Has anyone run across an objective, reasoned account of recent events in Honduras and the U.S. policy with regard to those events? Or, for that matter, an argument from a liberal or Democratic point of view supporting the Obama administration’s support for ex-President Manuel Zelaya?
The reason that I ask is that, given my background, I’m one of those rare Americans who cares about Latin America. I lived there at an impressionable age, and was particularly impressed by the short-lived Kennedy Administration efforts to at least act like that part of the hemisphere mattered. I haven’t seen anything approaching this level of interest since then. Meanwhile, over the past couple of decades, I’ve watched such nations as China deftly increase their influence in the region, much to the detriment of the legitimate interests of the United States and of the people of those countries.
Unfortunately, it’s not all that easy to keep up, given the almost complete apathy of the U.S. news media. Back when I was at the paper and got The Economist every week, I could sort of keep up — the Brits have always cared far more about all corners of the world than Americans care even about their own backyard — but even though my colleagues kept giving me the Economists that came in after I left (I was the only one in that office who read it, after Mike Fitts had left).
I still subscribe to The Wall Street Journal at home, however. And what that means is that my one regular source of information about Honduras and the rest of the countries below the Rio Grande has been Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s opinion columns. And while they are well-informed, they are written from such a strongly anti-administration point of view that leaves me wondering what it is that I’m not hearing.
Her indictments of Obama administration for perverse blindness are pretty powerful, such as this recent piece that indicts Zelaya for his connections, direct and indirect, to Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and virulent anti-Semitics in his own country. She begins this piece with a quote for one of the leading voices for Zelaya’s return:
Sometimes I ask myself if Hitler wasn’t right when he wanted to finish with that race, through the famous holocaust, because if there are people that are harmful to this country, they are the Jews, the Israelites.
Beyond the sensational stuff, though, I intuit that she may be onto something. I’ve previously noted my great discomfort at Obama’s decision to knuckle under to Big Labor rather than support freer trade with our ally Colombia. In fact, some of you who did not like our endorsement of John McCain castigated me for citing what you considered to be a side issue — although it wasn’t to me. To me, it was a disturbing portent, which would seem to have predicted a tendency to be terribly wrong on Latin America, if Ms. O’Grady is right.
But is she? I’d like to see an independent assessment, or even one from the other end of the political spectrum — if a liberal can get interest in Latin America long enough to provide one. It strikes me as passing strange that, given the recent ugly nativism we’ve seen rising on the Right in this country, that I’d only be hearing from conservatives on internal affairs in Honduras.
So it is that read with interest today a piece on the subject by someone other than Ms. O’Grady, also on the opinion pages of the WSJ. Unfortunately, it was by our own Jim DeMint — a man who has in recent years lost a lot of credibility with me, thanks to his opportunistic appeal to the aforementioned surge in nativism, his siding with our governor on the stimulus, and his execrable remark alluding to the climactic land battle of the Napoleonic Wars.
Setting all that aside, his piece seemed well-reasoned, and persuasive. Sure, members of Congress visiting foreign countries often see what they want to see, or what their hosts want them to see, but I was still impressed that he said of all the people he spoke with in Tegucigalpa, the only person who stuck up for the administration’s position, the only one who called the Honduran government’s removal of the ex-president a “coup,” was our ambassador:
As all strong democracies do after cleansing themselves of usurpers, Honduras has moved on.
The presidential election is on schedule for Nov. 29. Under Honduras’s one-term-limit, Mr. Zelaya could not have sought re-election anyway. Current President Roberto Micheletti—who was installed after Mr. Zelaya’s removal, per the Honduran Constitution—is not on the ballot either. The presidential candidates were nominated in primary elections almost a year ago, and all of them—including Mr. Zelaya’s former vice president—expect the elections to be free, fair and transparent, as has every Honduran election for a generation.
In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya’s ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.
Of course, maybe Sen. DeMint was speaking to the wrong sources, just as I worry that maybe I’m reading the wrong sources. But he certainly seems to make a reasonable case.
By the way, both Ms. O’Grady and Sen. DeMint cite a source that sounds pretty legit to me in supporting their views: a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress. But while you can read that report as supporting their views, it’s also a little more ambivalent than they make it sound, such as in this conclusion:
V. Was the removal of Honduran President Zelaya legal, in accordance with Honduran
constitutional and statutory law?
Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional
and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the
Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the
Honduran legal system.
However, removal of President Zelaya from the country by the military is in direct
violation of the Article 102 of the Constitution, and apparently this action is currently under
investigation by the Honduran authorities.50
Anyway, does anyone know of good arguments to the contrary, or is the administration just really, really wrong on this one?