Honduras: An update
Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten any better. The Obama administration continues to let relations worsen in order to demand reinstatement for a man the country clearly doesn’t want and it is become quite vindictive in its action. Mary Anastasia O’Grady, who has been following the situation from the first provides the update:
Four months after a presidential election, reports from Honduras suggest the Obama administration remains obsessed with repairing its foreign-policy image by regaining the upper hand. The display of raw colonialist hubris is so pronounced that locals now refer to U.S. ambassador Hugo Llorens as “the proconsul.”
Washington’s bullying is two-pronged. First is a maniacal determination to punish those involved in removing Mr. Zelaya. Second is an attempt to force Honduras to allow Mr. Zelaya, who now lives in the Dominican Republic, to return without facing any repercussions for the illegal actions that provoked his removal. Both goals are damaging the bilateral relationship, polarizing the nation and raising the risk of a resurgence of political violence.
The U.S., as represented by Mr. Llorens, has been at the center of the Zelaya crisis all along. People familiar with events leading up to Mr. Zelaya’s arrest on June 28 say that had the U.S. ambassador not worked behind the scenes to block a congressional vote to remove the president a few days earlier, the dramatic deportation would never have happened.
The State Department denies this allegation. But numerous sources maintain that Mr. Llorens’ interference allowed Mr. Zelaya to push ahead with an unconstitutional referendum. Fearing he would use violence—as he had before—to trample the rule of law, the Supreme Court took action. Mr. Zelaya was arrested, shipped off to San José, and removed from power by a vote of Congress the same day.
Honduras had defied Uncle Sam and the U.S., led by Mr. Llorens, decided that it had to be taught a lesson. It took out the brass knuckles and tried hard to unseat interim president Roberto Micheletti in the interest of restoring Mr. Zelaya to the office.
Honduras wouldn’t budge. That’s when Mr. Restrepo traveled to the capital with a U.S. delegation. The agreement reached included U.S. recognition of the November election. For a time it seemed things might return to normal.
But the Americans had scores to settle. The U.S had already yanked dozens of visas from officials and the business community as punishment for noncompliance with its pro-Zelaya policy. Then, just days before President Porfirio Lobo’s inauguration in January, Hondurans estimate it pulled at least 50 more from Micheletti supporters. The visas have not been returned, and locals say Mr. Llorens continues to foster a climate of intimidation with his visa-pulling power.
He hasn’t stopped there. In early March he organized a meeting of Liberal Party Zelaya supporters and the party’s former presidential candidate, Elvin Santos, at the U.S. Embassy. Some 48 hours later the party’s zelayistas and its Santos faction voted to remove Mr. Micheletti as party head. Rigoberto Espinal Irías, a legal adviser to the independent public prosecutor’s office, complained that the “meeting generated much bad feeling in Honduran civil society” because it was “perceived to have the purpose of intervening in Honduran national politics.”
Now more trouble is brewing: Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, according to press reports, has said that Mr. Lobo made a promise, in front of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr. Funes, that Mr. Zelaya could return “without fear of political persecution.” Mr. Lobo subsequently announced that Mr. Zelaya is free to enter the country. In exchange, it is expected that foreign aid flows to Honduras will resume. But the minister of security maintains that if Mr. Zelaya returns he will be arrested.
What ever happened to self-determination? What ever happened to “the will of the people”. No one argues that the recent elections were fraudulent or don’t reflect that will. And, as any number have pointed out, Zelaya violated the Honduran constitution with his actions and other than the exile, Zelaya’s removal was perfectly legal under their law. Now we have an activist US ambassador trying to influence internal Honduran politics and going so far as to host opposition party meetings? One wonders if Mr. Obama’s State Department would try that in Venezuela and, if so, how Hugo Chavez would characterize it.
Honduras is an ally. It is a democracy. It actually had a good relationship, until recently. And it was a bulwark against the Bolivarian socialism that Hugo Chavez is trying to spread. Instead of undermining its present government, we should be working hand in hand to strengthen it. Instead, it seems, our new foreign policy is to try and antagonize and alienate as many allies as we can.