September 16, 2009

President Obama's broken pledge

On April 17, 2009, while at the OAS Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, US President Barack Obama made the following pledge to Latin America:
"While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. (Applause.) There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values."
Mr. President, the United States has broken every aspect of your pledge in regard to Honduras. If you had not been disengaged, you would have been fully aware of the seriousness of the trouble brewing in Honduras for months. Various members of the US State Department knew and certainly Ambassador Hugo Llorens knew.

Ambassador Llorens, former Ambassador Charles Ford, and the US State Department had been consulted several times going back several years by several people in Honduras regarding the laws former president Zelaya had broken, his connections to Hugo Chávez and narcotrafficking, and the very wrong, anti-democracy direction he was taking the country. Their concerns were met with indifference and even contempt by State Department employees.

Ambassador Hugo Llorens' actions have gone well beyond what is acceptable of an ambassador in a foreign land. In the case of the Supreme Court nominations in January 2009, former President Zelaya's attempt to violate the constitution and usurp powers of other branches of government was assisted by Ambassador Llorens.

In another example in June 2009, US Ambassador Llorens interfered in internal matters of Honduras to try to pressure various members of the Honduran government and business community to allow the illegal constitutional assembly. Ambassador Llorens even appeared in a television commercial promoting the cuarta urna to the public after it had been declared illegal by the Honduran Supreme Court.

It recently has come to light that in days before June 28, 2009, Hugo Llorens solicited the authors of the 1982 constitution to pressure them to support a new constitutional assembly. Most recently, Ambassador Llorens has been threatening businessmen, including American businessmen, to pressure the government to accept the San José Accord.

The unwarranted Honduras travel advisory is vindictive in nature, as those of us living here know. The advisory has caused devastating losses in the tourist industry, including to American businessmen who provide thousands of Honduran jobs. Even worse, it has been devastating to numerous charities, schools, and orphanages which rely on volunteers to assist the poor.

Now the US has told Honduran voters that their democratic election and their votes won't count in the view of the US. Plans are in process today to use Oscar Arias to
interfere with elections by pressuring Honduran presidential candidates to change their stand. There is no other word for this other than interventionism.

The US has in no way treated the Honduran government as even a junior partner, much less an equal partner. The US has acted like the 800-pound bully. In the beginning, it refused to even speak to members of current government choosing instead to threaten, embarrass, and dictate terms to them. Now it is canceling visas of a reported 1,000 people in an effort to silence them and threatening to not recognize the next democratically elected president of Honduras.

The US government insults to the dignity of Honduran citizens have been many, and sadly, they will not be forgotten. I believe that the majority of Honduran citizens still think of the US as a friend, but an unreliable, untrustworthy friend. As one Honduran put it, "Long after Hondurans forget Zelaya and Micheletti, they will remember Obama and Clinton."

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's message to congratulate Honduras on the anniversary of its Independence Day included a chastising remark, as if the constitutional government of Honduras was a naughty child who needed to be reprimanded. Honduras is a sovereign nation, not a colony of the US to be manipulated for political purposes which have nothing to do with democracy in Honduras.

While members of the Honduran government have shown great respect for the unfair decisions of the US government, that mutual respect of which you spoke does not exist. The US followed the lead of the OAS and UN for political reasons without listening to how or why this happened. Ambassador Llorens has been summoning people to his office as if he were the president of Honduras.

Mr. President, you can begin to repair the damage done to Honduras by sending election observers to Honduras, evaluating the fairness of the elections, and recognizing the next democratically elected president of Honduras. To do otherwise would be a travesty which will shame the United States of America for many decades to come.

I write this not as a Republican, because I am not, nor as a Democrat, because I am not. I write this as a US citizen who is a long time resident of Honduras married to a Honduran, who knows the pressures that the US has put on individuals, and who is greatly ashamed of the unfair US actions against Honduras, its people, and its democracy.
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