.

Zelaya is supposed to return to Washington tomorrow, to meet with Hillary Clinton. I would advise him to tell her to play real diplomatic hard ball with the putschists (ie. some real consequences) or the US will be held partially responsible for whatever comes next. Forces are quickly radicalizing, particularly with the apparent killing of a youth yesterday.

Zelaya realizes the coupsters merely want to delay any action and hope the world moves on to other things (maybe another infomercial star will die). Now that a meeting with Hillary Clinton has been set for tomorrow, it appears the spotlight will be firmly on Washington. Zelaya has made his point to Washington clear:

"Starting tomorrow, the United States, which has tremendous power, should take action."

"Specifically, the strongest government in economic matters, in aspects of the sphere of the dollar, for us is the United States. If they decide to live with the coup, then democracy in the Americas is over... In this sense, I ask the powers that have economic and commercial influence to apply measures when legitimate institutions of society side with barbarity and terror to commit abuses as in Honduras."

If they don't, more radical moves by Zelaya's real friends will be the obvious result. And the US will bear the blame because it wanted to play it both ways. Hope and change? Not if Obama insists on putting Cold War dinosaurs like Davidow in charge of his Latin American policies.


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