Monday, June 29, 2009 at 6:51 AM
It is probably more embarrassing than shocking to US government officials that the American-trained military of Honduras pulled off the first coup in Central America, where coups were once common, since 1993. Because that’s exactly what Honduran soldiers did when they reportedly seized the national palace yesterday and flew the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into forced exile in Costa Rica.
And nobody can be more embarrassed that this coup occurred - not during the preternaturally belligerent presidency of George W. Bush but during the purportedly pacifist presidency of Barack Obama - than President Obama himself.
Of course Obama was quick to distance himself from the coup by condemning it. But he will be hard-pressed to convince Zelaya, a leftist compadre of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, that US forces did not mastermind this coup. Especially since it featured all of the tactics US forces themselves deployed in 2004 to overthrow another democratically elected (leftist) president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti.
Indeed, Obama’s condemnation will probably be greeted with incredulity worldwide given the US’s record of fomenting and perpetrating coups throughout the Americas – including in Guatemala (1954), Ecuador (1963) and Bolivia (1971).
Not to mention that it was the CIA that gave Honduran military officers the Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983, which taught them how to torture people. This led to the creation of the notorious “Battalion 316,” whose members used those techniques (“with the CIA’s full knowledge”) on thousands of leftist dissidents.
But nothing betrays US mentoring for, if not complicity in, this coup quite like the way the military enlisted the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court to endorse it. In fact, after passing a resolution accusing Zelaya of “manifest irregular conduct [and] putting in present danger the state of law,” the Congress voted (“by a show of hands”) to remove Zelaya and appoint its leader, Roberto Micheletti (center), to replace him.
Meanwhile, they launched this perfectly executed coup despite the fact that Zelaya’s only crime seems to have been championing a constitutional referendum that would have allowed him to emulate his mentor, Chavez, by removing term limits on his presidency.
There is no way to justify an interruption of democracy, a coup d’etat… This kidnapping is an extortion of the Honduran democratic system. I want to return to my country. I am president of Honduras.
I agree. Unfortunately, I fear that the Mullahs in Iran will heed Mousavi’s despairing cries to let freedom reign there before the military in Honduras heeds Zelaya’s similar cries. And, frankly, no amount of condemnation from the UN, OAS and CARICOM or saber rattling by Chavez, Ortega (of Nicaragua) and Correa (of Ecuador) will restore Zelaya’s presidency.
For his part, it’s bad enough that Obama is continuing many of the ‘war on terror’ policies that he and virtually every other world leader criticized President Bush for implementing. But the fact that he’s now effectively presiding over this coup, notwithstanding his calls for Zelaya to be reinstated, makes him seem more like a traditional US president than the transformative one he professes to be….
Not to mention the spectacle of Ahmadinejad now having just cause to tell Obama to clean up the democratic mess in his own backyard before lecturing him about democracy in Iran!
With that, I feel obliged to warn my jovial compadre in Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to make sure his military commanders are on board before he too tries to emulate Chavez by pushing through a constitutional amendment to abolish term limits on his presidency….
NOTE: Perhaps I’m just too cynical to believe that the Honduran military and political establishment orchestrated this coup without the tacit approval of US officials. Not least because over 600 US military officers remain comfortably stationed at two bases in Honduras – where they’ve been advising, and fraternizing with, Honduran military officers for over two decades.
But even if the Hondurans defied their US mentors, then this is just another case of America’s schizophrenic foreign policy coming home to roost….