Everything old is new again
Pleasant surprise: A coup is taking place in Central America and the U.S. government is not backing it (now). Nor is anyone else.
Seriously, I was impressed and pleased with the U.S. government response. See my comments here, in response to understandable kneejerk
Not that there's anything wrong with cynicism if it's funny: My favorite post so far is from the guys at BoRev, who take apart the zombie lie of this news cycle (ZOMG the leftist president is trying to make himself dictator for life!).
For coverage of the issues involved, see coup vet Al Giordano and reporter Karen Bricker at NarcoNews.
The rightists' line is that this is all perfectly legal, not a coup, but a "democratic transition." The Supreme Court openly says it ordered the troops to kidnap Pres. Zelaya out of his bed in the early morning -- so it's legal! The usurper Micheletti (Congressional speaker) showed up with a laughably phony "resignation letter" supposedly signed by Zelaya (on Thursday yet), got voted in, and put his hand on the Bible -- so it's Constitutional! The "democratic transition" was made especially smooth because none of the leftish members of Congress showed up, for fear of being taken prisoner. Like the eight members of Zelaya's administration on whom there is little to no information. Oh, and the fake president promptly declared an indefinite period of martial law, because how else would you kick off such a festival of democracy?
Here's hoping the international isolation has the desired effect: a climbdown in which no one is killed, and the return of normal political life, which can be pretty dangerous on its own in Honduras. Via CISPES, a rundown of what's made Pres. Zelaya so unpopular among the ricos he grew up with:
The proposal to draft a new constitution is the culmination of a series of controversial measures undertaken in his presidency, which include a significant raise in the minimum wage, measures to re-nationalize energy generation plants and the telephone system, signing a bill that vastly improves labor conditions for teachers, joining the Venezuelan Petrocaribe program which provides soft loans for development initiatives via petroleum sales, delaying recognition of the new US ambassador after the Bolivian government implicated the US embassy in supporting fascist paramilitary groups destabilizing Bolivia...
You can see why the Washington Post and New York Times editorial staffs are a bit thrown by the Obama administration's failure to accept the gift of this "democratic transition" gracefully. [Hint: It's the tanks; so
Update: noon, 30 June - The beginning of the end: Two military battalions have turned against the coup plotters, the popular movement has blockaded major highways, and Honduras' neighbors have sealed the borders for 48 hours, shutting down trade. Micheletti's illegitimate government has blocked international media channels, including CNN and Venezuela's TeleSur, and has arrested AP and TeleSur correspondents.
Update 2: 1:40pm, 30 June - Mexico, Brazil, and Chile have withdrawn their ambassadors. Pres. Zelaya has announced that he will return to Honduras accompanied by the president of the Organization of American States after speaking before the UN in New York (at the invitation of General Assembly president Miguel d'Escoto). The UN General Assembly has just unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the coup plotters step down and that Zelaya be returned to his office.
Update 3: 11:45am, 2 July - The OAS has given a 72-hour deadline to the coup government that expires Saturday morning, and Zelaya has agreed to postpone his return until then. Within hours of Zelaya's announcement, the Honduran Congress yesterday afternoon passed a decree suspending indefinitely during curfew hours the five articles of their constitution that most resemble our Bill of Rights. Clearly, they're planning to try to use the night to arrest and intimidate enough popular leaders to prevent a big showing of support for Zelaya's homecoming.
It's remarkably convenient for the Obama administration that these events will be buried in a holiday weekend. More than ten countries and the European Union have withdrawn their ambassadors; the U.S. has not, saying that Amb. Hugo Llorens, a Cuban-born economics specialist who was the State Dept's Andean advisor to the Bush administration during the 2002 attempted coup in Venezuela, will be needed to help reach a peaceful solution. Nor has the U.S. government cut off aid, despite being required to do so by the Foreign Assistance Act. (However, the Defense Dept. has suspended all operations with the Honduran military indefinitely and the World Bank has "paused" aid). The administration has put a big emphasis on working through the OAS, so the test will be Saturday: if the coup government hasn't stepped down by then, the U.S. response needs to include an immediate aid cutoff. But don't just wait and watch: call State at 202-647-4000 and leave a message reminding Sec. Clinton that U.S. law requires an immediate end to U.S. aid to Honduras.
Update 4: 4:55pm, 7 July - Negotiations begin in Costa Rica Thursday, with Arias mediating. Restoration looks likely, with Zelaya agreeing to drop effort for constitutional reform. Cracking of ice internally in Honduras has been quite visible: the National Party candidate for President backed Zelaya's return, the head of the Supreme Court has proposed amnesty for the collection of charges against Zelaya, and today even bozo Micheletti toned down the bluster in accepting the negotiations.
Obama and Clinton get to distance themselves politically from Zelaya while getting multilateralist and democratic cred for backing his return to office through regional efforts. The tepid response, the failure to cut off aid ("pausing" it instead), and the indisputable and continuing U.S. role in funding right-wing elites as "democracy promotion" will encourage pessimists to conclude that nothing has changed. But I think the popular movement's pressure for a constitutional assembly provoked the military and the rightists in Congress to overplay their hand badly. The Liberal Party has discredited itself for some time to come as a path to any real reform. Honduras' majority understand that their determined actions helped force the restoration -- although at a high cost.
The distorted accounts in U.S. media and punditry of what led to this crisis are hard to dispel partly because so few people know much of anything about Honduras. Blogger RAJ has stepped into that breach with very useful information. [Update edited and links added at 6:15 pm.]
Update 5: 11:00am, 9 July - Finally! U.S. suspends military aid. That's the right tone to set as Zelaya enters the talks. This will be the last update to this post unless the situation's resolved within a day.