Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Honduras in Turmoil

It has been almost ignored by the major media outlets in the focus on Michael Jackson's memorial service and Sarah Palin's resignation (last week); and the Senate confirmation hearings for nominee to the US Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor and the fight over health care reform (this week). I'm talking about the struggle of a small and poor country in Central America, Honduras, to maintain its democracy. The world's reaction to events in Honduras is unhelpful, but in particular the reaction of our US government is upsetting.

President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown June 28th by the counry's Congress, Supreme Court and military acting together. The charges were that he was working to undermine the country's constitution and make himself president with an open-ended tenure. At the time of the overthrow, his approval rating was about 10 percent of the populace. Zelaya is, however quite popular with the hemisphere's most brutal dictators, namely Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro. Daniel Ortega is a strong supporter as well. As always, whom a person chooses as his friends can be very telling.

In the past, our country in her desire to see the 'lesser of evils' in power, has pragmatically backed some unsavory strongmen. Of course, the words 'military coup' are enough to make us reflexively distance ourselves from any regime installed in that way. But the interim government in Honduras is not a Pinochet, a Somoza, or a Marcos. Once the army had spirited Zelaya out of the country safely - no harm was done to him and he was not imprisoned or detained - an interim government led by Roberto Micheletti, the president of congress and a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party, was installed. Micheletti has promised that his government will only serve out the remaining six months of Zelaya's term, and that elections will be held when planned or even earlier. There has been no violence as a consequence of the takeover; there have been peaceful protests in the streets, both for and against the interim government.

Unfortunately, most of the world has condemned the Micheletti government and called for Zelaya's reinstatement. Chavez of Venezuela, a supporter of Zelaya, is making bellicose threats of dire consequences if his friend is not soon returned to power. The US State Department is playing a lower-key role; Secretary Clinton has asked Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias to mediate the crisis. Even so, for our government the desireable outcome is quite clear; State Dept. spokesman Ian Kelly has called "on all parties, particularly President Zelaya and the de facto regime to work together and come to a peaceful resolution that restores the democratic order," meaning "the restoration of the democratically elected president." It is distressing to hear our administration agreeing with the likes of Chavez, Castro and Ortega; would be refreshing to hear President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton instead express hope for the upholding of the liberty and the constitution of Honduras rather than worry about the 'rights' of a would-be tyrant.