Earlier this month, Hondurans found out through a statement by Salvadoran President Fúnes, that their president, Porfirio (Pepe) Lobo, had signed an agreement with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Guatemala to allow former President Manuel Zelaya to return to Honduras without fear of political persecution. The announcement was unclear as to exactly what that meant.
It was confusing because there never was any question that Zelaya could return to Honduras. Additionally, the amnesty agreement forced on Honduras by the US − even though amnesty was specifically excluded from the Tegucigalpa Accord − clearly protects Zelaya from prosecution for 'political' crimes, including acts of terrorism. What was not protected by the amnesty decree was prosecution of common crimes, including corruption. So why did Lobo have to sign yet another agreement with Clinton?
When confronted by the media, President Lobo cited the Golden Rule and said that "Zelaya should be accorded the honor and respect due to all former presidents". This seemed to be in direct contrast with Lobo's inauguration day speech in which he said that corruptos, regardless of their position, would go to prison "en punto!" to the cheers of the audience. This recent statement resulted in outrage from many quarters and was quickly followed by clarifying remarks by the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, and the Minister of Security assuring the population that Zelaya must and will face justice for the crimes for which he has been accused.
In The US vs. Honduran Democracy in the Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes:
Washington's bullying is two-pronged. First is a maniacal determination to punish those involved in removing Mr. Zelaya. Second is an attempt to force Honduras to allow Mr. Zelaya, who now lives in the Dominican Republic, to return without facing any repercussions for the illegal actions that provoked his removal. Both goals are damaging the bilateral relationship, polarizing the nation and raising the risk of a resurgence of political violence.Why would the US be concerned about Mel Zelaya returning to Honduras and not suffering any consequences for his illegal acts, including acts of corruption involving millions of dollars virtually stolen from the mouths of the poor? The simple answer is that to expose Zelaya would make the US and Obama policy look bad.
How is it possible that the tiny poverty-stricken country of Honduras could stand up to the mega-power United States of America? How is the US going to 'handle' Iran or North Korea or Israel if they can't even handle Honduras? Is what John McCain said true? ".... our friends don't trust us and our enemies don't fear us because both doubt our staying power, our determination, and our resolve." Honduras must be brought back into line to save face!
(TV poll taken August 25, 2009
Do you believe that the US is showing us that it is an untrustworthy allied country?
93% said yes)
Do you believe that the US is showing us that it is an untrustworthy allied country?
93% said yes)
If Zelaya is exposed, those who supported US policy on Honduras might have to take a closer look: Was Honduras really fighting to save democracy after all? Was the US on the wrong side? How would it look if it was proven in court that former president Zelaya and his pals have foreign bank accounts with large unexplained deposits. We all know that the US has information on all of our bank accounts. Why haven't they provided that information to the Honduran government to help them combat corruption?
Why haven't they answered the Congress' question asking for assurance that the US has no knowledge about Zelaya's ties with narcotrafficking? And how do you reconcile that support for corrupt Zelaya, while at the same time the US extradites a former Guatemalan president for money laundering?
(Photo: Juan Orlando Hernández, President of the Congress with Hugo Llorens, La Tribuna. Note the faces as they listen to the "we're just here to help you" speech.)
In the Wall Street Journal article, Mary O'Grady continues:
Four months after a presidential election, reports from Honduras suggest the Obama administration remains obsessed with repairing its foreign-policy image by regaining the upper hand. The display of raw colonialist hubris is so pronounced that locals now refer to U.S. ambassador Hugo Llorens as "the proconsul."(Photo: Honduran President Porfirio Lobo gets a pat on the back for a job well done from Hugo Llorens.)
I only half-jokingly called US Ambassador Llorens the prime minister of Honduras back in February. But it's not just the pro-government, pro-sovereignty folks who complain.
(Aug. 29 Honduran poll: What perception do you have of US Ambassador Hugo Llorens? Good, 16%; Bad 84%)
Even Carlos H. Reyes, former presidential candidate, Zelaya supporter, and Resistance leader, has complained, "We are seeing the U.S. ambassador directing the actions of ministers, military and the president himself, and intervening in the internal affairs of the country".
El Libertador, a pro-Castro/Chávez Honduran newspaper, reported in an editorial, "Just as John Negroponte did in the 1980s, Hugo Llorens governs from La Paz avenue, politicking, making decisions, giving orders and conspiring". One report even stated that Llorens maintains a desk in the presidential palace from which he issues orders. US Ambassador Llorens actions are alienating both sides in Honduras. But in the big scheme of US relations, long-time dependent ally Honduras doesn't matter an iota.
(Photo: US Ambassador Hugo Llorens, right at home in the Presidential Palace.)
Though frequently denied by Hugo Llorens and others in the Lobo administration, reports are that the US has been pressuring for removal of the president of the Supreme Court, the Human Rights Commissioner, and the Attorney General. The top general has already been removed − though he was put in charge of Hondutel, the state-run telephone company, in a civilian capacity, a move I strong doubt that the US supported.
Far from repairing the US foreign policy image, the US actions have solidified the belief that, in 2010, the US is operating in full colonialist mode, though you would never know that from the US media, the WSJ excluded.
Honduras had defied Uncle Sam and the U.S., led by Mr. Llorens, decided that it had to be taught a lesson. It took out the brass knuckles and tried hard to unseat interim president Roberto Micheletti in the interest of restoring Mr. Zelaya to the office.
As Ms. O'Grady relates in her article, Llorens pressured the Liberal Party to remove Roberto Micheletti as party president − a clear cut case of the US interfering in internal politics of a sovereign country.
But the Americans had scores to settle. The U.S had already yanked dozens of visas from officials and the business community as punishment for noncompliance with its pro-Zelaya policy. Then, just days before President Porfirio Lobo's inauguration in January, Hondurans estimate it pulled at least 50 more from Micheletti supporters. The visas have not been returned, and locals say Mr. Llorens continues to foster a climate of intimidation with his visa-pulling power.
He hasn't stopped there. In early March he organized a meeting of Liberal Party Zelaya supporters and the party's former presidential candidate, Elvin Santos, at the U.S. Embassy. Some 48 hours later the party's zelayistas and its Santos faction voted to remove Mr. Micheletti as party head. Rigoberto Espinal Irías, a legal adviser to the independent public prosecutor's office, complained that the "meeting generated much bad feeling in Honduran civil society" because it was "perceived to have the purpose of intervening in Honduran national politics."
(This January 31, 2010, poll asks: Do you believe that Pepe Lobo should trust in the friendship shown today by Ambassador Hugo Llorens? Yes, 28%; No 72%.)
Ms. O'Grady closes with this:
It's hard to imagine what the U.S. thinks it achieves with a policy that divides Hondurans while strengthening the hand of a chavista. Revenge and power come to mind. Whatever it is, it can't be good for U.S. national security interests.
I concur that misguided US actions in Honduras are working to divide the country. US actions over almost a year now have also served to embolden the radical factor in Honduras rather than to unite the country, just as Llorens' statements and actions (including a commercial for the cuarta urna!) before June 28 emboldened Zelaya to violate the law and the constitution.
I also believe that US actions are undermining support for President Lobo. He can't make everyone happy, and it appears that for the time being, his priority is making the US happy over the people of Honduras.
(Photo: Honduran leadership: President Porfirio Lobo, US Ambassador Llorens, Vice President María Antonieta de Bográn, and Tegucigalpa Mayor Ricardo Alvárez.)
Hondurans are expressing much disappointment that President Lobo has bowed to US demands. The US continues to hold out the carrot of aid funds. First it depended upon the signing of the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord, then it depended upon a free election, then "more work" was needed, then it depended upon the new president taking office, then even "more work" was needed to reconcile the country.
It's really beginning to appear that only full-fledged groveling to the power of the US will satisfy the requirements, and that appears to include allowing the US to determine who will lead each of the various organizations of the government as well as the political parties. Just because the US announces that aid has been restored doesn't mean that the funds are actually flowing.
(Photo: US Ambassador Llorens meeting with the election commission.)
In contrast, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Kent, when discussing the reestablishment of relations with Honduras, told Honduran media that "Canada does not impose conditions on its friends." Perhaps the US could learn a lesson from Canada if they truly want to change the relationships of the past. (Please see President Obama's broken pledge in which he promised equal partnership and mutual respect to Latin American countries and my list of the many ways he has broken that pledge to Honduras.)
While I wholeheartedly, 100% agree that more control is needed to protect aid funds from corruption, I don't agree that that control should include micromanaging the recipient country's internal government and political affairs.
Like many misinformed and well-indoctrinated Americans, I never understood why the US was so unpopular around the world, especially since the US was so generous with financial aid. Now, as a US citizen living in one of those recipient countries, I, along with many Americans here, understand completely the feeling of helplessness and frustration against 'the big stick' that comes along with every 'carrot'. The big bully Uncle Sam thinks he knows what is best for everyone, when Tio Sam clearly can't even solve the problems and heated divisions in his own country.
WSJ: Mary O'Grady's complete article
Neo-Neocon: Remember Honduras? Obama does, and he hasn’t given up trying to destabilize the country
Ace of Spades: Just A Reminder: Leftist American Administration Still Fighting Against Forces Of Liberty In Honduras
Proceso Digital, Honduras: The WSJ article in Spanish