How Obama Betrayed Honduras

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

How Obama Betrayed Honduras

The United States must honour its promises to Central America by refusing to support the coup leaders in Honduras

by
Hugh O'Shaughnessy

Let's hope that the United States finally decides that it's going to do what its president said it would do for Central America. It should be a simple task, that of cutting off its support of the bad guys in Honduras and starting to honour the commitment to democracy that Barack Obama clearly announced when he met the leaders of Latin America at the Summit of the Americas.

So far the administration's actions towards the gang of semi-educated ruffians who took over in Tegucigalpa and who feel, for racial reasons, that the US leader is beneath their contempt, has been – to put it kindly – ragged. The almost universal cry of "foul" went up when the legally elected Manuel Zelaya was sent out of the country in his pyjamas by Roberto Micheletti, an obscure politician and businessman, who had seized power.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton was first off the starting block when she condemned the impostor's action. Then Barack came along to say what she had chosen not to say: that the real president should be returned to the office he rightfully exercised.

Now however the word from every involved agency in Washington is that Zelaya should be allowed back on the strict condition that he does not upset friends of the US, the Republican party and the telecommunication companies in DC with his state-owned corporation Hondutel. This is ridiculous for two reasons. The first is to do with simple justice – Zelaya won a victory in clean elections. The second has to do with the US president's image in the western hemisphere. The last eight years in the Middle East and the unfolding debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan should have taught the US and the British governments that if they attempt the impossible – such as trying to invade and occupy countries on spurious grounds and with recourse to kidnapping and torture – they will get egg all over themselves. And egg stains never look good on presidential or prime ministerial lounge suits – much less on military uniforms, gold braid and medal ribbons.

Yet Obama is presiding over a group of politicians and civil servants who appear to think that they have it in their power to convince Latin Americans and the world that a Honduran coup d'etat is not a coup d'etat and that a dictatorship which imposes curfews and gags the media as part of a drive to help the interests of foreign businessmen is a democratic government.

The leaders of all the members of the Organisation of American States have condemned Micheletti, as have the UN and the EU. If Clinton and the survivors of the wilder rightwing fringes of the Bush administration to whom she is bizarrely allied have their way US reaction to the impostor will be ineffectual. 

Instead of treating the impostor government with all the weapons that the US has used against successive Cuban governments and against the elected government of Venezuela, Micheletti has been asked to play along with president Oscar Arias of Costa Rica. Arias has treated him as an equal, which he isn't, rather than an aspiring Pinochet, which the deaths and injuries his police and troops on the border have inflicted on Zelaya's supporters demonstrate that he is.

And that – as Clinton knows better than anyone – will be very damaging for Obama. The claims made by Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba that nothing much has changed between the Bush era and the Obama era will have been vindicated. As Zelaya is denied his rights, the stronger Chávez and Castro become, along with President Lula of Brazil, the giant of South America. The Brazilian has said that anything short of Zelaya's restoration to office would be unthinkable.

Chávez meanwhile has sent his foreign minister Nicolas Maduro to accompany Zelaya to the Nicaraguan-Honduran border, thus clearly identifying himself with the good guy. The shots of Zelaya and Maduro at the sharp end of the conflict will have done much to counteract the careful campaign of slander and denigration of Chávez that the State Department has mounted – not without success in the US and even European media – since the failure of its own coup d'etat against the Venezuelan leader in 2002.

The longer the State Department continues to favour Micheletti over Honduras' rightful president, the more people will wonder why Obama needs enemies when he has friends like his secretary of state.

Hugh O'Shaughnessy is a prize-winning journalist who has written on Latin America for over 40 years

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