Commentary Magazine


Topic: Honduran Congress

Standing up to the Obami

This report tip-toes around the facts related to how Honduras ousted Manuel Zelaya and achieved remarkable success in thwarting the Obami bullies. The report prefers to characterize it an as “elite” victory:

The story of how the second-poorest country in the hemisphere defied a superpower involves smooth-talking U.S. lobbyists and a handful of congressional Republicans. Perhaps most of all, it features a Honduran elite terrified that their country was being hijacked by someone they considered an erratic leftist.

But that’s not quite right. In fact, the support for Zelaya’s ousting came from the Honduran Congress, military, supreme court, business community, and the Catholic church. It was, at the very least, the victory of a wide and broad “elite.” Nor is there any evidence that Zelaya stood with non-elites. He stood with Hugo Chavez against virtually every institution and segment of Honduran society. Nor was this a “coup” in the way the term has historically been used in Latin America. The report grudgingly concedes as much:

Still, it was hardly an old-style Latin American coup. The soldiers were acting on a secret Supreme Court arrest warrant charging Zelaya with abuse of power. Legislators replaced him with a civilian. As promised, the de facto government proceeded with regularly scheduled presidential elections in November.

Ironically, the Honduran interim government wound up isolating the Obami — not the other way around. They smartly made their case to Republicans in Congress (“They won support from a handful of Republicans, who held up diplomatic appointments, weakening the State Department’s Latin America team”) and pushed forward with the only feasible solution — free and fair elections. Eventually the Obami were forced to back down: “As the crisis dragged on, U.S. diplomats got both sides to agree in October to allow the Honduran Congress to decide on Zelaya’s restoration. Until the end, Washington publicly supported his return. But after many delays, lawmakers finally voted Wednesday — no.”

There is a lesson there for small democracies. If they abide by democratic principles, sustain a united front domestically, and refuse to accede to the arrogance of Foggy Bottom and the White House, they can control their own destiny. (Hmm, seems to also have worked out in Israel.) That it should require such a Herculean effort to resist the strong-arming tactics of the United States is sobering and distressing.

This report tip-toes around the facts related to how Honduras ousted Manuel Zelaya and achieved remarkable success in thwarting the Obami bullies. The report prefers to characterize it an as “elite” victory:

The story of how the second-poorest country in the hemisphere defied a superpower involves smooth-talking U.S. lobbyists and a handful of congressional Republicans. Perhaps most of all, it features a Honduran elite terrified that their country was being hijacked by someone they considered an erratic leftist.

But that’s not quite right. In fact, the support for Zelaya’s ousting came from the Honduran Congress, military, supreme court, business community, and the Catholic church. It was, at the very least, the victory of a wide and broad “elite.” Nor is there any evidence that Zelaya stood with non-elites. He stood with Hugo Chavez against virtually every institution and segment of Honduran society. Nor was this a “coup” in the way the term has historically been used in Latin America. The report grudgingly concedes as much:

Still, it was hardly an old-style Latin American coup. The soldiers were acting on a secret Supreme Court arrest warrant charging Zelaya with abuse of power. Legislators replaced him with a civilian. As promised, the de facto government proceeded with regularly scheduled presidential elections in November.

Ironically, the Honduran interim government wound up isolating the Obami — not the other way around. They smartly made their case to Republicans in Congress (“They won support from a handful of Republicans, who held up diplomatic appointments, weakening the State Department’s Latin America team”) and pushed forward with the only feasible solution — free and fair elections. Eventually the Obami were forced to back down: “As the crisis dragged on, U.S. diplomats got both sides to agree in October to allow the Honduran Congress to decide on Zelaya’s restoration. Until the end, Washington publicly supported his return. But after many delays, lawmakers finally voted Wednesday — no.”

There is a lesson there for small democracies. If they abide by democratic principles, sustain a united front domestically, and refuse to accede to the arrogance of Foggy Bottom and the White House, they can control their own destiny. (Hmm, seems to also have worked out in Israel.) That it should require such a Herculean effort to resist the strong-arming tactics of the United States is sobering and distressing.

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Over, Finally

The curtain has come down on Manuel Zelaya and the Obami’s Honduran escapade:

The Honduran Congress voted on Wednesday not to allow the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a move that closes the door on his return to power after he was toppled in a June coup. Congress was deciding Zelaya’s fate as part of a U.S.-brokered deal between the deposed leftist and the country’s de facto leaders who took power after the coup.

Well, Zelaya is still “holed up in the Brazilian Embassy.” But democracy has prevailed in Honduras. Hugo Chavez’s ambitions have been thwarted. The conservative critics of the Obami’s ill-fated decision to back Zelaya have been vindicated. And we hope that the Honduran people harbor no ill will toward the U.S., which cut off aid and took away some visas. But all’s well that end’s well, right?

Marty Peretz puckishly suggests that the Obama team should be touting this as a rare foreign-policy success. But that might require an uncomfortable recitation of the salient facts following the ouster of Zelaya:

The president spoke, Mrs. Clinton spoke especially shrilly. The government’s Latin American professionals supported Zelaya, whose backing seemed increasingly thin. And then quietly the Obamae began its retreat. First it said that it wanted Zelaya to return. But, then … no one in Foggy Bottom was talking about the deposed would-be dictator. And, yes, the U.S. would recognize the election of Lobo.

Yes, it’s a bit meandering. But what other foreign-policy foray has worked out so well? The Middle East. Hmm, not even. Iranian engagement? Yikes! Alliances with Eastern Europe and India? Uh, not really. The Russian reset? Slim pickings. The illustrious record on human rights? You see the point. At least in Honduras, the Obami figured out that they were playing a losing hand and retreated from the scene. It really is their finest hour.

The curtain has come down on Manuel Zelaya and the Obami’s Honduran escapade:

The Honduran Congress voted on Wednesday not to allow the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, a move that closes the door on his return to power after he was toppled in a June coup. Congress was deciding Zelaya’s fate as part of a U.S.-brokered deal between the deposed leftist and the country’s de facto leaders who took power after the coup.

Well, Zelaya is still “holed up in the Brazilian Embassy.” But democracy has prevailed in Honduras. Hugo Chavez’s ambitions have been thwarted. The conservative critics of the Obami’s ill-fated decision to back Zelaya have been vindicated. And we hope that the Honduran people harbor no ill will toward the U.S., which cut off aid and took away some visas. But all’s well that end’s well, right?

Marty Peretz puckishly suggests that the Obama team should be touting this as a rare foreign-policy success. But that might require an uncomfortable recitation of the salient facts following the ouster of Zelaya:

The president spoke, Mrs. Clinton spoke especially shrilly. The government’s Latin American professionals supported Zelaya, whose backing seemed increasingly thin. And then quietly the Obamae began its retreat. First it said that it wanted Zelaya to return. But, then … no one in Foggy Bottom was talking about the deposed would-be dictator. And, yes, the U.S. would recognize the election of Lobo.

Yes, it’s a bit meandering. But what other foreign-policy foray has worked out so well? The Middle East. Hmm, not even. Iranian engagement? Yikes! Alliances with Eastern Europe and India? Uh, not really. The Russian reset? Slim pickings. The illustrious record on human rights? You see the point. At least in Honduras, the Obami figured out that they were playing a losing hand and retreated from the scene. It really is their finest hour.

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Congratulations to the Little Country That Could

Throughout the Honduran “crisis” — the removal of the Honduran president by order of a unanimous Honduran Supreme Court, supported by the virtually unanimous approval of the Honduran Congress — many noted there was an easy remedy for the alleged “coup”: hold the already scheduled election between the already selected candidates and install an undeniably democratic government.

Instead, President Obama labeled what had happened a “military coup,” cut off aid to one of the poorest states in the hemisphere, revoked the visas of the entire Honduran Supreme Court, and resisted for months the obvious solution to the “crisis.”

On Friday, the State Department finally endorsed the election, describing it in terms that would have made Simon Bolivar blush:

The electoral process — launched well before June 28 and involving legitimate candidates representing parties with longstanding democratic traditions from a broad ideological spectrum — is conducted under the stewardship of the multi-party and autonomous Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which was also selected before the coup. The electoral renewal of presidential, congressional and mayoral mandates, enshrined in the Honduran constitution, is an inalienable expression of the sovereign will of the citizens of Honduras.

Honduras now holds the Guinness record for shortest Latin American “coup” ever. Yesterday, the election officials announced that more than 61.5 percent of registered Hondurans went to the polls, a historic record turnout:

The announcement from the TSE [Tribunal Supremo Electoral] received a standing ovation from the attentive room of official observers and spectators.

The TSE stated they would welcome any international audit of the results.

The Obama administration deserves credit for finally recognizing that its misguided policy had reached a dead end and reversing course before it was too late. It is a lesson the administration could profitably apply in other foreign-policy areas as well.

Throughout the Honduran “crisis” — the removal of the Honduran president by order of a unanimous Honduran Supreme Court, supported by the virtually unanimous approval of the Honduran Congress — many noted there was an easy remedy for the alleged “coup”: hold the already scheduled election between the already selected candidates and install an undeniably democratic government.

Instead, President Obama labeled what had happened a “military coup,” cut off aid to one of the poorest states in the hemisphere, revoked the visas of the entire Honduran Supreme Court, and resisted for months the obvious solution to the “crisis.”

On Friday, the State Department finally endorsed the election, describing it in terms that would have made Simon Bolivar blush:

The electoral process — launched well before June 28 and involving legitimate candidates representing parties with longstanding democratic traditions from a broad ideological spectrum — is conducted under the stewardship of the multi-party and autonomous Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which was also selected before the coup. The electoral renewal of presidential, congressional and mayoral mandates, enshrined in the Honduran constitution, is an inalienable expression of the sovereign will of the citizens of Honduras.

Honduras now holds the Guinness record for shortest Latin American “coup” ever. Yesterday, the election officials announced that more than 61.5 percent of registered Hondurans went to the polls, a historic record turnout:

The announcement from the TSE [Tribunal Supremo Electoral] received a standing ovation from the attentive room of official observers and spectators.

The TSE stated they would welcome any international audit of the results.

The Obama administration deserves credit for finally recognizing that its misguided policy had reached a dead end and reversing course before it was too late. It is a lesson the administration could profitably apply in other foreign-policy areas as well.

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Making Enemies, Influencing No One

The Obami foreign-policy gurus have perfected the art of annoying multiple parties in a number of international face-offs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have had it with the Obama settlement-freeze gambit. And now the Obama team’s handling of Honduras has brought howls from several quarters:

Less than two weeks after U.S. diplomats announced a historic agreement to reverse a coup in Honduras, the accord is in danger of collapse and both Honduran officials and U.S. lawmakers are blaming American missteps for some of the failure. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled by the military in June, said in a telephone interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had assured him as recently as last week that the U.S. government was seeking his return to the presidency. But he said that U.S. pressure had eased in recent days and that he no longer had faith in the agreement.

It’s not just Zelaya who’s peeved. The “international community” is annoyed too:

José Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, which is helping implement the accord, said that negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto government had fallen apart and that he would not send a mission to Honduras to observe presidential elections at the end of the month. That added to the possibility that the previously scheduled elections will not be internationally recognized — and that Honduras’s five-month-old crisis will continue.

Sen. John Kerry and others who took seriously the deal to have Zelaya reinstated are also chagrined to find out that the State Department isn’t really bent out of shape by the failure of the Honduran Congress to take a vote on returning Zelaya to power. The Obami, on background naturally, confess they were in essence pulling a fast one on Zelaya. (“Another senior U.S. official noted the agreement never specifically said that Zelaya would be reinstated, instead giving the Honduran National Congress the power to vote on it.”) The Obami desperately and belatedly want to move on to elections, a position their critics and the Honduran interim government had been urging for months.

The Obami’s “historic” arrangement was, of course, supposed to extract the Obama team from the disastrous stalemate they had helped to create. Realizing they had backed a lunatic for whom there was no popular support within Honduras, the Obami came up with a scheme — let Zelaya back in power, but not really. Leave it up to the Congress, which won’t vote to put him back in power even briefly, and just move on to elections. But now everyone has figured out the game and they don’t much appreciate the trickery.

Once again we see the rank incompetence and disastrous results brought about by the smart Obama diplomacy. They raise expectations unrealistically on one side (Zelaya, the Palestinians), give the critics the back of the hand, dig in, realize the error of their ways, try to reverse course, and pretend they aren’t — and wind up with everyone mad. When is it that we get around to “restoring our standing” in the world?

The Obami foreign-policy gurus have perfected the art of annoying multiple parties in a number of international face-offs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have had it with the Obama settlement-freeze gambit. And now the Obama team’s handling of Honduras has brought howls from several quarters:

Less than two weeks after U.S. diplomats announced a historic agreement to reverse a coup in Honduras, the accord is in danger of collapse and both Honduran officials and U.S. lawmakers are blaming American missteps for some of the failure. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled by the military in June, said in a telephone interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had assured him as recently as last week that the U.S. government was seeking his return to the presidency. But he said that U.S. pressure had eased in recent days and that he no longer had faith in the agreement.

It’s not just Zelaya who’s peeved. The “international community” is annoyed too:

José Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, which is helping implement the accord, said that negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto government had fallen apart and that he would not send a mission to Honduras to observe presidential elections at the end of the month. That added to the possibility that the previously scheduled elections will not be internationally recognized — and that Honduras’s five-month-old crisis will continue.

Sen. John Kerry and others who took seriously the deal to have Zelaya reinstated are also chagrined to find out that the State Department isn’t really bent out of shape by the failure of the Honduran Congress to take a vote on returning Zelaya to power. The Obami, on background naturally, confess they were in essence pulling a fast one on Zelaya. (“Another senior U.S. official noted the agreement never specifically said that Zelaya would be reinstated, instead giving the Honduran National Congress the power to vote on it.”) The Obami desperately and belatedly want to move on to elections, a position their critics and the Honduran interim government had been urging for months.

The Obami’s “historic” arrangement was, of course, supposed to extract the Obama team from the disastrous stalemate they had helped to create. Realizing they had backed a lunatic for whom there was no popular support within Honduras, the Obami came up with a scheme — let Zelaya back in power, but not really. Leave it up to the Congress, which won’t vote to put him back in power even briefly, and just move on to elections. But now everyone has figured out the game and they don’t much appreciate the trickery.

Once again we see the rank incompetence and disastrous results brought about by the smart Obama diplomacy. They raise expectations unrealistically on one side (Zelaya, the Palestinians), give the critics the back of the hand, dig in, realize the error of their ways, try to reverse course, and pretend they aren’t — and wind up with everyone mad. When is it that we get around to “restoring our standing” in the world?

Read Less




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