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LA elected officials must correct Obama on Honduras

Many might be surprised at the intense interest sparked in New Orleans area about the constitutional struggle occurring in Honduras. A little knowledge of the connections between the city and the country might explain and points to actions the region’s national representatives should take on behalf of their constituents.

Few know that for decades New Orleans has served as a prime nexus between Honduras and the U.S. Tens of thousands of metropolitan area residents are of Honduran ancestry, and as many are Hondurans working in international commerce. (It is asserted that New Orleans has the third largest population of Hondurans in the world outside the country itself.) In addition to trade, a significant amount of remittances flow from U.S. citizens or resident aliens of Honduran ancestry to their families in the country. One of the most significant political figures of recent Honduran politics also spent his formative years in New Orleans: Miguel Pastor Mejia, who along with his twin brother and political aide Sebastian graduated from UNO, is the former mayor of the capital Tegucigalpa and was an unsuccessful candidate for his party’s nomination for the presidency in the last election.

The winner of that election from the other major party, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, from the beginning of his term in 2006, began with a vaguely left platform and has steadily moved in that direction since. This has produced a major policy break with Honduras’ past and introduced more tension into its relations with the U.S. than perhaps in history. Zelaya has steadily lead the country towards closer relations with Venezuela and its anti-American leader Hugo Chavez (who, upon meeting Pres. Barack Obama for the first time, helpfully gave him a copy of his latest book haranguing America and reiterated its criticisms of America vocally; Obama offered no resistance or rebuttal) and become more critical of the U.S.

But this is not what started the controversy. Zelaya, barred from running for reelection, wanted to introduce a referendum to amend the constitution do allow him to do so and run for that reelection later this year. The constitution does not permit the president to call referenda on his own but Zelaya got Chavez to ship him the infrastructure and ordered the military (as is its job during elections) to distribute the ballots. The military resisted, Zelaya fired its leaders, and the country’s Supreme Court ruled he had acted illegally. Not to be thwarted, Zelaya had his own supporters violently secured and began to distribute ballots. This sparked large protests across the country. The country’s attorney general ruled that the actions were illegal, and the Court authorized the military to seize Zelaya to prevent further lawbreaking. He was sent into exile while the country’s legislature followed its constitution in the process to remove him and pick his temporary successor.

Despite this, along with many other states including ones that recently historically have been at odds with the U.S. including Cuba and Venezuela, on Obama’s order the U.S. not only has condemned the removal of Zelaya, but also Obama absurdly has denied the action was “legal” and termed it a “coup.” This language was stronger than that he employed when commenting on substantial evidence of fraud that appeared in recent Iranian presidential elections.

However, Obama has not committed to support Zelaya’s return to office as the only solution to end the crisis and here, on behalf of Hondurans in Louisiana who overwhelmingly back the new government, the likes of Sens. David Vitter and Mary Landrieu and Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao need to lobby the White House for it to respect Honduras’ constitutional processes and to resist the temptation to meddle in its internal affairs because it may prefer the politics of the ousted president. Cao, himself a victim of a country that retreated from the rule of law, especially could be valuable in his advice and support to help another state hold onto it.

While established, democracy in Honduras retains some fragility. The U.S. has supported it when it faced much bigger threats, such as in the mid-1980s in democracy’s nascent period when communist backed forces of Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union tried to provoke revolution in it. It is incomprehensible why the U.S. today so far seems unwilling to assist Honduras when facing this smaller threat. If the executive branch of the U.S. seems bound to pursue its current unwise policy, it is up to the members of its legislative branch to point this out, strongly in private and respectfully in public, who are most closely connected to the issue – the federal elected officials representing the New Orleans area.

1 comment:

faridd (gringo catracho) said...

Thank you for writing your informative blog. I am from Tegucigalpa and I am saddened that while Honduras is standing for true Democracy, the rest of the Democratic world condemns it. I wish you well, God Bless