Sunday, November 1, 2009

Honduras Explained

With the details of the deal in Honduras finally coming out, it’s time to analyze why Honduras became so important to the international community, what this deal really means, and why this is anything but the “historic” victory that the internationalists claim. This deal has, in fact, exposed the emptiness of the “rhetoric and peer pressure” approach to foreign policy. Expect the world to become a more dangerous place.

Why Honduras Mattered To The International Community

First, let’s explain why Honduras became such a big deal for the international community, and why they chose to support Zelaya despite his attempts to remake himself into a dictator.
South/Central Americans. All of the Americas panicked when they heard that the Honduran military had tossed President Zelaya out of the country. The reason is simple. Central and South America were dominated by military coups for decades, Honduras included. In the past twenty years, they believed they had finally broken that cycle and become stable democracies. The prospect of a new military coup in Honduras reigniting that cycle scared the entire region. That’s why both left and right condemned “the coup.” This is also the reason they kept insisting that “the negotiations must not reward a coup.”

The Internationalists. The internationalists, i.e. the effete Europeans who dominate the international talk shop, became involved because they saw this as their first chance to show that their brand of “international peer pressure without resorting to military means” could solve a crisis. In other words, this looked like an easy victory and they needed one badly since they can’t seem to solve anything else (Middle East, Iran, North Korea, Georgia, etc. etc.).

Some have attributed the support for Zelaya by the international community to being simply the support of leftists for a leftist. But that's not correct. Indeed, across the international community (and particularly in South/Central America), both left and right condemned “the coup.” Moreover, despite the MSM rebranding Micheletti’s government as “conservative” (which they always do with their perceived bag guys), Micheletti and Zelaya are both from the same leftist party (the Partido Liberal de Honduras).

In reality, the internationalists needed to support Zelaya because their theory of foreign policy requires that they maintain the unanimity of the international community, and with the South/Central Americans already choosing to support Zelaya, they had little choice. Nevertheless, this choice suited them because it also fit with their instinctual opposition to unilateral action, like throwing out a president, and with their desire to avoid disruption of the international order, i.e. they don’t like change, especially forced change. Not to mention that public perception is everything to the talkers, and supporting the government would have put them on the side of what appeared to be a military coup, which is unacceptable in their circles.

Team Obama. Obama, who was late to the party, saw this as his first chance to let multilateralism work in South/Central America, with the United States taking a back seat to Brazil and other emerging powers. He thought this was a good way to show that the United States had changed since the end of the Bush administration, and would treat the South/Central Americans as more equal partners.

This is why Hillary Clinton has stressed that this “victory” was the result of diplomatic talk shops set up by Central/South Americans, and why they relied for so long on Costa Rica’s President to negotiate a resolution. Said Clinton: “This is a big step forward for the Inter-American system and its commitment to democracy as embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

This “follow the crowd policy” also fit with his seeming utter disinterest in foreign affairs. However, this approach has brought on significant criticism of Obama from that same community, with Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim grousing that these negotiations were taking too long. And more recently, Julie Sweig, Latin American Director of the Council on Foreign Relations complaining: “Why didn't they go down there four months ago? I have no idea why we didn't just do this to begin with, other than the fact that we wanted to give others a chance.” Also, Peter Hakim, President of the Inter-American Dialogue, asserts that Obama “made the mistake that multilateralism doesn't mean letting others do the work.” Instead, he argued, the situation needed “intense U.S. engagement.”
These are the reasons why this became important and how the sides were chosen. And while this was not a coup, see prior article, the Honduran government admittedly handled this poorly from a public relations perspective. Given the touchy nature of military coups in the region, they should not have sent the military to arrest Zelaya. They should have sent their equivalent of the United States Marshalls. Secondly, they should have voted to impeach him in their Congress before sending anyone to arrest him. Since their Congress would have done so easily, and it is dominated by members of his own party, few in the international community would have raised an objection (other than Chavez).

Position Of The Parties

Now, let’s explain the position of the international community versus the position of the Hondurans:
• The international community wanted Zelaya restored immediately to serve out his full term -- no restrictions. From their perspective, this was about undoing a military coup, and there could be no compromise. Thus, they took the position that they could not allow any part of that coup to succeed.

• Honduras wanted Zelaya removed from office until he could be replaced by the winner of the November 29 election. Though, in reality, all they really wanted was to stop him from holding a referendum to change the constitution to allow himself to remain in power. This was identical to the process used by the quasi-dictators in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, to gut their own constitutions.

The Honduran constitution forbids even the attempt to amend the constitution to allow the president to serve a second term. And not only had Zelaya done that, but he'd acted illegally in attempting to pull it off:
• Zelaya supporters told people to sign the petition to hold the referendum under threat of being denied health care or other government benefits.

• Zelaya violated a Supreme Court order not to attempt to hold the referendum.

• Zelaya illegal fired General Romeo Vasquez, who refused to carry out the illegal order to distribute the ballots and the Supreme Court order to reinstate him.

• Zelaya led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots were stored, and told his supporters to distribute them.
Zelaya also was accused of other crimes, though these were not the reason he had been deposed:
• Zelaya’s government was accused of accepting kickbacks and of being involved in the drug trade.

• Zelaya was accused to taking several million dollars from the Honduran Central Bank.

• Zelaya forced all radio and television stations to broadcast his daily speeches.

• Zelaya’s government began monitoring private phone conversations in the country.
The Deal

This entire matter settled late-Thursday after some last minute diplomacy by Thomas A. Shannon, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. The deal will be signed Monday. Here is what Honduras got under the deal:
• Zelaya must drop his attempts to amend the constitution.

• The international community will recognize the results of the November 29 election.

• Financial aid would be restored to Honduras.

• The visas of the Honduran leaders are to be restored.

• The international community will send poll workers to help perform and monitor the fairness of the November 29 election.

• A truth commission will be established to investigate the events leading up to and following “the coup.”
That’s everything Honduras wanted.

In exchange, the Internationalists got a promise that a national unity government would be installed by November 5. That sounds like everything the Internationalists wanted, except. . .

Whether or not Zelaya gets restored to the presidency has been left to the Honduran Congress, after a review by the Supreme Court. (According to Shannon, the “when, if and how” will be left to the Congress.) While the Congress backed his ouster five to one, they have signaled that they “will not stand in the way” of this agreement. And there's really no reason they should stand in the way, because they will be defining his power for the last month of the term. For example, it is clear already that control of the army will be transferred from the office of the President to the Supreme Court. Also, his term will not be extended to make up for the six months he lost.

Summing this up, even assuming that Zelaya is returned to “power,” Honduras got everything it wanted. Zelaya was kept out of power from June until mid-November. He must drop his attempts to change the constitution, and he will be stripped of any real power by the Supreme Court and the Congress. There is no mention of any amnesty that would cover the allegations against him. Moreover, Honduras gets its aid restored and returns to the international community none the worse for wear.

Internationalists Try To Claim An Historic Victory

Not surprisingly, the internationalists are calling this a huge victory for international pressure of the talking variety:
Gushed Hillary Clinton: “I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic institutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue.” Yes, the Hondurans won a great victory over you.

• Daniel Restrepo, senior director for Latin America at the White House National Security Council attributed this grand victory to the “recognition throughout Honduran society that, for Honduras to move forward in a sustained way, the election had to be accompanied by international support.” Uh huh, and the fact they got what they wanted and gave up nothing had nothing to do with it?

• Sen. John Kerry (D, Masshole) said this was “an historic accomplishment.” Worthy of a Nobel Prize perhaps?
Yet, it's a phony victory at best. They wanted Zelaya restored to serve out the entire remaining six months of his term. That won’t happen. They wanted him restored unconditionally, that won’t happen. Instead, assuming he is restored, all they got was that he would be re-installed as a figure head for the remaining month of his term. If that’s a victory, I’d hate to see what it takes for them to admit defeat.

In the end, these fools can delude themselves into thinking that they’ve “won,” but troublemakers around the world will see through this Orwellian doublespeak and self-delusion. The lesson here is that the international community was unable to push around a country of 7.5 million people. Their peer pressure strategy crashed and sank against the rocks of an opponent who simply refused to be swayed. Out of ideas, the internationalists did what they always do, they surrendered and then lied to themselves for comfort, declaring their surrender to be what they really wanted from the get-go.

And you can be sure that the lessons of Honduras will not be lost on countries like Iran and North Korea, or on future coup plotters everywhere, who will see this as confirmation of the international community’s weakness. Anyone who declares a total surrender as an historic victory is ripe for the plucking.

** Thanks to Joel for pointing out that my analysis the other day beat the Wall Street Journal, which apparently agrees, by a day.


Joel Farnham said...


Good article. I am glad that the Hondurans will pull Zeyla's fangs prior to putting him back in place.

Also, I come here for accurate analysis first. It is why it is on my preferred reading list. :-)

StanH said...

All sizzle, no steak with these people. Everything about Barry’s administration is a façade. Barry’s success depends on ignorance, and if people don’t dig a little, it will be portrayed as a victory by the MSM. Great articles like these however expose feckless Barry for the empty suit that he is, and you are quite right, that N. Korea, and Iran will take note.

BevfromNYC said...

Wonderful analysis once again.
Let's just hope that the people of Honduras got what they wanted out of it. I guess we will see Nov. 29.

Is it just me, or is anyone else getting weary of the "historic" moments of Barack Obama? I don't even think that George Washington had so many touted historic moments in his administration.
Maybe along with the Weekly Bidenisms maybe we should do a Weekly Historic Moments of Barack Obama update.

Writer X said...

Not sure if you can answer this, Andrew, but what's to stop Zelaya from not leaving office once he's returned? I know he's only one man but he's already proven that he's an unpredictable nutjob.

Typical of the Obama administration to try to take credit for something that they didn't do and, in fact, made worse. I wonder how Hondurans feel about the support they received from the Nobel Peace Prize winner?

My Phoenix newspaper gushed this morning about how instrumental the Obama administration was in returning order back to Honduras. It was rather comical. But barely anyone reads the Arizona Republic anymore so I don't think it matters much.

Thanks for your analysis! And you beat out the reporting team at the WSJ? Well done!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Joel, we do strive to get it right. And we're happy to have you!

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Thanks Stan, pass the word!

The problem for Obama is that there is perception and reality. And perception can be distorted for some period of time, but reality always comes back to get in you in the end.

Calling this a victory may be enough to give him cover for now. But what happens in six months when the next one happens because this one encouraged the next group? He can lie, but the people who "act" in the world, will draw the right lessons from this and will feel themsevles much more free to act.

It's rare that the world lets you get away with making huge mistakes without those mistakes blowing up in your face.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Bev!

I'm sick of it too. He really has done nothing historic at this point, except possibly having the Great Recession. But you're right about everything being called historic. The MSM, the last bastion of deep Obama-love, is still trying to gush over the man like they're in the middle of some teenage crush. And part of their plan is to make him into something more than human -- part messiah, part historical figure, all genius. . . veritable "charm monster."

His poll numbers tell a different story.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, Thanks! It's fun to beat out the real journalists!

Two things will keep Zelaya from doing that.

First, he has no control over the Congress, the Supreme Court or the army. Indeed, from the sound of it, if he gets reinstated, he will have little power to do much of anything. So if he declares that he won't leave, he has no power to assert his will. In other words, they can simply come arrest him again.

Secondly, and this is the bitter lesson that people who rely on the international talk shop never get. . . when the international community strikes a deal, they don't have the will to reopen the affair.

Thus, they will allow the other side to bend or stretch these agreements very, very far -- or even to break them (see e.g. Iraq sanctions or Iran nuclear cheating or North Korean nuclear cheating), BUT they won't let the guy they brought into the deal break the deal. Thus, if Zelaya tries to break the deal, the international community itself will condemn him and will refuse to stand in the way of his arrest.

Sorry to hear about your local paper, but I expect they are simply repeating uncritically what they've been told by the AP, which got their news from Clinton/Obama. Stick to Commentarama, we got you covered!

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Two things really impressed me about the Hondurans and their defense of their constitution.

1. The agreement they reached on reinstalling Zelaya (or not) still provides for their constitutional institutions to make the decision. Unless the Cortes (Congress) and the Supreme Court approve, Zelaya is still out. As a practical matter, they'll probably let him back, since they've gutted any power he might try to grab in the next few weeks before the election.

2. On October 26, as long provided by the Honduran constitution, and with absolutely no prompting by the Obamists, control of the military was removed from the presidency and turned over to the Supreme Council (an organ of the Cortes). This was no big deal to the Hondurans. Foreseeing exactly the kind of coup that Zelaya was planning, and with decades of military takeovers of presidential elections throughout Central and South America, the Hondurans simply built that provision into their constitution years ago. The provision says that control of the military must be surrendered by the president one month before any presidential elections. It is then restored after the inauguration of the new president.

That law was smoothly and routinely obeyed on October 26, with no fanfare, exactly the way it should in a true constitutional republic. This got zero notice from the mainstream press, and I'm sure the constitution-scoffer in our White House was completely unaware of it. Some coup, Obama!

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, the people of Honduras have done quite a good job of preserving their constitution. If they had voted to remove him before trying to remove him, and they had arrested him rather than tossing him out of the country, I suspect that the international community would have ignored the whole thing -- and we would be hearing about how amazing it is that a Central American country prevented a dicatorship by following its constitution.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: That sounds about right. I think the big mistake they made (which was covered by the constitutional provision I just mentioned), was having the military take Zelaya into custody and expel him. If they had used the police or the state civil authorities, the outcry would have been considerably muted. But that was nothing more than a bad choice rather than a constitutional offense. Still, it gave the Obamas and Chavezes of this world an opening. Military coup!

AndrewPrice said...

Agreed Lawhawk. As I noted in my article, they made a public relations mistake by (1) not voting to impeach him before removing him from the job -- they could have done that quickly and easily (the vote was 5-1 when it came); (2) sending the military rather than civil authories; and (3) expelling him from the country rather than taking him into custody. If they'd done those things, it would have been impossible for the international community to call this a military coup. . . or probably any sort of coup.

I'm not sure how this would have been affected by the constitutional provision you reference, as these events happened in June -- long before it would have kicked in.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: The provision would have had nothing to do with the June ouster. What I was getting at is that the October 26 transition was more proof that the Hondurans have acted constitutionally, however imperfectly. In other words, the June ouster was supported by the constitution, they just went about it wrong. In every instance they tried to follow the constitution. A couple of times they got it wrong in form, but not in substance. Your scenario is exactly right.

The big thing I was trying to point out is that as far as I know, Honduras is the only constitutional republic in the hemisphere which has a built-in constitutional provision designed solely to keep the president from using the military to secure his election. And they exercised it like clockwork, even when it might have been to their temporary advantage not to do so. That's how a constitutional government is supposed to work. Quietly, routinely, and without trumpeting their success in following a law that they are expected to follow anyway.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Thanks for the clarification, I misunderstood your point. I think you're right, they have done a "remarkable good" job of following the constitution for being evil coup plotters.

Individualist said...

Andrew Price writes:

"• Zelaya supporters ...threat of being denied health care or ...

• Zelaya ... illegal order to distribute the ballots ...

• Zelaya led a mob that broke into ...where the ballots were stored, ...
Zelaya also was accused of other crimes, ...:
• Zelaya’s government was accused ...kickbacks ... ...drug trade."

Wow Andrew I did not know that ACORN was busy at work south of the Rio Grande as well!

Very Informative Post!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Individualist. Yeah, it seems that ACORN has international franchises. Actually, what they are doing comes straight from the game plan used by the communists in 1946 to take over Eastern Europe.

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