Smart power:

MPs in Honduras have voted overwhelmingly against reinstating President Manuel Zelaya, shrugging off international pressure four months after a coup that has isolated one of the poorest countries in the Americas.

As the vote continued, more than two-thirds of members of Congress had voted not to return the deposed president to power for the remainder of his term, which ends on January 27, as Washington and many Latin American governments had urged.

Honduran media put the ongoing vote at 98-12, well in excess of the simple majority needed in the 128-member, single-chamber Congress for the vote against restoring Mr Zelaya to succeed.

The vote is a slap in the face to the Obama administration, which has insisted that the parliament conducted a coup by removing Zelaya from office.  After getting slapped by Congress and its Law Library for misstating the facts of Zelaya’s removal, the State Department reluctantly agreed to recognize the regularly-scheduled Honduran presidential election and let Honduras’ parliament determine Zelaya’s status.  The White House publicly expected Honduras to restore Zelaya in some capacity for a short transition period.

However, as statements by MPs on the floor show, Obama and his team miscalculated the depth of the insult felt by Hondurans over the US intervention:

Politician after politician insisted that they were right the first time when they voted to oust Mr Zelaya for ignoring a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on changing the constitution. …

“My vote is [a lesson] for anyone who pretends to perpetuate himself in power. My vote is so that my son can look at me and say ‘Dad, you defended democracy,” said Antonio Rivera of Mr Lobo’s conservative National Party.

Now what?  The US position had been that Zelaya had to be reinstated, but their shift makes that unclear.  Brazil, Venezuela, and Nicaragua won’t recognize the election results.  Costa Rica, which tried to reach a negotiated solution that would have put Zelaya back in office but almost powerless, has already announced that they will accept the election results.   The US decision will likely signal the rest of the OAS states as to whether a free election should be recognized, or whether the US wants to ignore the will of the people just to score some political points and foist Zelaya onto an unwilling populace.

That’s about as lose-lose as one will see in diplomacy, and it was utterly, utterly avoidable.  The best thing that Obama can do is to swallow his medicine and learn to shut up. (via Fausta)