From Socialist Voice, August 2009

The coup in Honduras: Return of the “gorillas” or a policy of attrition?

With the coup d’état in Honduras the spectre of the military dictatorship appeared again in Latin America. The entire continent, which remembers well its history of rule by “gorillas,” reacted with horror, especially the member-states of ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), led by Venezuela and Cuba.
     All the Latin American states of the Rio Group condemned the coup and demanded the immediate reinstatement of President Zelaya. The call was supported by the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, which suspended Honduras from membership.
     Honduras has a long history of military rule and has been the main base for American foreign adventures. It was from Honduras that the CIA organised the overthrow of President Jacobo Árbenz of Guatemala in 1954; the force that landed in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba sailed from Honduras; and Reagan’s ten-year dirty “Contra” war against Sandinista Nicaragua was run from Honduras. The Honduran military has a history of total subservience to the United States, and of course its senior military officers are graduates of the School of the Americas and imbued with the ideology of “national security.”
     The wealthy oligarchy of Honduras has a colonial mentality and is fearful of any threat to its privileges. Even the modest proposal of President Zelaya to hold a national non-binding poll on the question of whether to change the constitution was not acceptable to them. On the day the poll was due to take place the military moved in, kidnapped the president, and dumped him in Costa Rica.
     It may be that the Honduran coup is aimed at restoring the military rule of most of the twentieth century, which is by now an anachronism in the hemisphere. There is another model: the first coup against Aristide in Haïti. President Clinton sent in the marines to reinstate Aristide, but only after enforcing a deal whereby Aristide implemented neo-liberal economic policies favourable to American interests. Aristide was restored to office, but only in a weakened condition. But Bush was not content with this deal, and Aristide was overthrown a second time in 2004. If Zelaya returns under similar conditions it will be a victory for the oligarchy and the imperialists.
     The United States has expressed its disapproval of the coup, but in a very mealy-mouthed fashion. President Obama, in his first statement, and the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, called for discussions, for the president and the coup leaders to resolve their differences. A spokesperson for the State Department said that only Zelaya was recognised as President.
     It is clear that the coup has caused great difficulty for Obama, with the American right and the right-wing press attacking Zelaya. It is probable that US agents were indeed involved in the coup: the ambassador is the one who served under Bush, and the officer commanding the US army base, Colonel Richard Jurgens, was the one who directed the kidnapping of President Aristide. Before the coup “NGOs” funded by the National Endowment for Democracy were active in the campaign against President Zelaya.
     According to President Chávez of Venezuela, “the horrendous military, industrial, financial, terrorist and drug-smuggling complex is supporting the coup leaders and challenging Obama . . . It is possible,” he adds, “that Obama did not even know.”
     A month has passed since the coup. In spite of a total lack of official recognition internationally, and the rejection by the people of Honduras, the coup leaders are still in place. They have the support of the extreme right in Latin America and its powerful backers in the United States. So far, President Obama has been unable or unwilling to stand up to these forces, or perhaps he agrees with their aims. Either way, resolute action by the United States in support of the legitimate government of President Zelaya has been lacking, showing acquiescence with the coup, even if it did not participate in it.
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