Monday, June 29, 2009

Coup in Honduras: Day Two

TeleSUR is reporting this morning that Honduran Foreign Secretary, Patricia Rodas, has arrived in Nicaragua along with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Rodas was kidnapped in the course of a military coup in Honduras along with ambassadors from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. All officials were out of contact for hours yesterday, which triggered Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to warn the Honduran coup plotters that Venezuela would take whatever steps necessary to defend its citizens.

The Venezuelan ambassador, according to a TeleSUR report yesterday afternoon, was later discovered on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, having been beaten and driven out of town.

In Nicaragua, leaders of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) greeted exiled Honduran president Manuel Zelaya late last night. ALBA nations will be meeting in the Managua along with representatives from the Rio Group and the Central American Integration Group (SICA) to discuss potential responses to the coup.

This morning there have been reports of massive anti-coup demonstrations in Tegucigalpa and a general strike has been called for by organizations aligned with Zelaya. The Honduran congress, for its part, removed Zelaya from power in abstentia yesterday afternoon and named Roberto Micheletti – President of congress and a member of Zelaya’s own Liberal party – interim president.

Every government in the hemisphere, the Organization of American States, the European Union and the United Nations have all denounced the coup and asserted that the only legitimate and constitutional president in Honduras is Manuel Zelaya.

Eva Golinger, live-blogging the coup from Caracas, reads between the State Department’s statements on the coup to find – at the very least – US complacence with the coup. The US and Honduran armed forces have a historically close relationship. Honduras serve as the “aircraft carrier that cannot be sunk” for war fought by the United States against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s Honduras, one of the poorest countries in a rather poor region, has been a key transit point in the hemispheric drug trade, and the US has deployed forces within Honduras as part of its ‘war on drugs.’ Finally, the military leadership of the coup are School of the Americas alumni.

As the current crisis in Honduras has been ramping up, the United States has repeated calls for a ‘peaceful’ solution to conflicts between Zelaya, the military command and the Supreme Court. Golinger asserts that the US could have effectively squashed the coup at any point through its power of the purse. For her, the Obama administrations equivocations during the past three weeks is a tacit approval of the coup plotters machinations.

The coup in Honduras has, if unevenly, been remarkable in the universal condemnation it has engendered. While the White House was initially tepid in its responses, by Sunday afternoon President Obama declared Zelaya to be the only head of state the US would recognize in Honduras. The region’s other right wing heads of state, notably Mexico’s Felipe Calderón, have also condemned the coup in unequivocal terms. Later today, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who is in Washington lobbying for a Free Trade Agreement between his country and the United States, will hold a press conference with president Obama. We should expect a bilateral statement against the coup at that point.

However, with images of blockades and protests around the Presidential palace (check out TeleSUR’s live feed here) the true question of this crisis in terms of regional and geopolitics rests more with ALBA , of which Honduras has been a member since October 2008, than with the already overstretched Empire to the North. Venezuela’s Chávez has characteristically been perhaps the most outspoken in his condemnation of the coup, and energetic protests in support of Zelaya have taken place throughout Venezuela’s cities. Chávez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa scrambled all but immediately to Managua to meet with the exiled Zelaya, but concrete steps have yet to take shape.

UPDATE: The ALBA meeting is currently taking place in Managua. ALBA member states have all recalled their ambassadors from Tegucigalpa and are breaking diplomatic relations with the Micheletti government. They are calling for all other governments and transnational organizations to follow suit.

UPDATE II: Excellent background and analysis by Nikolas Kozloff here. This should be assigned reading for anyone trying to make sense of events in Honduras and their larger hemispheric significance.

UPDATE III: 12:20 (PST) Live feed from Tegucigalpa outside the occupied presidential palace shows troops attempting to disperse protesters with (at least, from what I can see) tear gas and clubs, supposedly in anticipation of de-facto president Micheletti's arrival.

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