Monday, September 28, 2009

A Wrong Turn in Honduras

Honduras' deposed President Manuel Zelaya might have taken things a step too far in his quest to return to office. As we've talked about in other posts here, Zelaya was removed from power by the Honduran military at the end of June when he tried, apparently illegally, to change the country's constitution to allow him to run for a second term. The US government, along with many others in Latin America, were quick to brand his removal a 'coup', though there is a good case to be made that the military was actually acting to enforce the law under the Honduran constitution.

Last week, Zelaya surprised everyone by sneaking back into Honduras with the help of the Brazilian government, who are now hosting him at their embassy in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa. But his return has sparked a crisis in Honduras, with the government briefly placing the country under martial law after Zelaya called for his supporters to spark "a final offensive" on Monday to return him to office.

And that might have been a step too far for his supporters in Washington. Our ambassador to the Organization of American States, Lewis Anselem, slammed Zeyala's actions as "irresponsible and foolish," for creating a crisis out of what had been peaceful and fairly calm negotiations to return Zelaya to power, while also taking a shot at the the Brazilians by saying: "President Zelaya and those who have facilitated his return, bear particular responsibility for the actions of his supporters."

So far the Hondurans have managed to keep things calm in Tegucigalpa, but whether that remains the case is anybody's guess and depends a lot on what Zelaya does next. For now though, it looks like he has hurt his case with some of his most vocal backers if Amb. Anselem's comments are any indication.

The whole situation in Honduras could resolve itself in a little over a month when the country holds the long-scheduled presidential elections to pick Zelaya's successor. Earlier Secretary of State Clinton suggested the United States might not view the winner of that election as the legitimate president of Honduras. It will be interesting to see though, in light of Zelaya's reckless course of action, if the United States backs away from that position.
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