National Journal Online, July 13, 2009
The media coverage of Honduras has drawn a sharp contrast between the Obama administration’s response to the coup in Honduras and that of his predecessor to the military coup in Venezuela in 2002. But in reality there are much more similarities than differences. When the Venezuelan military overthrew Chavez in April of 2002, the Bush administration initially supported the coup. But within a day, Latin American heads of state meeting in a Rio Summit made it clear that no one would recognize the coup government; the Bush Administration quickly switched its position and opposed the coup government.
Similarly, the Obama administration’s first response to the coup differed from all other governmental responses in the world in that it did not criticize the coup. Rather, it said called upon “all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”
For those who know anything about diplomatic language, this really makes it clear that the Obama administration is not on the same page as the rest of the world, when it comes to this coup. The coup leaders only need to run the clock for the few months remaining in Zelaya’s term, and everything that this administration has done so far is consistent with this goal – including the arrangement of a mediation effort with Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, which was doomed to fail from the beginning.
Looking forward, Washington will still play an important role. Zelaya will likely return to Honduras, setting up the political confrontation that the coup leaders hoped to avoid by taking him out of the country. The only way they can win this political battle will be through repression. As reported in the Miami Herald, the coup government has used widespread media censorship and repression to control information. It has shot and killed demonstrators, and yesterday there was a report that a trade union leader was murdered. The Obama administration has been almost completely silent in the face of this repression. Will they remain silent as it intensifies if Zelaya returns?
Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy .