Reaction to the apparent coup was swift. U.S. President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” and called on all political actors in Honduras to “respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference,” he said.
The Obama administration worked in recent days to prevent President Zelaya’s ouster, a senior U.S. official said. The State Department, in particular, communicated to Honduran officials on the ground that President Obama wouldn’t support any non-democratic transfer of power in the Central American country.
“We had some indication” that a move against Mr. Zelaya was a foot, said a U.S. official briefed on the diplomacy. “We made it clear it was something we didn’t support.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Mr. Obama Sunday in criticizing the Honduran coup and calling for the restoration of the democratic process.
“We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement.
Read Fausta’s amazing round-up of what happened here. In a nutshell, Zelaya wanted another term as president so he decided to hold a popular referendum on whether he should be eligible. Minor problem: The Honduran constitution can’t be amended by popular referendum so the country’s supreme court ordered the vote canceled. Zelaya tried to go ahead with it anyway. Literally every other arm of the Honduran government — judiciary, legislature, military — was against him, to the point where the troops who arrested him this morning were evidently acting on a court order. Why such strong, unified opposition? According to one retired Honduran general cited by Fausta, it’s because Zelaya’s a Chavez stooge and him staying on would mean “Chavez would eventually be running Honduras by proxy.” Two questions, then. One: In their rush to drool all over themselves about “the rule of law,” do Obama and Hillary realize that it’s Zelaya who was flouting the rule of law here? I know The One’s a big believer in executive power but even he’d acknowledge that defying an order from the Supreme Court crosses the line (I think). And two: Why is Team Barry siding with Zelaya instead of simply staying out of it? The White House proved with Iran that they’re capable of maintaining very tactful silences for excruciatingly long periods of time. Yet today we’ve got not only the secretary of state but the president himself rushing out statements. Is this some kind of half-assed attempt to make nice with Chavez now that relations have been restored by supporting one of his cronies? What am I missing here?
Update: Yep, the military acted on a court order. It’s not clear to me, though, why they felt compelled to have Zelaya arrested and ousted considering that the rest of the government, including the army, was against him. Presumably his enemies feared that he’d win the illegal referendum if it went ahead and that would galvanize public support for changing the constitution. Although a coup’s going to have a galvanizing effect of its own, no?
Here’s a possible explanation for why The One was so quick to denounce this:
The Honduran armed forces have however had historic links with the US, dating back to the Contras, the armed groups that were backed by the Central Intelligence Agency to topple the Left-wing Sandinista regime of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. Mr Ortega is once again president of Honduras’s neighbour. The army has a long history of involvement in politics and governed Honduras from 1956 to 1982…
Mr Chavez, with more than a decade in power, began his reforms in Venezuela by holding a Constituent Assembly and changing the constitution. Mr Zelaya had stated that he wished to do the same and that the referendum was supposed to be the first step.
I guess Team Barry figured that if they didn’t come out loudly against this, suspicions inside the country about the military being in cahoots with the U.S. would fester. Eh. They’ll fester anyway.
Update: Commenter “elduende” sums up The One’s dilemma nicely: “Someone is going to be left holding the short end of the stick on this one. Will Obama stand by while Venezuela uses force to install their lackey in Honduras? Thus siding with Chavez and crushing democracy in Honduras. Or will he stand with the democratic institutions in Honduras as they seek to reassert their democratic rights and risk being labelled just another in a long line of ‘typical yankee presidents.'”