First though, the background:
Kyrgyzstan’s ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev insisted Wednesday that he was still the rightful leader of his country, breaking several days of silence after his flight into exile.
“I, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, am the legally elected president of Kyrgyzstan and recognised by the international community,” he said, speaking to reporters in Belarus where he took refuge earlier this week.
“I do not recognise my resignation. Nine months ago the people of Kyrgyzstan elected me their president and there is no power that can stop me. Only death can stop me,” Bakiyev said in the Belarussian capital Minsk.
After the fit the Obama administration threw about Honduras enforcing its Constitution by deposing their president who had violated it, I’m sure we’re being consistent with Kyrgyzstan. After all, we insisted (and still insist) that the former president of Honduras – the the “duly elected president” – must be returned to power before relations with Honduras will normalize. I assume the Obama administration is insisting the same thing happen in Kyrgyzstan, right?
The interim Kyrgyz government that took power in a violent revolt last week has been officially recognized by the United States, the US ambassador to the country announced Sunday.
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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.
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The Honduran Congress voted overwhelmingly yesterday not to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya and allow him to finish his term. The vote saw 111 of the 128 member body reject reinstatement. That includes no votes from Zelaya’s own Liberal party which holds a majority of seats in the Congress. There is apparently a deep divide within that party concerning the swing to the left which they see as being influenced by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
This also ends the US brokered deal which would have seen Zelaya return to finish out his term. The vote, as I see it, should put an end to outside attempts to reinstate Zelaya. When only 14 out of a body of 128 vote for such a reinstatementj (3 were absent) – especially when his own party holds a majority- I think it is fair to conclude that such a return is not considered to be in the best interest of the country.
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Speaking of thumbing their collective noses, the Honduran people thumbed theirs at Hugo Chavez and the rest of the ALBA (Alternative for the Americas – a Chavez inspired group which includes Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua as well as Venezuela) rabble in the OAS with their vote yesterday:
Provisional results in Honduras indicate that Porfirio Lobo, an opponent of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, has won presidential elections.
The poll was held five months after Mr Zelaya was forced out at gunpoint, with an interim government taking over.
Mr Lobo is seen as a unifying figure. He won 56% of the vote, with over 60% of registered voters taking part.
A clear winner and high turnout were what the interim government were hoping for to give the election legitimacy.
As you might have picked up, the BBC continues with the myth that Zelaya was “forced out”, i.e. the victim of the military coup, when, in fact, he was arrested for violating the constitution.
But the Beeb has to admit, even grudgingly, that the fact that there appears to be a clear winner and that the turnout was high do in fact speak to the legitimacy of the election – even in the face of Zelaya’s call for his supporters to boycott it.
Of course for some countries, even a legitimate and scheduled election is not enough to placate them:
But regional powers Argentina and Brazil have said they will not recognise any government installed after the election, arguing that to do so would legitimise the coup which ousted an elected president, and thus set a dangerous precedent.
However the United States, having apparently finally figured out what was going on in Honduras, has said it will recognize the results of the election. Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, the German parliament and Japan will also recognize the vote (over 400 international monitors were on hand to watch the election) with more to come, I’m sure.
What that means is Honduras has won and the Chavez cabal has lost – hopefully a turning point in the eventual demise of the “Bolivarian revolution” inspired by Venezuela (if how Hugo makes cars is any indication, it won’t be long). Of course for that to be so, Porfirio Lobo must ensure that Honduras remains on the democratic and constitutional track upon which it now rests.
A hearty “well done” to the tiny country that stood up and resisted the bullies from the OAS and the US, stood by its laws and constitution and gave the world a lesson in political courage.
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I think we know the answer to the question “what in the world are Constitutions for if not to be followed” as we address it to those named in the headline, but we now have the Congressional Research Service weighing in on Honduras and it isn’t good news for the US’s policy toward that country.
David Freddoso reports that the CRS’s Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma Gutierrez has completed a study of the Honduran actions as they relate to former president Mel Zelaya and they don’t reflect well on the US. Freddoso has distilled them to the following:
* The Honduran Congress appears to have acted properly in deposing President Manuel Zelaya. Unlike in the United States, the Honduran Congress has the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Although there is no provision in Honduras’s Constitution for impeachment as such, the body does have powers to disapprove of the president’s official acts, and to replace him in the event that he is incapable of performing his duties. Most importantly, the Congress also has the authority to interpret exactly what that means.
* The Supreme Court was legally entitled to ask the military to arrest Zelaya. The high court, which is the constitutional venue for trials of the president and other high-ranking officials, also recognized the Congress’s ouster of Zelaya when it referred his case back down to a lower court afterward, on the grounds that he was “no longer a high-ranking government official.”
* The military did not act properly in forcibly expatriating Zelaya. According to the CRS report and other news stories, Honduran authorities are investigating their decision, which the military justified at the time as a means of preventing bloodshed. In fact, Zelaya should have been given a trial, and if convicted of seeking reelection, he would have lost his citizenship. But he is still a citizen now, and the Constitution forbids the expatriation of Honduran citizens by their government.
* The proper line of succession was followed after Zelaya’s ouster. Because there was no Vice President in office when Zelaya was removed (he had resigned to run for president), Micheletti was the proper successor, as he had been president of the Congress.
So the only unlawful or improper act, according the the CRS, was the forceful expatriation of Zelaya. Despite the desire to avoid bloodshed, the military should merely have removed and arrested him. Other than that, everything appears to go precisely as it should according to their constitution and their legal interpretation of it.
For a man who just stood up in the UN and claimed the right of people for self-determination (except in Iran, of course), he sure is working awful hard to ensure Honduras’s citizens don’t enjoy that right.
He’s wrong. Secretary of State Clinton is wrong. The State Department’s actions against Honduras are wrong. No equivocation here – the US is on the wrong side of this issue. This needs to be rethought and readdressed quickly and Mel Zelaya ought to be treated like he deserves – as someone who broke the law of the land.
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A lot is happening, not that you’d know it unless you’re paying attention.
The North Koreans are happily enriching uranium again, as are the Iranians. We’re in the middle of completely screwing over Honduras while ignoring what Venezuela is in the middle of doing.
And what is that you ask? Well the Washington Post fills us in:
But Mr. Chavez has clearly forged a bond with one leader who is as reckless and ambitious as he is: Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The growing fruits of this relationship, and its potential consequences for U.S. security, have not gotten as much attention as they deserve.
Mr. Chávez was in Tehran again this week and offered his full support for Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line faction. As usual, the caudillo made clear that he shares Iran’s view of Israel, which he called “a genocidal state.” He endorsed Iran’s nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran’s assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own. He also announced that his government would begin supplying Iran with 20,000 barrels of gasoline a day — a deal that could directly undercut a possible U.S. effort to curtail Iran’s gasoline imports.
Such collaboration is far from new for Venezuela and Iran. In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, who has been investigating the arrangements, says he believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and U.N. sanctions. He also points out that Iranian factories have been located “in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela” that lack infrastructure but that could be “ideal . . . for the illicit production of weapons.”
“The opening of Venezuela’s banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles,” Mr. Morgenthau said in a briefing this week in Washington at the Brookings Institution. “The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.”
Big deal. I mean, look at what Honduras has done.
Mr. Morgenthau’s report was brushed off by the State Department, which is deeply invested in the Chávez-is-no-threat theory. State “will look into” Mr. Morgenthau’s allegations, spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday. Meanwhile, Mr. Chávez is off to Moscow, where, according to the Russian press, he plans to increase the $4 billion he has already spent on weapons by another $500 million or so. Mr. Chávez recently promised to buy “several battalions” of Russian tanks. Not a threat? Give him time.
And, of course, as a little jab at the US, Chavez recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia and buying tanks in Russia.
North Korea, as mentioned, is back to building nuclear bombs. But don’t worry, all the signs are present that they’re willing, once again, to do a little bartering. They’ve announced they’re open to two-party talks with the US. That means, they’ll talk and the US will pay for them to quit making bombs. And they’ll agree until the next time they need a little cash.
But don’t worry – Honduras is going to pay the price for their constitutional misbehavior. And besides, our president gets to play “King of the World” in a couple of weeks might even have the chance to give Moammar Qaddafi a hug while he is at it.
Yup – it’s looking good out there.
As you recall when Honduras invoked its Constitution and kicked out its sitting president for violating it, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica stepped forward and volunteered to act as an intermediary to help settle the “crisis”.
It was, apparently, only a “crisis” to those outside Honduras and now we’re beginning to understand why. It seems Arias wasn’t at all the honest broker everyone thought he was. Cato@Liberty reports:
President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica has joined the trend in Latin America of calling for a new constitution that would expand executive powers and get rid of “unnecessary checks” on the president’s authority. Although Arias has less than 9 months left in office and can’t run for reelection, his brother and current minister of the presidency — a primer minister of sorts — has openly said he’s interested in running for president in 2014. A new constitution with expanded executive powers would fit him just fine.
But Arias is also apparently at war with the media which to this point is still free and able to oppose the changes for which Arias is calling. The Arias argument against the media sound very familiar:
However, the most disturbing aspect of Arias’ call was his harsh criticism of the media. Borrowing from the script of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Arias described news outlets as “corporations interested in making a profit” that don’t necessarily pursue the “public good.” He asked the media to “tone down” its criticism of government officials, and said that journalists “should understand their role within a higher framework.” He complained that news outlets claim to represent the public interest, without any control or accountability.
This is precisely the formula followed by the new leftist despots in Central and South America. Use the system to subvert the system and expand the executive’s power to a defacto dictatorship. The first step, of course, is to rewrite the country’s constitution to abet their grab for power. And, of course, along the way it is critical that they silence and then control the media.
This formula isn’t a hard one to discern, and the the result is obvious. Despotic governments imposing ruinous socialism while a muted press is powerless to do anything about it.
And where is the US is all of this? Busily engaged in undermining the one government, Honduras, which has actually stepped up to thwart the formula and enforce its constitution.
The US should be on the side of self-determination and the rule of law. Instead, we’ve ended up on the side of power-grabbing future despots and potential ruling cliques of nepotism. How did this happen, and why hasn’t the national media shined its light on Arias’ interests in this dispute? Could it be that it would make Obama look like a bumbling fool on the international stage — or worse?
Good questions with no easy answers. However, one has to wonder why the media hasn’t gotten into the details of what is happening in Honduras and why it is so heavily opposed by the players in the region, such as Chavez, Ortega and Correa. There’s an unacknowledged revolution going on which is neither good for the people of the region nor good for the US and we seem to be not only blind to the fact, but implicitly and perhaps unknowingly aiding it. And now we find Arias too is a player.
Honduras is the only country in the region saying “no” to the trend and they’re under increasingly heavy fire to give in. In fact reports now say the Obama administration is contemplating cutting off foreign aid to Honduras unless they reinstall Mel Zelaya in the presidency. The willing ignorance the US is displaying concerning the problem in Honduras cannot be seen as anything but pandering to the likes of Chavez, Correa and Castro. It certainly isn’t based in respect for a nation’s laws and their right to self-determination – and that certainly makes the Obama administration look foolish on the international stage.
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OK, not precisely, but you could infer that from remarks made by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez:
“President Obama is lost in the Andromeda Nebula, he has lost his bearings, he doesn’t get it,” he said.
His remarks were apparently a reaction to something Obama said about the situation in Honduras as well as Latin America as a whole:
Last week Obama said critics of U.S. involvement in Latin America who are now asking Washington to do more to restore the ousted president of Honduras “can’t have it both ways.”
Saying you can’t ask for help on the one hand and then demand the US get out of Latin America on the other apparently makes you a space cadet lost in “the Andromeda Nebula”.
“We are not asking you to intervene in Honduras, Obama. On the contrary, we are asking that “the empire” get its hands off Honduras and get its claws out of Latin America,” Chavez said in a rambling weekly television and radio show.
Well so far so good on improving relations in Latin America. Of course, if you read the article, you’ll see that Reuters goes out of its way to make the case that this is all a side-show and in fact, Chavez thinks Obama is ok. I guess, like the reporting on the economy in which the media finds negative numbers that aren’t as negative as expected to be good news, this somehow qualifies as good news on the foreign relations front.
Yes I meant to put that in the title. They have won. As Investors Business Daily reports, things have quietly changed to the advantage of Honduras. While Chavez could run his mouth and the OAS could make threats, the 800 pound gorilla which could really make it miserable for Honduras was the US, and it has quietly backed off its former stance:
In a welcome about-face, the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a letter Tuesday that the U.S. would no longer threaten sanctions on Honduras for ousting its president, Mel Zelaya, last June 28.
Nor will it insist on Zelaya’s return to power. As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can’t find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court’s refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a “military coup.”
This marks a shift. The U.S. at first supported Zelaya, a man who had been elected democratically but didn’t govern that way. Now they’re reaching out to average Hondurans, the real democrats.
Sure, the U.S. continues to condemn Zelaya’s ouster and still seeks mediation of the dispute through Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. But no U.S. sanctions means Hondurans have won.
You have to admire the little country that stood up to the world and said, “it’s our Constitution, it’s our law and we’re going to enforce it”, and refused to back down.
And it is apparent that our State Department, after its initial knee-jerk reaction, has seemingly come to understand that what happened was done legally and in accordance with the Honduran constitution. The Senate was unable to find anything illegal about the action taken.
Certainly things are not back to normal in Honduras, but with the US backing off, the chances of returning to normal are greatly increased. Congrats to the Honduran people for sticking up for their Constitution and refusing to allow it to be violated, and for demonstrating that no man is above the law.
I just wish we had the same level of respect for our own Constitution.
I have to wonder what our State Department and President, who seem completely enamored with process over actual democratic institutions, will have to say about this:
Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.
Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let “the people say if they want to reward or punish” their leaders with reelection.
His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.
In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.
My guess is they’ll applaud this even while it has essentially established “democratic” dictatorships in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And my guess is the “certified election results” are complete for Nicaragua, just as they were for Hodura’s Zelaya, even as I write this. They only need to be produced at the proper time to “validate” the referendum.
Call it the Venezuelan model.
And our puddin’ heads in Washington will again applaud this step toward totalitarianism as a wonderful exercise in democracy we should all support.
Meanwhile those meanies in Honduras who take their Constitution too seriously? Not so much.