Thursday, July 30, 2009

Honduras, Obama, and a stubborn fact

A month has passed since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup, organized by the military, political, and business elite of Honduras and their sponsors in the U.S and elsewhere. Worldwide the opposition to the coup has been massive. In a welcome change from earlier administrations that organized coups in Latin America and elsewhere, the White House and the State Department have protested the coup action.

As impressive as the internal and external opposition to the coup is, it is not enough yet to remove this right wing authoritarian regime in Honduras. Thus the Obama administration in its own interests (which I will explain in a moment) has to take more forceful and substantive actions to protect lives, defend democracy, and restore President Zelaya to power.

Military personnel could be withdrawn immediately, bank accounts of the coup leaders could be frozen, travel could be suspended, and other economic sanctions could be imposed.

I doubt President Obama expected that his desire for a new chapter in relations between our government and the governments and peoples of the Southern Hemisphere expressed in a recent speech would encounter a practical test so soon. But it has.

A coup has happened in Honduras. The president has to respond. What he does may well determine not only the future of democracy in Honduras, but also the prospects of a new (and long overdue) era of peace and neighborliness in our hemisphere. I'm sure that he envisioned that the evolution of a new chapter of U.S.-Latin American relations would proceed along different lines, which only goes to prove that the terrain and issues of struggle of the most powerful leader in the world (noted on than one occasion by President Lincoln) are in many instances set by circumstances out of the president's control.

The eyes of the people of Latin American are on the administration, listening to its every word and watching its every move. Our support for democracy in Honduras, along with practical steps to normalize relations with Cuba, are in my view the litmus test that Latin American states and people will use to determine whether President Obama is the "genuine article."

No longer will they allow their region to be the backyard of imperial interests. Much like other peoples on the periphery and semi-periphery of global development they are determined to be authors of their own history and lives in this century. The sooner this stubborn fact is appreciated by the peoples and states of the core capitalist countries the better off all of us will be.

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