Why is Obama administration supporting Zelaya instead of rule of law?

Last week, the New Republic warned the Obama administration not to make a fetish of the executive in Honduras at the expense of the rule of law.  Now Mary Anastasia O’Grady at the Wall Street Journal joins TNR in pointing out the contradictions inherent in Barack Obama’s reaction to the Honduran crisis.  Shouldn’t a glance at his allies in this policy give him a reason to reconsider his approach?

Reason has gone AWOL in places like Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom. Ruling the debate on Mr. Zelaya’s behavior is Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, who is now the reigning international authority on “democracy.”

Mr. Chávez is demanding that Mr. Zelaya be reinstated and is even threatening to overthrow the new Honduran president, Roberto Micheletti. He’s leading the charge from the Organization of American States (OAS). The United Nations and the Obama administration are falling in line.

Is this insane? You bet. …

Hondurans had the courage to push back. Now Chávez-supported agitators are trying to stir up violence. Yesterday afternoon airline service was suspended in Tegucigalpa when Mr. Zelaya tried to return to the country and his plane was not permitted to land. There were reports of violence between his backers and troops.

This is a moment when the U.S. ought to be on the side of the rule of law, which the Honduran court and Congress upheld. If Washington does not reverse course, it will be one more act of appeasement toward an ambitious and increasingly dangerous dictator.

Obama’s stated desire to hold direct talks with Chavez on the US-Venezuelan relationship was perhaps the least objectionable of the world leaders with whom Obama promised to meet “without preconditions” in July 2007.  Since then, though, we have discovered direct funding from Chavez to FARC, the terrorist group attempting a revolution in Columbia, as well as the outright theft of private property in Venezuela’s nationalization programs from American investors.  Clearly, Chavez’ interests have little to do with freedom and everything to do with raw power — just like his mentors, the Castro brothers, who have run Cuba as a prison island for 50 years.

Why, then, has Obama blindly followed Chavez’ lead in Honduras?  The removal of Manuel Zelaya got botched, but it didn’t result in a military junta replacing him.  The Honduran legislature remains in place, as does its courts, both of which unanimously issued the arrest warrant that the military executed.  While there is a legitimate criticism about Honduran due process in this case, that’s not Chavez’ interest.  He just wants his leftist ally put back in charge so Zelaya can continue to dismantle the constitutional form of government in Honduras just as Chavez has done in Venezuela.

The Obama administration had better decide whether it supports the constitutional due process in democratic republics or strongman rule.  If it’s the latter, Obama couldn’t possibly do any better than he’s doing right now to push Honduras into a Chavez-style dictatorship.  If it’s the former, then someone in the White House had better stop Obama from getting led by the nose by Chavez in Latin America.

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