More on Honduras

July 7, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Posted in International | 1 Comment

I’m not sure it’ll be worth much coming from someone who is ‘obviously not a very educated person’, but I thought I’d expand on the previous link dump on Honduras with a few hastily-typed thoughts of my own.

Let’s get the most obvious points out of the way first. Yes, the coup was illegal; a historically portentous abuse of power from a military which has admitted to its lawbreaking and suggested that it will not accept any kind of leftist government either now or in the future.

With this in mind, and knowing that months of planning went into Zelaya’s removal from office, the new ‘government’s’ justification that it was forced to act to prevent abuses of power from a deeply unpopular President does look like a very convenient pretext. But that doesn’t mean there’s no legitimacy to the argument.

As Bernard Finel explains, the “biggest threat to democracy in Latin America is not anachronistic coups by an absurd group of thugs, it is the internal subversion of democracy where democratic means are used to undermine democratic principles.” With his obsessive pursuit of a referendum that every branch of the Honduran state slammed as illegal, Manuel Zelaya could certainly be accused of following that pattern of behaviour, and however much the armed ouster of a democratically-elected leader makes his actions seem like a minor misdemeanour, they should still be troubling when judged on their own terms.

So what does, or should, happen now? Well, at the moment, we’re seeing a rather inglorious diplomatic stand-off. The pugilistic, unrepentant coup ‘government’ is willing to talk about anything – everything – but allowing their country’s president back on Honduran soil, whilst the international community and Organisation of American States will talk about nothing but Zelaya’s return. Should no resolution be forthcoming, the country faces the prospect of losing the foreign aid which accounts for 65% of its budget.

Herein lies the more serious long-term problem. It’s pretty clear that Zelaya won’t be able to return to Honduras unless it’s on the wings of an American aircraft, and the chances of that happening are non-existent. The organs of the state have turned against him, the people don’t want him and the military seems like it might be incapable of accepting anyone other than the establishment conservatives they’re used to. In other words, he’s done, and whilst that shouldn’t be an acceptable state of affairs, the long-term consequences of the country being excluded by the international community could be worse.

As you’ve seen many times in the past (Turkish-occupied Cyprus being perhaps the strongest example), states which are rejected by the international community – and which are not recognised by international law – stop feeling beholden to it. Al Giordano, whose coverage of the situation has been excellent, speculates that the consequences of Honduras’ isolation could be the loss of aid which makes up for 65% of its national budget. He predicts, with good reason, that this could see Honduras rush into the open arms of the black market, and lead to a large increase in drug trafficking. If we’re not careful, the force of our sanctions & condemnation might well create a narco-state.

So that takes us back to negotiation as the only possible means of ensuring a fair & democratic future for this country. If international sources really are responsible for 65% of Honduras’ budget, those sources are entitled to demand reforms for the money they put in. These could include fully democratic elections at the earliest possible opportunity, constitutional reforms to limit the power & influence of the military in affairs of state and the reinstatement of an impeachment process – sorely lacking in this case – which would allow the Congress to remove an unpopular President peacefully and democratically. Whether the coup ‘government’ will agree to any such concessions remains to be seen, but the pursuit of those compromises seems a far better outcome for the people of that country than simply leaving Honduras out in the cold.


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  1. […] removal of Zelaya from office by Honduras’ miltary (which I’ve discussed here & here ) was condemned by the Obama administration but gleefully embraced by conservatives like DeMint, […]

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