A little over six months in the Obama Administration and his advisers have positioned the President as the quintessential “Ugly American” in Latin America. Recent moves to punish Honduran democracy will hurt U.S. economic and strategic interests in Honduras and Central America. It will also serve to further fuel a rabid anti-American populism whose sole purpose is to undermine democracy, rule of law, and capitalism throughout the Western Hemisphere.
There is more at stake in tiny Honduras than an institutional crisis or averting violence. When the duly-elected Honduran Congress voted to impeach by an overwhelming majority former President Manuel Zelaya, it also voted to keep regional foreign powers from meddling in Honduran affairs. The true coup d’etat was defeated through rule of law, not the barrel of a gun. What did the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua lose in this process? They lost the veneer and aura of seeming invincibility. It was completely unexpected. The Castro-Chavez-Correa-Ortega-Morales-Lugo gang – and a gang is what it is – are not happy about it.
While the relationship is not perfect, Honduras has been one of the U.S. better allies in the Western Hemisphere during the past few decades. During the Cold War, it helped defeat Cuban and Soviet Communism expansion in the region. Its chief trade partner, two-way trade amounts to close to ten billion dollars a year. The U.S. and Honduran military conduct a series of joint peacekeeping, counternarcotics, humanitarian, disaster relief, and civic action exercises. The U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) plays a critical role in supporting combined exercises in Honduras and in other Central American countries. It is a party to various trade agreements including the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). It has even sent troops to combat radical Islamic terrorism in the Middle East.
We should had never turned our backs on Honduras. Rather than calm an already very tense situation, the Obama Administration took the odd, but rather expected position of using a politically anemic regional organization to resolve the problem. In essence, we delegated to the Organization of American States (OAS) and its leaders, staunch supporters of the impeached president, our responsibilities. The OAS, its Secretary General Miguel Insulza, and a majority of the other ambassadors set out to pressure the Honduran people. This just made matters worse and the transitional Honduran government dug in. And the Obama Administration continues to side and support initiatives that are anything but neutral and that are not focusing on the most important variable: U.S. interests.
The Obama Administration is now threatening to slap economic sanctions and take this matter to the United Nations Security Council if the democratically-elected leaders of Honduras continue to refuse to return to power the impeached president. If only the Obama Administration would stand as firm against the Iranian mullahs or the North Korean communist party or Castro’s Cuba. Taken in context, in current U.S. position toward Honduras amounts to bullying. It also makes us look weak in the region and in other parts of the world where current and would-be dictators study the Administration’s every move.
The Oscar Arias/OAS approach is untenable and will only lead to more instability. If the Obama Administration wants to seriously resolve this matter, it will advise the former president of Honduras that he should stand trial in Honduras or exile himself to a Bolivarian Axis country. In the meantime, lovers of freedom and rule of law should rally to the side of the current Honduran government. They stood firm against evil doers and the region owes them.