as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ousted President, Replacement Duel For Honduras

Honduras is now torn between two presidents: one legally recognized by world bodies after he was deposed and forced from the country by his own soldiers, and another supported by the Central American nation's congress, courts and military.

Presidents from around Latin America were gathering in Nicaragua for meetings Monday to resolve the first military overthrow of a Central American government in 16 years, and once again Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took center stage, casting the dispute as a rebellion by the region's poor.

"If the oligarchies break the rules of the game as they have done, the people have the right to resistance and combat, and we are with them," Chavez said in Managua, Nicaragua's capital.

There is a deep rift between the outside world — which is clamoring for the return of democratically elected, but largely unpopular and soon-to-leave-office President Manuel Zelaya — and congressionally designated successor Roberto Micheletti.

Micheletti rejected any outside interference and declared a two-night curfew, while Chavez vowed that "we will overthrow [Micheletti]."

Zelaya was seized by soldiers and hustled aboard a plane to Costa Rica early Sunday, just hours before a rogue referendum Zelaya had called in defiance of the courts and Congress, and which his opponents said was an attempt to remain in power after his term ends Jan. 27.

The Honduran constitution limits presidents to a single 4-year term, and Zelaya's opponents feared he would use the referendum results to try to run again, just as Chavez reformed his country's constitution to be able to seek re-election repeatedly.

Micheletti said the army acted on orders from the courts, and the ouster was carried out "to defend respect for the law and the principles of democracy." But he threatened to jail Zelaya and put him on trial if he returned. Micheletti also hit back at Chavez, saying "nobody, not Barack Obama and much less Hugo Chavez, has any right to threaten this country."

Obama said earlier in a statement that he was "deeply concerned" about the events, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Zelaya's arrest should be condemned.

"I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter," Obama's statement read.

For those conditions to be met, Zelaya must be returned to power, U.S. officials said.

Two senior Obama administration officials told reporters that U.S. diplomats were working to ensure Zelaya's safe return. The officials said the Obama administration in recent days had warned Honduran power players, including the armed forces, that the U.S. would not support a coup, but Honduran military leaders stopped taking their calls.

Zelaya said soldiers seized him in his pajamas at gunpoint in what he called a "coup" and a "kidnapping." The United Nations, the Organization of American States and governments throughout Latin America called for Zelaya to be allowed to resume office.

"I want to return to my country. I am president of Honduras," Zelaya said Sunday before traveling to Managua on one of Chavez's planes for regional meetings of Central American leaders and Chavez's leftist alliance of nations, known as ALBA.

Zelaya's call for civil disobedience and peaceful resistance appeared to gain only modest support in Honduras, where a few hundred people turned out at government buildings to jeer soldiers and chant "Traitors!"

Some of Zelaya's Cabinet members were detained by soldiers or police following his ouster, according to former government official Armando Sarmiento. And the rights group Freedom of Expression said leftist legislator Cesar Ham had died in a shootout with soldiers trying to detain him, though a Honduran Security Department spokesman said he had no information on Ham.

Armored military vehicles with machine guns rolled through the streets of the Honduran capital and soldiers seized the national palace, but no other incidents of violence were reported.

Sunday afternoon, Congress voted to accept what it said was Zelaya's letter of resignation, with even the president's former allies turning against him. Micheletti, who as leader of Congress is in line to fill any vacancy in the presidency, was sworn in to serve until Zelaya's term ends.

Micheletti belongs to Zelaya's Liberal Party, but opposed the president in the referendum.

Micheletti acknowledged that he had not spoken to any Latin American heads of state, but said, "I'm sure that 80 to 90 percent of the Honduran population is happy with what happened today."

The Organization of American States approved a resolution Sunday demanding "the immediate, safe and unconditional return of the constitutional president, Manuel Zelaya."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the coup and "urges the reinstatement of the democratically elected representatives of the country," said his spokeswoman, Michele Montas.

The Rio Group, which comprises 23 nations from the hemisphere, issued a statement condemning "the coup d'etat" and calling for Zelaya's "immediate and unconditional restoration to his duties."

And Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou canceled a planned visit to Honduras, one of just 23 countries that still recognize the self-governing island.

Coups were common in Central America for four decades reaching back to the 1950s, but Sunday's ouster was the first military power grab in Latin America since a brief, failed 2002 coup against Chavez. It was the first in Central America since military officials forced President Jorge Serrano of Guatemala to step down in 1993 after he tried to dissolve the congress and suspend the constitution.

-excerpt from npr


Anonymous said...

How can the OAS call for the unconditional restitution of Mel Zelaya and Honduras democracy and yet they embrace Cuba’s dictatorship with open arms? Honduras is fighting to keep its democracy alive but the free world doesn’t want to help! What is wrong with everybody? Mel Zelaya broke Honduran law by conspiring to dissolve congress and change its constitution. Additionally he is linked to drug lords in Venezuela and Colombia among other crimes. How can world leaders support this criminal is beyond me!

Arroyoribera said...

Another important part of this story is the team of well-credentialed "coup-making" U.S. ambassadors in Central America: Nicaragua -- Robert Callahan (formerly in Bolivia and Costa Rica, U.S. National War College professor, press attaché in Iraq, and established the press office at the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence in Washington, D.C. before becoming public diplomacy fellow at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University); Guatemala -- Stephen McFarland (US Air War College, a US Marine embed in Iraq with a combat group, in Venezuela under Amb. Brownfield, involved in construction of US military base in Paraguay, and considered an expert on "democratic transitions"); Honduras -- the Cuban-American Hugo Llorens (terrorism expert and Bush NSC advisor on Venezuela during failed coup of 2002), and El Salvador where the charge d'affaires is Robert Blau (previously the Deputy Director for Cuban Affairs in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, following a two-year assignment at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana as Counselor for Political and Economic Affairs where he focused on support for the "Cuban democratic opposition.”) As this excellent piece from New Zealand states, "In every country in the region, the US government has placed very senior, very experienced, deeply ideologically motivated diplomatic clones. Every one of them has a thorough grounding in destabilization. None of this is new and is common knowledge in Latin America." http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0907/S00173.htm I have long said that the US ruling class tasked Obama with dealing with Latin America. The nature of the team around him, further spelled out in the New Zealand article, makes that clear. -- David Brookbank > "Hasta donde debemos practicar las verdades."