Archive for the ‘Honduras’ Category

Dealing with the Crisis in Honduras

July 10, 2009

The ongoing political crisis in Honduras, which began after President Manuel Zelaya was arrested by members of the Honduran military at the behest of Congress and deported from the country, will likely soon force the hand of the Obama administration to decide whether to apply diplomatic and economic sanctions against Honduras.  The Organization of American States has already suspended Honduras from that body, and the UN has condemned what many consider a coup against Zelaya.  President Obama has called for the interim government to allow Zelaya to return and negotiate a solution to the problem, but the US has yet to withdraw its ambassador from Tegucigalpa or impose economic sanctions.  Venezuela has stopped oil shipments to Honduras, which had been supplied at a discounted price, and called for military action to restore Zelaya.  Although the Obama administration would not condone military attacks, sanctions might eventually be applied.  But the US hopes that the crisis will be resolved before the issue is brought to a head.

It is unclear if sanctions imposed by America would compel the interim government to reach an agreement with Zelaya.  The US military has already temporarily suspended cooperation with the Honduran military and Washington has exerted some diplomatic pressure, but thus far that has proved unsuccessful.  If Honduras were isolated diplomatically and economically the new government might back down, especially if street protests get worse and social instability increases significantly.  But the situation is complicated by the history of unwelcome US intervention in the internal affairs of Latin American countries, and the Obama administration would undoubtedly prefer the conflict be resolved quickly by the Hondurans without too much American meddling lest the US be perceived as acting imperialistic.

I am not sure what the Obama administration should do if the crisis goes on much longer.  I welcome readers’ comments.

Pressure Put on Honduras After Zelaya Ouster

July 1, 2009

Yesterday, the UN General Assembly condemned the ouster of Manuel Zelaya, who was serving as the president of Honduras until Sunday when he was forcibly removed from office and expelled from the country.  The Organization of American States did the same and described Zelaya’s opponents’ move as a coup.  The OAS threatened to expel Honduras from the league unless the new government restored Zelaya to power.  Honduran officials said that Zelaya would be arrested if he returned, but Zelaya announced his intention to do so this week.

President Obama condemned the actions taken against Zelaya and the US co-sponsored the UN resolution decrying them.  The Obama administration has yet to decide if it will impose economic sanctions on Honduras if Zelaya is not allowed to resume the presidency.

It will be interesting to see if Roberto Micheletti, the interim president, and his supporters will bow to international pressure or if they will stand firm and refuse to accept Zelaya as president.  International efforts to isolate and compel regimes to change their behavior have succeeded and failed in the past.  South Africa eventually ended apartheid in large part due to their desire not to be a pariah state, but North Korea has remained a rogue state while under similar pressure.  The situation in Honduras is complicated by the fact that Zelaya was seen by many Hondurans as an aspiring dictator who was trying to change the constitution to extend his time in office; thus, those who overthrew him have a significant amount of popular support and are not seen as totally illegitimate by locals.  Whether there is major unrest in Honduras could have a major impact on the interim government’s decisionmaking, and if Zelaya and his allies are arrested it migh rile his supporters and create an environment of instability that the new administration would have to deal with.  Another wild card is how the military, which holds a lot of political sway in Honduras, will react as the situation develops.

Military Coup in Honduras

June 29, 2009

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.