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July 26, 2009

Honduran junta getting off on the attention


As you've probably heard, ousted president Mel Zelaya made good on his promise to return to Honduras, albeit briefly. Zelaya stepped over the border, saw his shadow and went back over the line. As everyone knows, that means six more weeks of junta.

They're certainly enjoying their moment in the sun. Here's an amusing and incisive anecdote from David Rothkopf about last week's failed negotiations over the fate of Honduras:

Yesterday at lunch I ran into a very senior official who is deeply involved in the negotiations with Honduras. He said, "It is a very strange situation. Here you have on one side officials from Honduras and on the other side you have the United States, Hillary Clinton, Brazil, Michelle Bachelet, the rest of the world. They seem to be enjoying it ... they have never had so much attention."

And so the government of Honduras learns the first lesson of weak-state diplomacy as taught by the Sun Tzu of diplomatic tantrums, Kim Jong-Il: the more big powers you can irritate, the better off you are. [Foreign Policy]


As Al Giordano notes, the junta had vowed to arrest Zelaya if he set foot in the country, but they didn't follow through. So, both sides blinked.

The president and his followers are still camped out near the border in Nicaragua, perhaps awaiting a rematch. Talks with Clinton will resume tomorrow in DC, but Zelaya has pointedly not been invited. Clinton earlier called his return to Honduras "reckless."

On the bright side, the military has already started contradicting the junta's civilian leader about what would count as an acceptable resolution to the crisis.

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This entire episode is filling me with sympathy for China over the North Korea issue. In both cases, the local power is against the rogue regime, but has priorities in addition to getting rid of it, which makes other region's nationalist leaders really anxious.

You are incorrectly using the term "junta". I live in Honduras and sympathise with Mel's goals, but the interim government is no "junta".

As you've probably heard, ousted president Mel Zelaya made good on his promise to return to Honduras, albeit briefly. Zelaya stepped over the border, saw his shadow and went back over the line. As everyone knows, that means six more weeks of junta.

That's very funny.

Michelle Bachelet, Hillary Clinton, Brazil....

Sending in the heavyweights.

I still think it's a US backed coup. My guess, few more weeks of foot dragging, then election. A rightwing will win.

And the honduras base will be preserve. BTW. US is planning to open a base in Columbia. That ought to be interesting.

btw to add on Honduras debacle, kyrgyzstan... (Bush Tulip revolution. the one he accuse election cheating)


well, guess what. The Bush installed regime just cheat on election. LOL... and now everybody expect they will turn into repressive regime.

Thus continuing my suspicion, All US backed regime outside NATO are basically repressive military regime some sort.

Should stop using freedom & democracy, since we are basically installing ugly people.

http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ei=MrBuSvnZHJqltgeIltDMCA&resnum=0&q=tulip+kyrgyzstan&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wn

Honduras and Guatemala are two military-dominated societies in which an oligarchy-allied military routinely exercises subtly or overtly its power over the "thin veneer" of civilian government.

There are plenty of people inside Honduras who support the coup government. Big deal. There are plenty of people who oppose them. There are always people in the local situation who support it when the military seizes power.

The U.S. goals are exactly what U.S. officials have repeatedly been saying -- the formal return of Zelaya as President under conditions which leave him powerless, the continued domination of Honduras by its oligarchy-backing military, and then the next elections.

Like many of the Bush Jr. idiocies in which an elite-backed goal was pursued incompetently, what the U.S. establishment opposes about the military coup in Honduras is not the list of its general goals -- no, the U.S. much prefers their aims. Hell, for most of the 20th century, just proposing a minimum wage at all for the majority would net you a U.S.-backed coup d'etat.

Just like the U.S. establishment despised Aristide, his movement, and the general class of people he fought for, but they also opposed the clumsy precedent of a military overthrow, so the U.S. helped reverse the military coup while ensuring that Aristide was out of the picture, going so far as to kidnap him to Africa in 2004.

What offended the U.S. was the ham-handed overthrow of an elected government by a military coup (with a thin, absurd 'justification' based on some shitty interpretations of a shitty, awful, death-squad military imposed 'Constitution' and post-coup endorsement by a frightened and compliant legislature) which if accepted could encourage every aspiring military officer in the Caribbean and Latin America to seek the first opportunity to get a friendly Court or Congress help declare an elected government as 'un-Constitutional' and then overthrow them.

Unfortunately, the rules of diplomacy and PR restrict the U.S. from coming out clearly to the coup leaders and saying publicly, "Hey, we like what you're trying to do, you just didn't do it the right way, and now you're causing us trouble."

El Cid, do you have any proof that the US actually wants the military to continue exercising power? The compromise it's brokering weakens Zelaya, but that's because otherwise there's no chance the military or much of the population will accept. Whether the US liked his policies or not is irrelevant - he was never labeled an enemy the way Chavez or Castro was, and a coup is no longer the way the US does things.

The end of the Cold War changed a lot of things. Before then, anything that could be a sign of sympathies for communism was likely to get you overthrown by the CIA. Mossadegh got overthrown for nationalizing oilfields, an action that didn't incur American wrath either before the Cold War (e.g. in Mexico) or after (e.g. in Venezuela). Corporations never really liked minimum wage increases, but now that communism is gone, the US government no longer cares (see Brazil).

Interesting, not alot of comments from Nicas...a poll indicated that 80% of Nicaraguans want nothing to do with this...Having crossed the border north of Los Manos, pass the small town of Ocotal, I live in the West of NI and NO ONE Cares about the internal issue of Honduras, except it is hurting the small farmers of Ni who ship goods north..
Oh, The "chain" sparating the two countries, I honestly did not know that that was the border...it was almost an open border...but no more ..thanks to Mel...PS Mel....walk into the woods 1/2 mile and simply walk into Honduras...maybe too worried about being arrested ??

El Cid, do you have any proof that the US actually wants the military to continue exercising power?

Posted by: Alon Levy | July 28, 2009 at 01:24 PM

Circumstantial evidence should be enough. (well ok. need more than that.)

1. Zelaya is backed by Chavez. Not exactly DC favorite populist protagonist. Chavez has been helping tons of popular uprising and kicking US and US backed military regime out of power. (Basic latin american lefty/populist revolution.) Chavez involvement include oil, various political relationship, military/diplomatic relationship, and timing.

- Honduras military cannot function without US supply. (we are talking about basic amunition, pay, spare parts, etc.) Under proper military embargo, Honduras military will stop functioning in a week. They won't be able to pay for fuel.

- more importantly, the coup operators (military/inteligence service) are all US trained. It is utterly ridiculous to say US doesn't know and doesn't approve of any of their plan.

http://southernstudies.org/2009/06/key-leaders-of-honduras-military-coup-trained-in-us.html

According to SOA Watch, the U.S. Army school has a particularly checkered record in Honduras, with over 50 graduates who have been intimately involved in human rights abuses. In 1975, SOA Graduate General Juan Melgar Castro became the military dictator of Honduras. From 1980-1982 the dictatorial Honduran regime was headed by yet another SOA graduate, Policarpo Paz Garcia, who intensified repression and murder by Battalion 3-16, one of the most feared death squads in all of Latin America (founded by Honduran SOA graduates with the help of Argentine SOA graduates).

General Vasquez isn't the only leader in the Honduras coup linked to the U.S. training facility. As Kristin Bricker points out:

-

so US has the motive, the mean, the people on the ground, and the cover.

----------
List of arms inventory.
(the best way to see who own a small country is to see their arm inventory. Those complex machineries are delicate and need to be supplied and maintained continuously. A country like Honduras does not have the capability to make its own ammunition, let alone spare parts. They can't even afford oil.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_Honduras

Alon Levy is correct to point out that occasionally in internet blog comments we should clarify that we are expressing our opinion or our own analysis; I would not suggest that there are recent explicit documents indicating that the U.S. would like the Honduran military to maintain the same veto power over civilian government that the U.S. has supported that military and also constrained that military in doing so for the last few generations.

I don't quite understand a comment that 'whether the U.S. likes Zelaya's policies or not is irrelevant', since that's very much the sort of thing you discuss when people discuss governments' foreign policies. It's not as if there's some rule of reason or history that one should begin by presuming benevolent goals of some government or by presuming that overt statements dictate underlying institutional motivations.

The point about Zelaya's not being an enemy is that neither the US government or its major corporations complained about him or tried to square off with him, unlike with Chavez, Ortega, and Morales. If there's a coup in Bolivia tomorrow, it may well be instigated with US support; the US and its local allies have a bad history with Morales, so it makes sense that American neocons would sign off. With Honduras, it's much less likely. Belligerents are rarely secretive about who they'd like to do regime change in - Bush for one was very open about which countries he was targeting, and Chavez openly calls for war on countries that he doesn't like enough.

As for American training, history is peppered with US-trained paramilitary leaders turning anti-American. Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were both at some point creatures of US Cold War calculations. In Latin America it used to be common for the CIA to install a dictator, and then get disappointed with his performance and try to replace him.

off the top of my head

chavez - Bush was very open about wanting him out. get cought coup attempt

Argentina - lefty win (I don't think there was involvement)
Bolivia - lefty win (I don't think there was involvement)
Brazil - Bush definitely tried to mess with Brazil election.
Chile - lefty win (I don't think there was involvement)
ecuador - lefty wing, kicked US base out. going to turn nasty
el salvador - turned lefty (after long US backed war)
honduras - I personally put this on regime change attempt
nicaragua - turn lefty after long US backed war
peru - dunno (rightwing? traditional target of CIA)
uruguay - dunno

what's left Colombia (narco rightwing state)


It would be interesting to see which country has oil/gas, copper mining, various minerals, large US mining facilities.

Peru and Uruguay are lefty, as well. The only Latin American country with an elected right-wing government is Colombia. However, most of the left-wing governments in the region are quite moderate, and follow a form of capitalism with a human face, rather than socialism; these include Brazil, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, and to some extent Argentina. This rift between social democracy and socialism is where the ¿Por qué no te callas? saga comes from.

I should add that although Brazil's government is capitalist-friendly now, Lula campaigned as a socialist, calling for canceling Brazil's debt. At the time, Brazilian government bonds offered a 13% interest rate, i.e. junk rate. After he won power he did no such thing, preferring to concentrate on more mundane tasks like social welfare and the minimum wage.

The point about Zelaya's not being an enemy is that neither the US government or its major corporations complained about him or tried to square off with him, unlike with Chavez, Ortega, and Morales. If there's a coup in Bolivia tomorrow, it may well be instigated with US support; the US and its local allies have a bad history with Morales, so it makes sense that American neocons would sign off.

That may be true, and it may be true that that is very relevant in a specific conversation about particular coup pushes or in a conversation about neo-cons.

This is in no way an argument that U.S. foreign policy establishment's opinions about Zelaya are "irrelevant", which is still a flat out silly statement.

Unlike other commenters whom you might imagine to be cartoonish or to be focused on some particular old debate, I am actually commenting on contemporary issues which do matter and which matter to me, so for what it's worth, if responding to me, make sure and respond specifically to what I have said, and not general arguments you'd like to have.

You're right that I shouldn't have said US opinions are irrelevant. But I still think that because the US did not verbally attack Zelaya before and US corporations don't seem to have a stake in a right-wing government in Honduras, it's unlikely that the US wants continued military domination.

The comments I was making were directed to both you and Squashed, which is why some of the things I said do not respond directly to what you focus on.

To clarify what I suggested, in my view the U.S. establishment would not want an explicit military government in Honduras; the precedent would be that the military would be behind the "thin veneer" of a civilian government which did, indeed govern, but one which was ever in mind of the military's power to keep it in line.

Of course the ideal situation for the U.S. foreign policy establishment, in my view, would be for the military to not be a force in Honduran politics and for elected governments to alone prefer the sorts of policies desired by the US FPE.

The point of controversy regarding Zelaya is that he did lead a civilian government whose policies began to upset the local oligarchy as well as the US FPE. It's not so much whether or not he was identified as a conservative or moderate or liberal, but the actual policies he enacted.

After all, it's not because Zelaya is 'allied to Chavez' but what Zelaya might do because of that support, indeed it's what Chavez does which frustrates the US FPE, not his existence.

Without Chavez and other populist left governments as the 'bad' alternative from the point of view of the U.S. FPE, I doubt that Chile and Brazil would be honored so much by the U.S. FPE; without those even more left governments, perhaps they would be constantly criticized as the irresponsible, too radical leftists rather than used as the 'good example'.

Of course the ideal situation for the U.S. foreign policy establishment, in my view, would be for the military to not be a force in Honduran politics and for elected governments to alone prefer the sorts of policies desired by the US FPE.

No argument there...

Without Chavez and other populist left governments as the 'bad' alternative from the point of view of the U.S. FPE, I doubt that Chile and Brazil would be honored so much by the U.S. FPE; without those even more left governments, perhaps they would be constantly criticized as the irresponsible, too radical leftists rather than used as the 'good example'.

It's unlikely. Lula and Bachelet's policies are similar to those promoted by social-neoliberal governments elsewhere, most notably in India and Thailand; they follow the Washington Consensus almost to the letter. The American FPE never called Thaksin or Singh irresponsible. On the contrary, I've seen a lot more criticism of Thaksin from the Western left than from the Western right; his privatizations were more visible than his universal health care and income support schemes.

bolstering military presence

http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Brazil_Chile_Spain_question_US_bases_in_Colombia_999.html

Brazil, Chile and Spain on Thursday challenged the United States' decision to use and expand military bases in Colombia, saying they feared the move could heighten simmering tensions in Latin America.

Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Michelle Bachelet of Chile said in Sao Paulo they would put the issue before an August 10 meeting of a nascent South American Defense Council in Ecuador.

Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, and his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim, simultaneously told reporters in Brasilia that they would demand explanations from Washington over the bases.

The Colombian government's announcement July 15 that three of its military air bases were to be used by the United States as part of joint anti-drug operations has ignited concerns and anger among Colombia's neighbors.

coming soon. Pretend like nothing happen. Then rightwing win election. Yay regime change.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124952525314809919.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

U.S. Decides Not to Impose Sanctions on Honduras

The U.S., in an apparent softening of its support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, won't impose economic sanctions on Honduras and has yet to decide whether Mr. Zelaya's removal from office constitutes a coup.

A letter from the State Department to Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, states that the U.S. "energetically" opposes Mr. Zelaya's June 28 ouster. But the letter also expresses the harshest criticism yet of Mr. Zelaya's own actions that preceded his removal from office, including trying to change Honduras's constitution to potentially stay in power.

Such calculus was common in the Cold War, when third world military leaders would start coups and then play the US and USSR against each other, which ended in at least one of the two giving support. The greatest advance in human rights in Africa occurred in the 1990s, when it was no longer possible to do that.

uh...somebody give me a prop please. (actually, that was pretty obvious by the second week)

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/1175216.html

U.S. cools its support for reinstating Honduras' Manuel Zelaya
Signaling a policy shift, the Obama administration is now saying that Manuel Zelaya was responsible for his own ouster in Honduras -- and stopping short of calling for his return.


TEGUCIGALPA -- The Obama administration has backed away from its call to restore ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power and instead put the onus on him for taking ``provocative actions'' that polarized his country and led to his overthrow on June 28.

The new position was contained in a letter this week to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., that also rejected calls by some of Zelaya's backers to impose harsh economic sanctions against Honduras.

While condemning the coup, the letter pointedly fails to call for Zelaya's return. ``Our policy and strategy for engagement is not based on supporting any particular politician or individual,'' said the letter to the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

JINSA is supporting the golpistas in Honduras

according to this article in The Forward, American Jewish Groups Take Sides In Honduras’ Civil Strife:

On September 4, two weeks before President Manuel Zelaya snuck back into Tegucigalpa, Honduras’s capital, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to reverse the administration’s position and support Zelaya’s overthrow. Zelaya was democratically elected in 2006. But the group, which is primarily devoted to promoting strong military ties between Israel and the United States, was concerned that Zelaya was leading the country away from democracy and into alliances with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the time of his overthrow.

"Zelaya was a man who was moving towards Chavez," said JINSA’s executive director, Tom Neumann. "He was going anti-American."

...

In an interview, Neumann said that Zelaya’s June 28 overthrow — in which the military removed him from office at gunpoint while he was still in his pajamas, and expatriated him to Costa Rica — was, in fact, lawful, having been ordered by the country’s Supreme Court and backed by its legislature after Zelaya sought to change the country’s constitution. Neumann questioned the State Department’s decision to back the former president, who met with Clinton in Washington on September 3.

"For us to take a position that we are supporting a government that is anti-American and opposing one that is pro-American is absurd," he said.

http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2009/9/23/122438/966/218#c218

This is getting very interesting. So, Obama is doing classic Democratic party latin america interventionist policy.


http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/KI25Aa01.html

The stick, or deafening silence
Deposed, rightful Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has been to Washington no less than six times since the coup. Not once was he allowed to meet Obama. Then, this past Monday morning, Zelaya showed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras' capital, after a spectacular run that started in Nicaragua, involved a flight to El Salvador on a plane offered by Venezuela, and a 15-hour odyssey across the border to Honduras on foot and by car, evading myriad checkpoints manned by local intelligence - which is, crucially, funded, trained and maintained by the Pentagon. Zelaya was smuggled into the Brazilian Embassy in the trunk of car.

Zelaya may have had help from Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, under the umbrella of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA). But now the strategic game-changer has been to shift the attention towards Brazil - and that means under the UNASUR.

Whether Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva knew it before hand or only at the last minute (as the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists) is irrelevant. It was not the US that called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council this week; it was Brazil.

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