Obama Sanctions Hondurans, Consoles Zelaya, and Props Up Chavez

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on September 4, the United States has announced a major cutoff in aid to Honduras, saying that it had terminated "more than $30 million" which had previously been suspended. The announcement added that:

It may eliminate as much as $200 million more if Honduras does not restore democratic rule and reinstate President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup.

In addition, the United States also threatened on September 3 to "withhold recognition of the new president who emerges from elections scheduled in November" unless Zelaya is reinstated prior to the election. Mr. Zelaya understood Secretary Clinton to have been more emphatic. He said that he

appreciated that Mrs. Clinton had "made it clear" the U.S. wouldn't recognize any government arising from elections held by the interim government.

The United States had earlier started revoking visas "of members and supporters of the de facto regime. It had previously canceled four officials' visas and stopped issuing new tourist and business visas to Hondurans."

The situation is confusing. The "more than $30 million" termination of aid announced on September 3 probably refers to a further but undefined step with regard to the earlier "suspension" of aid noted on the same day by a State Department spokesman as "about $35 million in aid," which "had been temporarily suspended after the coup."

The earlier aid "suspension" apparently occurred on July 2. The difference between "suspension" and "termination" of aid is less than crystal clear. It is also unclear when, and even whether, the "about $35 million" aid termination will be followed by the threatened additional $200 million aid cut-off.

The September 3 announcement:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. The decisions represented a hardening of the U.S. position and reflected the administration's annoyance at Honduras's de facto government for rejecting a proposed negotiated solution to the crisis.

The stated purpose of earlier "hitting the pause button" to "suspend" more than $30 million in aid had been "to increase pressure on the country's de facto government to restore democratic rule after a coup in June." It had also been stated as late as the early morning of September 3 that a final determination of whether the "coup" had been a "real coup" had not been made; it was stated that a determination would be made "as early as Monday," September 7. In addition:

A senior U.S. official said Wednesday [September 2] that the United States had delayed any decision to cut aid to Honduras until Monday in order to give diplomatic moves time to return ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power.

Evidently, the determination that Honduras had experienced a "real coup" was advanced by several days in order to change legally the aid "suspension" to an aid "termination."

Zelaya clearly wanted more than a "termination" of the earlier "suspended" aid. He also wanted the United States to implement such punitive actions as "freezing assets and bank accounts of officials and backers of the interim Honduran government." Zelaya had been demanding for more than a month that the United States terminate essentially all aid, and he doubtless emphasized this demand during his recent meeting with Secretary Clinton as he had said he would. Evidently, Zelaya also commented during their meeting on alleged human rights abuses under the current Honduran government, but most likely did not address a damning report issued by the U.S. Department of State on February 25, 2009, commenting upon such things done under former President Zelaya such as torture, arbitrary arrest, detention, and government repression of and payoffs to the press.

So much for support from the Obama administration for constitutional processes in Latin America and elsewhere, such as Iran.


Meanwhile, Zelaya has once again promised to return to Honduras:

"I can guarantee that my return to Honduras is inevitable ... I do not abandon the idea of returning to my home country and I will not terminate my [presidential] mandate. I'm set to return to Honduras in the next few days," he told Venezuela's Telesur TV channel.

Telesur is, of course, controlled by Chávez.

Why is the United States behaving this way? Why is it being so helpful to Venezuela's el Presidente Chávez? Why is the United States even considering non-recognition of the results of the Honduran November election unless Zelaya is reinstated?

It has been suggested that Zelaya "won" at the September 3 meeting with Secretary Clinton because the Obama Administration is more interested in buttering up its "allies" in Latin America than in refusing to interfere with the constitutional processes of the countries there. That may be the explanation, but to behave in that fashion is not only pernicious, it is silly. As pointed out elsewhere, Chávez and his Bolivarian socialism are on the ropes, not only domestically but internationally, in many Latin American countries.

For one small example, the Chávez media crackdown has been so severe that the Brazilian Senate on September 2 went to the extreme of passing a vote of no confidence against Chávez. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Brazilian Senate backed the move:

The vote acknowledges that the sovereignty of countries must be respected, but it also warns against "a dangerous dictatorial rise taking place in a brother country."

No criticism of the disgusting situation in Chávez's Venezuela even remotely similar to that directed at Honduras has come from Washington, which continues to cultivate friendship with Chávez. To throw Chávez a badly needed lifeline while throwing Honduras to the wolves makes no sense. And it will probably fail in both respects.

Echoing President John F. Kennedy, Honduras's Interior Minister Oscar Raul Matute said, "We will pay any price, support any friend, oppose any enemy to assure the survival and the success of the liberties of our people and of our democracy."

If Honduras remains steadfast, as she has done thus far and as I very much hope she will continue to do, the Obama administration's missteps will harm rather than fortify the Obama administration's folly in Latin America and Chávez's desire for perpetual domination over the region.

The best I can think of to say is that there is substantial consistency in President Obama's support of dictatorship and contravention of constitutional processes. That is far from high praise.