The Canary in Israel’s Coal Mine
For those who have asked why JINSA has kept Honduras in the spotlight since June, this is why: small democratic countries trying mightily to exercise legitimate governance and self-determination deserve our vocal support even – or especially – when they do things the U.S. would prefer they didn’t. Honduras is one of these countries, as is Israel. We have been surprised by the lack of Israeli interest in the democratic exercise of sovereign rights by Honduras, and especially in the lack of interest in the pressure exerted by the U.S.
For those who have asked why JINSA has kept Honduras in the spotlight since June, this is why: small democratic countries trying mightily to exercise legitimate governance and self-determination deserve our vocal support even – or especially – when they do things the U.S. would prefer they didn’t. Honduras is one of these countries, as is Israel. We have been surprised by the lack of Israeli interest in the democratic exercise of sovereign rights by Honduras, and especially in the lack of interest in the pressure exerted by the U.S. government to force compliance with America’s wishes.
The presidential and legislative election held in Honduras yesterday provides an opportunity for American administration to walk back its decision to punish the small, poor Central American country for ousting its then-president Manuel Zelaya last June as he tried to pave the way for multiple terms, in violation of the Honduran constitution. The election included only candidates nominated long before Zelaya’s ouster – and the interim president, who was never a candidate, removed himself from public view in the last week of the campaign.
The first decision of Team Obama back then was knee-jerk support for the radical line – joining Chavez, Ortega and Castro calling the ouster, authorized by the Honduran Supreme Court and legislature, a coup. Then, in swift succession a) agreeing to the suspension of Honduras from the OAS; b) withdrawing accreditation from Honduran Ambassador Roberto Flores; c) withholding foreign aid; d) threatening Honduran access to previously awarded Millennium Challenge grants; e) refusing a diplomatic visa to the interim president for his visit to the UN General Assembly (a violation of UN rules); and e) using the American Ambassador in Honduras as point man to threaten Honduras’s future relations with Washington.
It was distinctly more American pressure than was applied to the Iranian government as it stole an election and punished demonstrators with arrest, torture and death.
The interim Honduran government, plus most of the arms of authority in the country – the legislature, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church and the Human Rights Commission – held fast to the belief that their constitution mattered. And after Senate Republicans held up the nominations of two Obama appointees for State Department Latin America posts, the Administration was pressured into turning to Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias to try to hammer out an agreement between Zelaya and the interim government.
A four-point plan emerged, giving the Honduran legislature and Supreme Court the lead in determining their own country’s future and obliging the U.S. and the OAS to sanction yesterday’s election. The legislature will meet on 2 December to determine the fate of Zelaya and his failed attempt to hijack the country. The interim president has said he will respect the legislature’s decision – even if it brings Zelaya back to complete his term until the January handover of power to the newly elected president.
Oscar Arias told the AP that he believes other Central and South American nations will respect the Honduran vote – Costa Rica will, he promised. Brazil, Argentina and others have said they may not – claiming the election would only ratify the “coup.” This is blatant interference in the internal affairs of a neighboring country, and the U.S., still the most important player in the hemisphere, should be quick to declare where it stands.
If it stands on the side of Honduras, all could be well that ends well.
We often call Israel the canary in the coal mine of Western, liberal democracy. Honduras may prove to be the canary in Israel’s coal mine.