Standing Athwart Freedom in Honduras

By Troy Senik

The Obama administration is a fitful regime. When Iranian protesters took to the streets of Tehran in June to decry a rigged election, the President justified his inaction masquerading as Zen by saying "it's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling." Indeed, Obama has made much about the United States' refusal to "impose" its beliefs on other nations, though he usually does so in speeches where he also cites Western values as "universal principles", apparently unaware that completing the syllogism exposes the moral cowardice at work.

What's curious about the kid gloves standard is that - while it applies to an Islamist regime that denies the Holocaust, develops nuclear weapons, and openly calls for the destruction of Israel and the United States- it is apparently too genteel for America's friends. In Israel, Obama has installed himself as the zoning director-in-chief in an attempt to halt Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, in India, he attempts to block a mass exodus from poverty by getting New Delhi to sign on to the economic suicide pact of cap and trade. Sorting through the wreckage, the principle that seems to be at work here is that the Obama Administration is only in favor of neglect when it is malignant.

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Nowhere is that standard more apparent than in Honduras, the small Central American nation that even now remains regretfully exiled from the court of American interest. If network news coverage in 45-second increments hasn't kept you adequately apprised of the travails of this fragile republic, here are the basics:

Beginning last November, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya advocated for a popular referendum that would call together a convention to rewrite the nation's constitution. Zelaya's campaign invited skepticism for three reasons.

First, the referendum was slated to coincide with the end of Zelaya's term, when, under the conditions of the Honduran constitution, he would be ineligible for reelection (abolishing the term limits was widely understood to be one of the primary goals of the referendum). Second, many believed the proposed vote to be a Trojan horse for the kind of populist socialism that Zelaya's allies Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales have brought to Venezuela and Bolivia. Third, the vote was in flagrant violation of the Honduran constitution, which says that only a two-thirds majority of the Honduran Congress can call a referendum. When faced with Zelaya's proposal, the legislators not only rejected it, but deemed it illegal, because the Honduran Constitution expressly prohibits amending the sections on presidential term limits and successions.

Zelaya, with the cheek characteristic of despots, was unmoved by the rule of law. When Honduras's Attorney General secured a court ruling that found the referendum illegal, Zelaya proceeded undeterred, even firing the head of the country's armed forces for having the gall to refuse to carry out the vote (a sacking the country's supreme court unanimously found unconstitutional). After Honduran authorities impounded the ballots that Zelaya had shipped in from (surprise) Venezuela, the president then rallied a band of his supporters to break into a government facility and steal them. This was the breaking point.

The Attorney General sought a warrant for Zelaya's arrest. Honduras's Supreme Court, finding such authority explicitly rendered in the Honduran constitution, granted the request and the military executed the seizure. Zelaya then reportedly requested free passage out of the country in order to avoid standing trial in Honduras (a request he has subsequently denied). He was sent to Costa Rica and, for a time, the crisis seemed to have passed.

Until, that is, the "international community" spoke out. The United Nations hosted an address by Zelaya and followed it by unanimously passing a resolution calling for his return. The Organization of American States, fresh from bending over backwards to entice the enlightened humanists of Cuba to rejoin their august confederation, called Zelaya's ouster "a military coup" and suspended Honduras's membership. The Obama Administration, never having met an injustice they couldn't compound, piled on. Secretary of State Clinton took a face-to-face meeting with Zelaya and endorsed mediation of the crisis by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. Meanwhile, President Obama said "America supports now [sic] the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras".

Obama and his international fellow travelers are either inattentive, intellectually shallow, or disingenuous. The Honduran government's actions are not about democracy; they are about liberty and the rule of law. Zelaya violated the Honduran constitution in a manner that legally necessitated every step taken against him save for expulsion from the country. And when it comes to the president being forced abroad, a move that even some conservatives have criticized, the government was ultimately in the right. In the weeks since his ouster, Zelaya has repeatedly attempted to reenter the country and destabilize the regime, warning of the violence that will follow if he is not restored. While Honduran law may not specifically have called for his deportation, one is reminded of Abraham Lincoln's defense of his suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War: "are all the laws but one to go unexecuted and the Government itself go to pieces lest that one be violated?"

Honduras's behavior has been exemplary throughout the crisis. After Zelaya's removal, Roberto Micheletti, president of the country's National Congress, assumed the presidency on an interim basis, consistent with the tenants of the Honduran constitution. This fall's presidential election is scheduled to proceed as previously scheduled. But with international pressure growing, Micheletti is now reportedly considering acceding to demands for Zelaya's return to the presidency. If he does so, Honduras will forsake the dignified model it has set for preserving democratic liberty in the face of dictatorial threats. And the Obama Administration will have equity in what follows.

Troy Senik is a former presidential speechwriter and a contributor to the Center for Individual Freedom (www.cfif.org). He can be reached at troysenik@gmail.com.

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