Honduran Violence, U.S. Aid Test Obama’s Global Image

July 6, 2009

Honduras coup: scenes of chaos as desposed president Manuel Zelaya tries to return

While English language television in the United States mined the minutiae of Michael Jackson’s upcoming funeral, millions watching Spanish, Portuguese and French language media in the rest of the Americas were transfixed by live broadcasts of the Honduran military shooting and killing a 10 year-old boy and other protesters.

From the U.S.-Mexico border to the southern tip of Argentina and Chile, Latin Americans were besotted by television and internet images of the tens of thousands of Hondurans who risked their lives while staging a peaceful march to the airport where a plane carrying the ousted  President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and United Nations President Miguel d’Escoto was trying to land.

In the course of Sunday’s mass mobilization by Hondurans, many throughout the continent watched the drama of the police stepping out of the way of the marchers when their chief declared that he “holds the military responsible” for any bloodshed. Shortly after blood was, in fact, spilled as at least 2 people were killed by the military and several others were injured, according to Telesur, which broadcast live from the Tegucigalpa airport.

Public and official outrage in response to the killings and shootings are sure to intensify pressure on the military coup leaders who already face worldwide denunciation and pressure. The Organization of American States (OAS) suspended Honduras’ membership Saturday; The European Union and most countries in Latin America with embassies in Honduras have withdrawn their ambassadors; the World Bank and some governments have either suspended or frozen loans to Honduras.

But the military coup leaders are still recipients of U.S. economic and military aid.

As a result, the whole Latin American world is watching Honduras and President Obama, who still has not heeded calls to suspend U.S. military aid to Honduras. In fact, Latin America may well be where the decline and fall of Obama’s global rock star status begins.

The Obama Administration has chosen to respond to the crisis in a manner that will signify little to millions watching the bloodshed taking place in Honduras; While nobody in the hemisphere wants the return of the actions of the Bush era, many already believe that the Obama Administration’s inactions mean that the “new” or fundamental “change” Obama promised during his also widely-viewed Summit of the Americas speech last April adds up to little more than this: more militarismo, but with a smile.

For example, rather than officially declare and denounce the Honduras putsch as a “coup”, which would, among other things, trigger a cutoff of military and other aid, the Obama Administration has instead chosen the symbolic act of suspending joint military operations.

In a region where U.S. military aid, U.S. military training and U.S. political support for dictatorships responsible for killing, torturing and disappearing millions are at the heart of why Obama needed urgently to signal a “new” U.S. policy, Obama’s continued “Si Se Puede” (Yes We Can) to continued military aid for such human rights violation-plagued governments as those of Colombia, Mexico and Honduras will only tarnish his and the U.S.’ image in the region.

The President’s inability or unwillingness to call for an immediate suspension of U.S. military aid is already raising questions about the motives and role of Obama Administration operatives like Hugo Llorens, the current U.S. Ambassador to Honduras.

From 2002-2003 – the year many in Latin America condemned the attempted military coup in Venezuela – Llorens was the Director of Andean Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC).

Llorens was charged with advising then President Bush and his National Security Advisor on issues pertaining to Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador. Although Llorens and the Obama Administration do not recognize the current government, they did, apparently, know that the coup in Honduras was going to take place.

That the Obama Administration knew of the coup and did not cutoff aid immediately after it took place, makes its claims that it tried to “stop” the coup seem naive, at best.

That the Administration may not cutoff aid even after coup-appointed Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez described President Obama as “ese negrito que no sabe nada de nada” (that little black boy who knows nothing about nothing) is to add political insult to tragic injury before a hemispheric audience; That Obama may not cutoff military aid even after Sunday’s increased bloodshed adds even graver injury to that insult.

And in Latin America, a region where the word “Honduras” now means “defend democracy”, a region where many know that Democrat-led U.S. regimes have propped up military dictatorships, assassinated leaders and covertly destabilized left-leaning governments with the same zeal and effectiveness as Republican regimes, President Obama and the United States, no longer have the luxury of being on the wrong side of history made on the streets. This hemispheric sensibility was articulated forcefully by Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez, who traveled with the Presidents of Ecuador and Paraguay to El Salvador on Sunday in order support Zelaya. During their late night press conference, Fernandez seemed to speak to and for millions when she stated, “We’re not just defending Honduras. We’re defending ourselves.” The question President Obama must answer as unequivocally and rapidly as possible is, “Who are Latin Americans defending themselves from?”

9 Responses to “Honduran Violence, U.S. Aid Test Obama’s Global Image”

  1. Eric Says:

    The military were defending the airport ( which is also a military airbase). The protestors were attempting to break the fence to storm the runway. Mel Zelaya was expecting this to happen as he even references this on the interview in the plane.

    The victim is also reported to be 19 years ( not 10). Its a shame that he became a victim to the incident…and investigations are under way. Its sad and many predicted this would hapeen if Zelaya attempted to confront the situation..

    I am surprised that there were not more injuries and deaths…. the situation is tense and the military and police were able to control the situation..

    Stop trying to blame this on the Obama or US Military aid… has nothing to do with whats going on…..

    • robvato Says:

      The degree to which some will go to justify the slaughter of innocents and military dictatorship astonishes. Wow. R

  2. Eric Says:

    1 death is a slaughter? Its very very sad and i sympathize with the family and those affected…..

    Military dictorship— where do you get that. Michelletti is the Speaker of the Congress ( he is the next in line due to the situation). There is no VP as Elvin Santos is running for President in Nov.
    Michelletti is from the same political party as Zelaya.

    Why are you saying its a military dictorship?

  3. Mary Norman Says:

    Sr. Lovato,

    Esto es mejor en espanol, con la esperanza de que Ud. este leyendo los comentarios.

    Acabo de recibir un e-mail con una carta que esta circulando adentro de la comunidad hondurena aqui en este pais. Parece que se esta haciendo un atentado de tratar de conectar al senor Zelaya con el trafico de drogas que pasan por Honduras y sugerir que el gobierno de Venezuela tambien esta envuelto. Como podria suceder esto ante de las narices del Pro-Consul Americano y los militares de este pais que estan en esa base en medio de Honduras no se explica. Aparentemente el intento es regar estos rumores con ayuda de la prensa aqui, porque personas que tienen conecciones con CNN estan envueltas.
    Este relato va a ser un poco largo, pero un poco de background se necesita. El e-mail me lo mando una prima que vive en New York, y es una coincidencia inmensa que yo conozco a la persona que esta mandando esos mensages, aunque no la he visto desde 1977. Ella viene de una familia de origen judio, que vinieron a Honduras como refugiados de Lithuania. Ella era la hija menor, eramos vecinas en Tegucigalpa, fuimos a la misma escuela y fuemos muy amigas hasta que su familia la mando al Peru para que atendiera una escuela judia. Despues ella vino a estudiar a este pais, y despues de terminar aqui vivio en Israel por unos anos. Regreso a Honduras, se caso con un doctor, tambien de origen judio, y ahora viven en Florida. Cuando ella estaba viviendo en Honduras trabajo con un senor llamado Jacobo Goldberg, que estaba en cargo del turismo alla. El ahora vive en este pais adonde ha trabajado en CNN, y escribe una columna diaria en La Tribuna en Honduras llamada Desde USA. Este senor es muy derechista. Le recomiendo una de sus columnas con el titulo Basta de Purgantes que se encuentra online en La Tribuna, para que Ud. comprenda que clase de personas son estas.
    Arriba esta my direccion de correo electronico. If you email me your e-mail address, I’ll forward what I received today. I wanted to let someone in the progressive media know about these goings on and I remember your name from reading The Nation.
    Gracias y perdone my espanol tan malo. Tengo 48 anos de estar aqui y my esposo solo habla ingles, y casi nunca tengo oportunicad de practicar. La ironia es que my mama era profesora de literatura

  4. Karl Pritt Says:

    Mary Norman,

    “Pro-Consul Americano”? Y desde cuando los CONTINENTES tienen consules? Cero que debes aclarar tus ideas antes de escribir en publico.

    Gracias y buen dia.


  5. […] That the Administration may not cutoff aid even after coup-appointed Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez described President Obama as “ese negrito que no sabe nada de nada” (that little black boy who knows nothing about nothing) is to add political insult to tragic injury before a hemispheric audience; That Obama may not cutoff military aid even after Sunday’s increased bloodshed adds even graver injury to that insult.  read more […]

  6. CLAUDIA COBOS Says:

    Please, Mr.Lovato, what exact bloodshed you referring to was an inside job form chavez people..what hole are you living in that distorts your insane assessment. we as hondurans are so happy mel zelaya is out..who cares what obama does or dowsnt do sorry about my punctuation..

  7. stan squires Says:

    I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that the govs.of canada.usa and europe are enemys of the Honduran people.They don’t want things to change in Honduras.It will be up to the working class in Honduras and around the world to get President Zelaya back in power.All the countries of central and south america needs to be more like Venezuela and Cuba.


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