With the dramatic return of President Manuel Zelaya to Honduras, the hemisphere is hoping for a solution to the political crisis that has lingered for 87 days. Still, President Obama has not taken a strong enough position on this crisis of democracy and human rights. The world’s leaders gathered today at the United Nations for the U.N. General Assembly. This would have been an appropriate moment for President Obama to make a strong statement endorsing President Zelaya’s return to Honduras yesterday, no doubt timed for the U.N. General Assembly session. Zelaya has been hosted by the Brazilian Embassy since his return to Tegucigalpa, where he was received by a business bureau representative of the Embassy, as Brazil had called back its ambassador after the military coup. Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in different cities and villages defying the curfew imposed by the coup regime. Telesur, one of the few media outlets covering the standoff from the demonstrators’ perspective, noted that there are estimates that at least three hundred people have been wounded as a result of police brutality. In stark contrast, the Washington Post today gave its op-ed space to the coup leader, Roberto Micheletti! On the ground reports mention that people are being detained in a soccer stadium “lying with their faces on the ground.” And early this morning, Grassroots International partner Via Campesina informed us, “All areas around the Brazilian Embassy are under military control. Police helicopters are flying above; and snipers have been noticed in nearby buildings.” According to an article by Robert Naiman in Huffington Post, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted that: Now that President Zelaya is back, it would be opportune to restore him to his position under appropriate circumstances, get on with the election that is currently scheduled for November, have a peaceful transition of presidential authority, and get Honduras back to constitutional and democratic order on a very clear path toward that goal.
President Lula da Silva of Brazil reinforced Clinton’s position by saying, « I believe that the position of the United States and Brazil is important because it strengthens democracy in our continent.” Despite Secretary Clinton’s encouraging comments, it is important for President Obama himself (who didn’t meet with President Zelaya on any of his six visits to the US since being overthrown) to make a strong statement. He needs to do this to regain the trust of Latin America.