Lost in the wake of President Obama's dramatic announcement to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan is the tragedy of Honduras.
The tiny Central American country, one of the poorest in the hemisphere, had its democracy trampled on June 28 by a military coup. Legitimately elected President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped at gunpoint, forcibly expelled from his country and replaced with Roberto Micheletti, who had tried and failed three times before to become president.
To add insult to injury, Honduras now faces an attempt by the usurpers to whitewash their actions by cynically portraying the Nov. 29 election as democratic.
Sad - and amazingly shortsighted - is that Washington, after initially taking a principled position and condemning the coup, turned its back on democracy and now supports the golpistas.
As a result, the historic Latin American mistrust of the U.S. was reinforced after a brief period in which it seemed that President Obama would erase George W. Bush's legacy of neglect, bullying and ignorance.
Hellbent on making believe the election was legitimate, the de facto government claims the abstention rate was less than 40%, while Zelaya insists it was closer to 70%. Porfirio Lobo, a rightist who had lost to Zelaya the last time around, was proclaimed the winner.
But how can an election held under a state of emergency and called by a de facto regime installed by a coup be democratic?
As one international observer remarked, there is an important resistance movement that asked Hondurans not to vote while Zelaya, the legitimate president, remained holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. Yet we are expected to believe that a majority of voters, the same people who elected Zelaya, massively turned out to take part in the golpistas' electoral sham.
Election Day - no matter what Micheletti and Lobo maintain - wasn't exactly peaceful.
An incident described by Tom Loudon, head of a delegation of human rights observers from the Quixote Center, an American social justice group, is an example of the de facto regime's human rights abuses.
"A peaceful march of over 500 people was just culminating at the Central Park of San Pedro Sula [Honduras' second largest city] when a large armored tank with high-pressure water cannons mounted on the top pulled up at the rear of the march - along with a large truck full of military troops. The 500 peaceful, unarmed protesters turned around to face the tank and troops - and in unison, they sat down in the middle of the street. The truck retreated two blocks. The soldiers got off the truck, and began to put on gas masks. Suddenly, the crowd was attacked with water cannons and gas. People are fleeing. There are wounded and detained."
Javier Zúñiga, a member of the Amnesty International delegation observing the election, reported the routine detention of protesters. "Justice seems to have been absent also on Election Day in Honduras," he said.
The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research reported that the regime jammed the signals of opposition broadcasters. The list goes on.
But the tragedy of Honduras appears lost in the news of the announced troop escalation in the Afghan conflict - and that's too bad.
Washington should not ignore the human rights violations by Micheletti and his accomplices and should not support a president chosen in a sham election. Otherwise, Latin America will confirm what many there already suspect: Despite Obama's nice words, little has changed in its relations with the U.S.
Friday, 4 December 2009
Albor Ruiz writes in the New York Daily News (December 3, 2009)
Posted by Emergency Committee Against the Coup in Honduras at 10:25