The U.S. and the Coup: A Real Change of Course or Just a Farce?


Kudos to the European Union, whom history will recognize for its consistent posture in suspending aid since the second day. We are moved by the solidarity of Mexico and of course that of all Latin America and the UN. Never before in history have all the nations of the world supported an overthrown government. Nonetheless, it escapes no one that the possible solution or the degeneration of the current predicament in Honduras depends on the policy of the United States, the only power with the material instruments to overcome the stubborn madness of the usurpers, if they wanted to use them. It would seem that a certain ambivalence is at play.

Despite the fact that the embassy in Honduras without a doubt advised the coup leaders against that course of action, it did not manage to convince them, and perhaps it also lacks sufficient arguments to persuade them to entertain the only solution being considered by the community of nations and which favors the majority of Hondurans. Perhaps the U.S. tried to find a way to deescalate the conflict. But it has an objective record of the facts. The embassy in Tegucigalpa has to know things that perhaps are not understood there in the Capitol (that the resignation letter was illegitimate, as was the famous arrest warrant for the president), but there is not an unequivocal position in Washington which is, of course, a politically complex world. And although it has skillfully played with the idea of aligning itself with the OAS and the UN, U.S. policy has lacked force and specificity. As a U.S. editorial today states, the Latin American Office of the State Department is staffed by enemies of the overthrown government, inherited from Bush. A couple of the members of the committee that received President Zelaya in Washington have declared in the past that the fourth ballot box was a "form of distraction" and would have little reason to want to defend him.

The first official statement after the coup did not condemn what had happened. Afterward, undoubtedly Latin American solidarity tilted the balance to make necessary a series of statements of greater clarity, deeming what had happened a coup d’etat, and the U.S. voted in accord with the unanimous resolutions in the OAS and UN and signed international resolutions confirming that this has been a coup d’etat and they adopted a consistent position: demanding the return of the constitutional president of the country, yet still leaving it to be seen whether this return could be subject to negotiations and a series of conditions.

And then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, several of whose ex-collaborators has been closely tied to the coup leaders and the right-wing conspiracy behind them, asked president Zelaya to "cooperate" with the mediation process presided over by the Nobel Prize winner Arias, even though this is an insult and she knows it. But this ambivalence has been maintained, and while Mr. L. Davis carries out a dirty and public lobbying campaign on behalf of CEAL [The Business Council of Latin America] in the U.S., using documents originating from the bureaucracy of a government the U.S. doesn’t recognize, distorting positions, and manipulating the facts, the U.S. backs down on its official statements.

In recent conversations with delegations of Honduran members of civil society, Christopher Warren, a State Department representative, insisted that "although Obama may have said that this was a coup, this is a technical determination that has not been officially declared" and a supposed "spokesperson" publicly joked yesterday at the White House about the U.S. president’s lack of knowledge of Honduran law, dodging the issue and making the coup in Honduras into a joke, while we confront systematic violations of human rights and the harsh prospect of a civil war; and they don’t realize or they don’t care about being accused of making an experiment. Recently, representatives of the embassy in Honduras have responded to U.S. citizens who propose applying pressure, stating that the mission is not ready to recommend sanctions.

The U.S. right wing has been perfectly consistent. It has organized, using its formidable power, rallying powerful senators on various committees together with traffickers in false information creating perverse distortions of what is going on. The media aligned with the right-wing conspiracy in the U.S. libel us with impunity, reprinting the baseless accusations of the coup supporters. Other articles in influential media outlets have insisted on continuing with the more or less absurd theme of the hidden agenda of the president on the one hand to remain in power and on the other, given that there the theme of reelection is not looked down upon, with the idea that the intent was to create a communist dictatorship allied with H. Chavez. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. United States senators like J. Kerry who should, because of their responsibilities, be better informed, have insisted that President Zelaya tried to turn around and torpedo the Congress (and this is not true Mr. Kerry, you should be better informed), while others carry on with the same old story without taking into account the original crime, which was instrumentalizing the judiciary for political ends. Neither does it make sense to argue that proposing changes to the constitution is a crime, since those who have formally done so are the National Party candidates and members of Congress, while all we proposed was to carry out a poll.

Those of us in the deposed government do not have the same type of resources to counteract this damage. The U.S. should not intervene unilaterally; it should align itself as President Obama has said in the past he would do, with the will of the majority (and here I can say with the unanimity) of the international community, including all his friends and allies. The policy espoused by Obama (that of renouncing unilateralism) will become a joke if the US avoids the risks of being consistent.

Fortunately we are not alone in the U.S. The progressive sectors sympathize with our cause and know that our sin was to try to democratize our country and take it out of the hands of a criminal group. I was not always in agreement with the ex-ambassador Ford, but I agreed with him when, in private, he expressed his belief that our land, Honduras, is a country held hostage to a caste of politricksters. Because they’re not politicians; they’re disguised delinquents. Democracy cannot have caveats. It is democracy or it isn’t. And this isn’t, even less so after the coup. The United States contingent of a conference of experts on Latin America which met recently demanded to their authorities that they be consistent in their positions on democracy. Furthermore many other independent academics and critics have expressed to us their support, reaching out to their networks as well as to the State Department, providing at least correct and truthful information with with we can begin to counteract the trick of the lobby.

A resolution of the security council of the UN would have to override a U.S. veto, which would be costly. The U.S. cannot turn its back again on its noble tradition of respecting freedom of expression, for due process in a State of Law, for the separation of powers of the state and for human rights. It cannot back down from its political stance without suffering a blow to its international prestige, which it needs to protect for strategic reasons. It cannot betray this prestige, returning to the old politics of protecting its "bastard children" without consequences.

Behind the curtain a cynical attitude prevails (expressing itself, for example, in jokes about Honduran legislation), trying to pass itself off as realpolitik and go back on the earlier statements of Obama and the votes of the OAS and UN. If effective pressure is not applied toward the restoration of the government, after lamenting this tragedy, we are going to laugh at the hilarious farce of the U.S.’s supposedly new policy…Soon enough. Today, Saturday, as the negotiations wrap up, we will know what the true politics of the U.S. are.