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US Chided for Aiding Honduras Despite Coup

WASHINGTON - Only the U.S. government has the leverage to force a return to democracy in Honduras, says regional analyst Laura Carlsen, urging the Obama administration to impose real financial consequences on the military-backed leaders who seized power in late June.

A supporter of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya paints a graffiti reading in Spanish 'Tell the truth, Coup Supporters', at the entrance of the El Heraldo newspaper during a demonstration in support of Zelaya in Tegucigalpa, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix) What's the Story?

Honduran coup leader Roberto Micheletti has admitted that the only country with the power to punish his regime is the United States, which purchases 70 percent of the country's exports and otherwise supports its economy through family remittances and direct aid.

Carlsen, who has long covered trade, finance, democracy, and other issues in Latin America, is urging the U.S. State Department to stop "sitting on its hands" and make the official coup declaration that would cut off aid to Honduras. In the meantime, a highly suspect electoral campaign has begun and massive human rights violations are being reported by independent observers.

"Although Honduras is a small, impoverished nation that plays a relatively minor role in U.S. geopolitical strategy, the issues at stake make it a test case for a new foreign policy based on the principles of democracy and rule of law," says Carlsen.

U.S. Delegation Finds Rights Abuses, Poor Media Coverage

A four-member U.S. delegation traveled to Honduras in mid-August to investigate the current situation in the country. They discussed events and the current state of society with local rights groups, workers, the U.S. Ambassador, the wife of ousted president Manuel Zelaya, journalists, and other people they met along the way.

They found that: "Zelaya, who was kidnapped in the middle of the night by the head of the army, whom he had just fired, is in fact quite popular among the working people, the poor, and the peasants of Honduras -- in other words the vast majority," according to the Kansas City-based Cross-Border Network, whose president was among the U.S. delegates.

The delegation watched a grassroots social movement of tens of thousands demonstrate in Honduras' two major cities, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula. They say they saw brutal repression by police and military, and interviewed the victims.

"We met the U.S Ambassador who agreed it was a military coup even though the State Department won't call it that, thus invoking the law requiring cut off of all remaining aid," said the Cross-Border Network.

The delegation was organized by the human rights group Global Exchange, which works in various ways to empower Americans to act -- both in their own communities and around the world -- for a more fair and sustainable world. [Read the full delegation report and see photos and read testimonies of abuse victims.]

Madagascar: A Coup Condemned

In March, the U.S. State Department wasted no time in condemning the coup-style process by which a sitting president halfway around the world was forced to resign, cutting off all non-humanitarian aid to the developing island nation of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa.

The U.S. government had been providing about $110 million per year to help improve lives and create opportunities for the Malagasy people -- until the 35-year-old politician and former disc jockey Andry Rajaolina and his supporters destabilized the capital and seized power, eventually winning the support of the military, which said its only aim was to maintain order. The European Union also froze about $880 million in aid after the coup.

A negotiation process led by the Mozambican statesman Joaquim Chissano raised hopes in August that the rival parties would be able to agree on a transitional leadership group to usher the country towards free and fair elections, but a Sep. 4 deadline has since come and gone without Rajaolina assenting to any power-sharing proposals offered by his main rival and the two former presidents of the country who took part in the discussions.

"We are now in a wait-and-see mode and are watching the implementation phase [of the agreement] to see what happens," a U.S. Embassy spokesperson told the IRIN news service in early August. 

- This article was compiled by Jeffrey Allen.

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