Monday, July 6, 2009

Bajíos y Honduras

Handy thing about being bilingual: double the puns.

"Honduras" means "depths," or "deep waters." All the more ironic, given the shallows ("bajíos") in which the thinking and coverage (such as it's been) of this country have languished.

When leftist President Manuel Zelaya defied the judgment of his country's supreme court and pushed for a referendum on changing the constitution to allow for the removal of term limits, it was a gambit right out of the Hugo Chavez playbook. The law of the land had been pronounced, and the Executive of those laws was choosing to ignore it. Further, when the head of the military refused to participate in distributing that referendum's ballots, Zelaya just up and fired him. None of this boded especially well for Zelaya's respect for democratic institutions, an opinion which was shared by the Honduran legislature, which voted to have Zelaya removed from office for violating the trust which had been placed in him by the Honduran people.

If the execution of that ouster was handled in a needlessly ham-handed and arguably itself illegal fashion (military personnel rousting the villain from bed and shuffling his pajama-clad carcass onto a plane for Costa Rica in the dead of night, ferchrissakes), this does not take away from the fact that the aforementioned military immediately handed power back to the civilian leadership. Further, that leadership has even offered to consider holding elections early, rather than declare some sort of "emergency" and clutch onto its newly-wrested power.

Some "coup."

Then we get Barack "I won't meddle in the affairs of other nations" Obama coming out, promptly and strongly, for the "restoration of democracy" in Honduras, and suspending aid until the power-grabbing Chavista in question is restored to his office...the one which the other branches of Honduran government had acted within their laws and declared him unfit to occupy. Naturally, then, the near-universal media consensus coalesced around the cries of Zelaya supporters demanding their guy back, drawing sickening parallels to the brutal oppression of demonstrators in Iran after the outright theft of the election there by theocratic thugs. Shortly thereafter the Organization of American States and the UN (those bastions of democratic ideals and justice around the globe) declared that Honduras will be on their mierda list until the status quo ante is restored. The government of Honduras just as promptly told these bodies to pound fine white sand. Gutsy move, that, since Honduras can scarcely afford to lose the aid, but the only one which preserves Honduran national sovereignty from erosions external and internal. And they seem to be putting their money where their mouth is.

As wrong-headed and dangerous as I perceive many policies of the Obama Administration to be, they have generally made a certain kind of sense to me. This one had me scratching my head. Why on earth would the POTUS see our nation as having a dog in this fight? It's not as if Zelaya exactly had clean hands in his purported championing of the downtrodden. The idea that this was some sort of tactic to curry favor with Chavez, ahead of some overture to come, seemed a bit too pat and partisan for my tastes (though I haven't ruled it out altogether). The whole "masked soldiers in the dead of night" thing rightly arouses discomfort, but every other aspect of the ouster struck just the right tone of lawfulness to get out most of the stain. So what gives?

It was this post from the Huffpo which brought it together for me:

A democratically elected president has been ousted by a military strongly supported and trained by the US government as apparent punishment for his adoption of progressive ideals. Where is the outrage, or at the least, the intrigue? Where are the solidarity movements?

Well, here are all the ingredients: mistrust of anything touched by the US military, check. Reflexive sympathy for even a transparently illegitimate regime, so long as it adheres to "Progressive," statist ideals, check. Concomitant repudiation of any government which lives even close to the center (let alone the Right), checkarooney. Throw in a dose of untenable moral equivalence, and the formula is complete.

Look, I get that Obama and his supporters believe in consolidating the business of a nation in the operations of its central government, rather than in the hurly-burly of free markets and federalism. I understand that there will tend to be a measure of sympathy for governments which operate along similar sets of values, and will even grant the good intentions of those who yearn for social justice (even as I recoil from the redistributionist policies which flow from those intentions).

But this is one which the Obama Administration has gotten flat-out dead Wrong. It is an epic fail, borne of the most superficial reading of a sloppy and unappealingly handled but ultimately lawful execution of a sovereign nation's governance. It can very defensibly be said to have been none of our business. However, if one were inclined to "meddle," then it should have been in the opposite direction. After all, as Krauthammer put it: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro Twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions."

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