As the tension in Honduras grows, it may be useful to recall how we started down a road placing us in opposition not only to the Honduran Supreme Court and the Honduran Congress but also to the Honduran people—since the State Department has indicated we will not accept the results of the November Honduran election to resolve the situation.
How did the restoration of Manuel Zelaya, supposedly for just a few more months, supposedly simply to leave office after the election, become more important than moving the country toward an orderly presidential election to succeed the interim government chosen by the Honduran Congress?
U.S. policy was set the day after Zelaya was removed, when President Obama was asked at a press conference about the “coup in Honduras.” He gave this response:
President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term. We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras, the democratically elected President there. . . .
It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections. . . . The United States has not always stood as it should with some of these fledgling democracies, but over the last several years, I think both Republicans and Democrats in the United States have recognized that we always want to stand with democracy.
Obama’s statement that there was a “military coup” that was “not legal” has been contradicted by rulings of the Honduran Supreme Court, actions of the Honduran Congress, the State Department’s failure to find there was a “military” coup requiring termination of aid under U.S. law (but terminating aid anyway), and the recent U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) report finding that Zelaya was removed after refusing to accept a Supreme Court ruling that his scheduled referendum relating to presidential succession was unconstitutional. And all this was amid rumors he was “planning an institutional coup” involving the dissolution of Congress and an immediate national assembly to amend the constitution so he could remain in office.
The CRS report noted that Zelaya’s proposed referendum had “drawn the opposition of the legislature, the judiciary, the Attorney General, the Human Rights Ombudsman, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, evangelical groups, business associations, and four of the five political parties [the fifth was the “small leftist Democratic Unification party”] . . . including Zelaya’s own [political party].”
Obama thus slandered a democratic ally that sought to enforce its own constitution (and avoid what had happened to democracy in Venezuela), placed the U.S. in opposition to a democratically elected Honduran legislature and its judiciary, converted an erroneous statement of Honduran law into a foreign-policy position, cut off millions of dollars in aid to one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, removed visas from the Supreme Court justices who found that Zelaya had violated the constitution, and preemptively rejected the results of the coming Honduran election lest the people decide the issue themselves.
The maraschino cherry on this foreign-policy fiasco is that it began with Obama’s apologetic remark that the U.S. did not always “stand as it should” with fledgling democracies—back in the bad old pre-Obama days—and that “we always want to stand with democracy.”