Acting Honduras President Roberto Micheletti.
Facing mounting sanctions and disapproving international pressure, Honduras is standing by its decision to oust leftist President Manuel Zelaya, saying there’s “no chance” they’ll let the exiled leader back into the country. Interim Honduras foreign minister Enrique Ortiz said, “We are not negotiating national sovereignty and the presidency,” and acting President Roberto Micheletti said Zelaya would be arrested if he returned, adding (hopefully not prophetically) that it would take a foreign invasion for Zelaya to regain power. Zelaya had planned on returning immediately accompanied by two other Latin American leaders, but he has pushed that back until the weekend, and has backed off his plan to hold a referendum that the Honduras Supreme Court, the legislature, and the military all deemed illegal.
The Obama administration, along with the OAS and the rest of the world, are still taking the wrong stance on Honduras, with UN Ambassador Susan Rice giving the frustratingly simplistic answer, “A coup is a coup.”With all due respect, Ambassador, Zelaya was illegally pushing forward with a referendum that would illegally extend his ability to hold onto power, and he illegally fired the head of the Honduras military when he wouldn’t go along. The bloodless method that Honduras used to remove Zelaya may be unorthodox, but it’s becoming clear that they had good reason to get rid of him. I’m seeing conflicting reports of Zelaya’s popularity, with Reuters reporting that it had fallen as low as 30%, but MSNBC giving the vague metric of “he remains popular among the poor majority.” Regardless, Zelaya had already violated his office by reaching for personal power, and the fact that he remains closely allied with Hugo Chavez leads many to think, not unrealistically, that Chavez was using him to influence Honduras towards a Venezuelan-led coalition. The fact that Chavez has reacted so strongly, even threatening military action, lends some credence to the idea that Zelaya represents what’s best for Chavez, and not for Honduras.
Honduras is sending a delegation to Washington in an attempt to dial back some of the criticism aimed their way. I hope they’re successful making their case, and I hope some kind of reinstatement of Honduras can take place in the international community. However, it’s my opinion that any outcome that sees the return of Zelaya to power would be gravely harmful to the state of democracy in Latin America, as the world will bless a would-be dictator then free to remake the country as he alone saw fit.