A Gallup Poll looked at people’s views on the stability of their governments in Latin America in 2008. In particular, it looked at if people expected a military coup. Honduras had the second highest percentage in the region of people who expected a coup, and, unfortunately, they were vindicated in their fear of a coup.
The country with the highest percentage of respondents expecting a coup was Bolivia. This isn’t exactly irrational or unexpected. Considering the level of state violence, whether it be at the national or department level, the idea that a group might succeed in a coup attempt is not out of the picture.
What’s also interesting is the sizable groups of people in all Latin America that fear a coup. 11% of Costa Ricans expected a coup in the future. This is a country that disbanded its military in 1955 and has been a relative oasis of governing calm in Central America. The fear in Costa Rica underlines the dangers of pretending that the coup in Honduras is not a coup. This region is incredibly sensitive to military interference in politics and a policy denouncing all such actions is the surest way to safeguard democracy.
(Hat tip: Greg Weeks)
Glenn Greenwald has an interesting discussion with Ken Silverstein about the U.S. media coverage of the Honduras coup and what it says about how outlets such as the Washington Post talk about foreign countries.
Evo Morales calls the Honduras coup all part-and-parcel of the greater project of imperialism (my translation):
North American imperialism decided to stop the growth [in Honduras], which is part of the rebellion of people against imperialism, as a warning, as a threat.
More English language coverage here.
It’s become increasingly clear that for any resolution in the negotiations between the Micheletti government and former president Zelaya, the US will need to step in and take a prominent role. Sitting on the sidelines is not working. Zelaya has issued an ultimatum to cajole US action, knowing full-well that the waiting game plays into Micheletti’s hands. Meanwhile, Micheletti has hired a bunch of old Clinton administration lawyers to lobby on the Hill, presumably to try to stall any US decision as long as possible.
The Obama administration must decide whether to intervene in the negotiations more forcefully or to remain on the sidelines, in effect helping the Micheletti regime. This seems to completely ignore the importance of the OAS, and prompts Greg Weeks to ask an interesting question:
If the OAS became largely marginalized this quickly during a serious crisis, what is its purpose?
Despite the attempt to institutionalize independent legitimacy through political arrangements such as the OAS Democratic Charter, the OAS lacks negotiating power, especially when the US is in the room. This should not be surprising as the OAS is only as strong as the states that compose it. It’s most powerful member, the US, can bring pressure on the negotiating parties independent of the organization, while the other member-states lack the power to do so on their own. I think that this lack of independent power defangs the OAS, as the Micheletti government apparently does not fear isolation from other Latin American states. Maintenance of a working US relationship, however, remains necessary, at least economically. Fancy institutional arrangements at the OAS do not change this basic calculus.
La Prensahn reports today on the Honduras Supreme Court’s ruling removing Zelaya from power. It’s a rather curious beast and mostly revolves on how Article 239 operates. Article 239 establishes that no one can propose to reform presidential term limits and anyone who does is immediately removed from their post. The Supreme Court said, however, that by asking votes if they want Constitutional Assembly, you are automatically saying you want to abolish the entire Constitution, including the 8 Articles not subject to repeal or amendment. Thus, Zelaya, by trying to execute a referendum asking whether a Constitutional Assembly should be established, removed himself from the Presidency.
The strange part here is that, on it’s face, this appears to make the Constitutional un-amendable, at least through the referendum process. Furthermore, the article fails to mention either Article 81 or Article 102, which suggest that the military’s airlift of Zelaya out of the country was itself a violation of a Constitutional right.
I will simply say that I find it interesting that the Micheletti government of Honduras, supported by Mary Anastasia O’Grady of The Wall Street Journal among other conservative commentators, seems to be overtly racist toward Obama.
Guessing how the situation in Honduras gets resolved is a fool’s game. The EU states have recalled their ambassadors. The US has put off any decision on cutting off U.S. aid until Monday and the completion of the OAS mission, presumably to give Zelaya a bargaining chip to bring to the table today when the OAS mission arrives in Honduras. And Jose Miguel Insulza, chief of the OAS, says the mission is not going to negotiate with the Micheletti government (even though they obviously will in some form.)
Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has publicly backed the coup. He recites the normal conservative line about how this military coup was a grand triumph for democracy. Even if you take the suspension of constitutional rights during curfew hours with a grain of salt, given the history of military intervention in Central America, you might want to question what effects a coup can have for a country with young and underdeveloped political institutions. Then again, maybe DeMint understands the undercurrent of skepticism in the region towards this whole democracy thing. On second thought, I highly doubt that.