Thursday, August 27, 2009

Honduras: beat the clock

Finally, the State Department ends its six-week charade of "legal review":
U.S. State Department staff have recommended that the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya be declared a "military coup," a U.S. official said on Thursday, a step that could cut off as much as $150 million in U.S. funding to the impoverished Central American nation.

This move was heavily foreshadowed in the press backgrounder by two State Dept. officials on Tuesday that accompanied the baby step of suspending non-emergency travel visas:

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have said from the very beginning, what we do know is that the legitimate government, the legitimate president, was taken out of office in a way that was not prescribed, in a way that was unexpected and forced. And we call that a coup, a coup to the head of the government.

There are specific ... laws ... that deals with ... the way we can handle assistance and the way we can handle our relationship with a country if there is a military coup, if the person in charge of, leading, and then taking over the government after the coup are the military. And we are examining to determine whether or not that’s the case here.

QUESTION: Thank you. One last question. Just when would you expect to finish that inquiry?


Stories appeared as soon as Tuesday afternoon reporting that the U.S. government was considering the formal coup declaration, and the backgrounder was released yesterday afternoon. On Tuesday the military and police high command huddled with coup backer Jorge Canahuati. Yesterday Cardinal Rodgriguez met with the officials of COHEP, the business council. Micheletti increased the guard around his house. Yet the oligarchs did not seem to have been willing to take the broad hint the U.S. was dropping: to push Micheletti aside. So today, a day before the two-month mark of the coup regime, the other shoe drops. Monday the election campaigns formally begin.

We await news of further meetings in Tegucigalpa and will update.

Update: 4:00pm, 28 August - Twenty-four hours later, and two months into the coup, no action by Sec. Clinton. I've expressed the idea that yesterday's leak was a big signal to the coup backers to act so the U.S. wouldn't have to take this step. Clinton is clearly reluctant to take it, and apparently even a laughable "new" proposal from Micheletti is enough to stay her hand. Don't let her get away with it:

Call* and write the State Department. Urge Sec. Clinton to:

- immediately formally declare the coup a military coup.

- denounce the continuing human rights violations by the coup regime.

- announce U.S. support for an Organization of American States resolution declaring that the November elections will not be recognized unless the Zelaya government is restored by September 1.

*202-647-4000; wait through recordings for operator, ask to leave message. The calls and messages can go on all weekend, so take action and pass this on to friends. Two months is appalling; this shouldn't have lasted two days.

Update 2: 8:00pm, 4 September - Scorecard a week later: 0 for 3, with a lot of gestures and spinning. The glass-half-full perspective, that the government "formally cut off millions of dollars in assistance to Honduras because of the coup that occurred two months ago, and threatened to withhold recognition of the new president who emerges from elections scheduled in November" can only be maintained by ignoring the unpleasant details:

This is the same money that was suspended two months ago, not the much more substantial cutoff that a formal coup designation would require. The non-recognition threat was couched like this: That election must be undertaken in a free, fair and transparent manner. It must also be free of taint and open to all Hondurans to exercise their democratic franchise. At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections.. Charles of Mercury Rising correctly translates this as: "Put enough lipstick on the pig and we'll kiss it."

Sec. Clinton is demonstrating her formidable capacity for "going deaf." President Zelaya said on Wednesday he intended to focus his talks with her on the severe and continuing human rights abuses of the coup regime. Presumably he did so, but she still hasn't said a single word on the subject. Rep. Howard Berman, chair of the House Foreign Relations committee and one of the most powerful figures in the Democratic party, forthrightly urged her in an LA Times op ed to formally designate the military coup and invoke the sanctions that go with it. She ignored him.

Berman's op ed is unusually good. He invokes the multiple credible reports of human rights abuses, the impact on the rest of the elected governments in the hemisphere, and decency and common sense against letting the coup stand. Use it and its arguments to get your member of Congress to put pressure on Sec. Clinton, to write letters to the editor, and to continue to needle the State Department.

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At 2:57 AM, August 28, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing by the news of the State Dept's (presumed) decision to label this a military coup, Nell. It's very late, but tomorrow....


At 11:20 AM, August 28, 2009, Blogger Darlene said...

Thank you for informing us of what is happening.

At 10:39 PM, August 28, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Am I correct that the State Department' staff has announced that they have recommended that the removal of Zelaya be declared a military coup, but the Secretary still has not acted on that publicly announced recommendation? If so, that seems weird to me.

At 11:49 PM, August 28, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ovid, that's my understanding as well. Here's the State Dept. statement. The OAS is supposed to take the lead. No decision until the Secretary returns from New York. A State Dept official did meet with the de factor delegation. State claims to have suspended aid, having the same practical effect as reaching the determination of a military coup.

At 11:50 PM, August 28, 2009, Anonymous phoenixwoman said...

(Um, that was me, Charles, again. D--n Blogger comment system)


At 1:55 PM, August 29, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nell, here's a resource not to miss.

At 11:15 PM, September 01, 2009, Anonymous phoenixwoman said...

Hillary still hasn't decided. And may not while "diplomatic efforts" are still underway.


At 8:36 PM, September 03, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nell, here's another way to see the most recent State Dept. press releases:

You can substitute in any month. They only have 9/1 and 9/2 up.


At 10:00 PM, September 06, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

Berman's article is good, though it's too bad he said, and probably felt he had to say, that he doesn't like Zelaya. The fact that politicians feel they have to take these positions (probably correctly) screws up our politics. It means the argument starts out skewed, and often it's over before it started.

Case in point. Van Jones can't even have signed a petition suggesting that Bush/Cheney et al let 911 happen, even though EVERYONE in the country willing to think about it for more than a few moments knows that it at the very least can't be discounted as a possibility, and at various times more than half the country has said in polls that they actually believe it. There is no real corresponding crackdown on the Right. Poppy Bush or his cunning halfwit son could break bread with Reverend Moon or any one of a number of other right-wing crazies with no political cost to himself. It happens all the time. But heaven forbid anyone be allowed in even a position of minimal authority and power if they ever said they respected Zelaya, or said Castro and Chavez may have actually done some good things, or said communism wasn't all bad, or otherwise deviated even modestly from capitalist and assertedly patriotic Orthodoxy.

That stranglehold on politics by the Right needs to be broken, or nobody any damn good is ever going to get to be in any kind of position of authority.

So get everyone you know used to having an open mind about heresy any chance you get. The Right needs to be forced to let the full spectrum of debate happen without censorship. They certainly won't do it voluntarily.

And Hillary Clinton will certainly never help. I mean, she started out as a fan of Nelson Rockefellor.

At 2:28 AM, September 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another person to write to might be the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. I have been meaning to write to her, but haven't done so yet.


At 8:22 AM, September 12, 2009, Anonymous Ovid said...

fyi anyone interested, oliver stone has done a documentary on chavez written by tariq ali,0,6813572.story


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