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Honduras: 19 Days of Democracy

September 2009

The standoff in Honduras is reaching a critical point.

The coup government, led by Roberto Michelleti Bain, has suspended five constitutional rights for 45 days. According to the Executive Decree, it is prohibited to assembly without government permission; express dissidence; organize; and participate in public demonstrations against the government. Also, the decree suspend the constitutional guarantee to a due process. In other words, the government has the right to detain anyone who is suspect to be a treat to the national security.

This political move by Micheletti camp may have been emboldened by the soft position of the Obama Administration, which has been slow to align with other nations against the coup government, perhaps offering tacit approval of the right-wing takeover.

U.S. wish-washiness not withstanding, the maneuver of Micheletti has back fired. Fearing the negative repercussion at national and international levels, the Honduran National Congress has backed off the proposal from the coup government: If the National Congress had endorsed the Executive Decree, then Constitutional rights such as freedom of expression and assembly would be restored only 19 days before the scheduled presidential election. This, obviously, would not allow for a free election.

National political parties and powerful businessmen fear that Micheletti’s measures will galvanize an already strong dissident majority, as protestors continue to demand the restoration democracy. Despite of the government repression, Hondurans seems to be determined to reinstall Manuel Zelaya as president, and to vote on the constitutional referendum—the underlying cause of the coup three months ago.

At least five countries – Mexico, Spain, Argentine, Brazil and Nicaragua – have already indicated that they will not recognize the outcome of the elections unless the coup ends and Zelaya is returned to power as the democratically elect president. In contrast to the clear pro-democracy stance of other nations, the Obama Administration continues to waffle.

While President Obama has called for a new era of good relations, he simultaneously has refused to align with the leadership of the other nations in this critical issue. Furthermore, public statements from the U.S. negotiators in the Organization of American States this week have contradicted the position of Secretary of State Clinton. Mrs. Clinton had pointed out last week that the return of Zelaya was an opportunity to solve the conflict, whereas U.S. Ambassador for the OAS Lewis Amselem has called the return as “irresponsible and foolish.”

The mixed messages from the U.S. government are troubling.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, summarized it this way:

“After 90 days and not one word from the Obama Administration on the abuses in Honduras, it looks an awful lot like a tacit endorsement of the repression by the U.S. government.

Certainly the de facto regime must have gotten the idea that they have a blank check from the Obama Administration for any crimes that they commit. That’s one reason they’re doing this.”

From the start of this crisis, the U.S. government has maintained the old mentality of its foreign policy. After denying the new political context in the continent, the U.S. has lost its way.

The coordinated diplomatic efforts of Latin American nations show vitality and maturity. The United States needs to accept the fact that the current political context of Latin America calls for a different view. Otherwise, the U.S. will continue to fuel a situation that everyone doesn’t want to see: the continuation of the conflict in Honduras.

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