Obama's Deafening Silence on Honduras
Seven weeks after the coup in Honduras, the US is hindering efforts to restore President Manuel Zelaya to power
The strategy of the coup regime is obviously to run out the clock on President Manuel Zelaya's remaining months in office. A presidential election, in which Zelaya is not eligible to run because of Honduras' one-term limit, is scheduled for 29 November.
In response to that strategy, the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) issued a declaration on 10 August that it would not recognise any government elected under the coup regime. It is worth noting that this was a unanimous decision. Even close US allies Colombia and Peru approved the declaration.
Then on 17 August, President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who has grown increasingly impatient with the delaying tactics, issued a joint statement with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico saying the same thing. Calderon is a rightwing president and was one of President George Bush's few allies in the region.
The next step would be for the Organisation of American States, where all countries in the hemisphere except Cuba are represented, to take this position. But it operates mainly by consensus, and the US is reportedly blocking that move. Of course, Washington can't be seen to be the sole opposition, so it has recruited some rightwing governments, according to sources involved in the OAS discussions: Canada and Panama, along with a couple of other small country governments that can be bribed or bullied into joining Washington's rapidly shrinking regional coalition of the willing.
The millions of Americans who gave their votes, contributions or energy to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in the hope that he would change US foreign policy probably didn't expect to see this administration fishing around for rightwing allies to help block Latin America from trying to reverse a military coup. But that appears to be the reality.
In fact, the US state department has still not even determined that a military coup has taken place. It's not clear what else you would call it when the military storms the home of the elected president and forces him at gunpoint, in his pajamas, to board a plane out of the country.
A few days ago, an official of the Zelaya government told the press that this plane actually stopped at the Palmerola airbase in Honduras, home to 600 US troops, on its way out of the country. According to the Associated Press, the official offered this as evidence that the US was involved in the coup. US officials declined immediate comment, but later followed up with a statement that the US "had no knowledge or part in the decisions made for the plane to land, refuel and take off."
This does not seem to be a credible story. To believe this denial, we would have to believe that the US military has such complete confidence in Honduran security that it allows them to monitor and control the airspace over this base where 600 US troops are stationed, as well as takeoffs and landings – without any involvement of US personnel. A tough swallow, especially given the post-9/11 concerns about terrorist attacks against US military personnel stationed abroad.
The one thing we can be pretty sure of is that no major US media outlet will look further into this matter. The general attitude of the press toward US involvement in military coups is: "We don't want to hear about it – or talk about it." This was true of the coup that overthrew Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2002, where there US state department acknowledged that the US government paid people and organisations involved in the coup, and CIA documents showing advance knowledge of the coup combined with White House lying about the coup provided substantial evidence of US involvement.
But no major US newspaper ever gave any credence to that possibility. US involvement in the overthrow of Haiti's democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide – in both 1991 and a second time in 2004 – has also been almost completely ignored, despite some compelling evidence.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Amnesty International issued a report documenting widespread police beatings and brutality against peaceful demonstrations, mass arbitrary arrests and other human rights abuses under the dictatorship. The Obama administration has remained silent about these abuses – as well as the killings of activists and press censorship and intimidation. To date, no major media outlet has bothered to pursue them for an on-the-record comment.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009