Military Coup in Honduras

The name of this blog was derived from a Warren Zevon song called “Lawyers, Guns and Money”, which contains the following verse:

Now I’m hiding in Honduras/I’m a desperate man/Send lawyers, guns and money/The shit has hit the fan!

So it would be very apropo for me to discuss the ongoing political crisis in Honduras.

On Sunday morning, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was awakened by military personnel and then forcibly taken to an airbase while still in his pajamas.  From there, a waiting plane took him to Costa Rica where he is still in exile.  The Honduran Congress announced that it received and accepted a letter of resignation from Zelaya, but the ousted president claims he never wrote or signed such a document.  Roberto Michetti, who was serving as the president of the National Congress, has taken over Zelaya’s position.

Prior to the coup, Zelaya had alienated conservative segments of Honduran society with his leftist policies at home and abroad.  He also angered powerful people when he recently called for a national referendum to alter the constitution and get rid of presidential term limits, an act which the Supreme Court said was illegal.  When Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, the head of the armed forces, refused to help organize the referendum Zelaya fired him, but Velasquez was reinstated after the Supreme Court and the Congress declared his ouster unlawful.  The military is politically influential in many Latin American countries, and the Honduran military may have come to see Zelaya as a political threat and decided he needed to be removed from office.

The Obama administration joined the international community in condemning the coup and refusing to recognize the new government.  Nevertheless, some have suggested that the US secretly supported the removal of Zelaya, who has allied with leftist regimes hostile to the US (such as Cuba and Venezuela) and critized some American policies.  The US has military ties with Honduras as it does with many Latin American countries, a fact which conspiracy theorists point to as evidence of US involvement or acquiesence in the putsch. 

Given the history of US involvement in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, it is understandable why some are automatically suspicious whenever a leftist government is overthrown in the region.  However, it is difficult to see why the Obama administration would risk its international standing at this moment in history merely to effect regime change in Honduras, a country with almost no strategic or ideological significance.  It would be much more plausible to blame an attempted coup in Venezuela, an oil rich nation with a vehemently anti-American president who is believed to be supporting communist insurgents in Colombia, on the US (there was a failed coup attempt in Venezuela in 2002 and Washington was accused of being involved).  Like most conspiracy theories, the one about Ameircan involvement in this latest coup is not very credible.

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