Dé Céadaoin, Lúnasa 05, 2009

US Speaks Out of Both Sides of its Mouth on Honduras

“We certainly think that if we were choosing a model government and a model leader for countries of the region to follow, that the current leadership in Venezuela would not be a particular model. If that is the lesson that President Zelaya has learned from this episode, that would be a good lesson.”
With these words, US assistant secretary of state Philip Crowley betrayed his administration’s real position vis-à-vis the recent coup d’état in Honduras against the democratically-elected government of Manuel Zelaya.

While feeling obliged on the one hand to appeal to notions of ‘democracy’ and publicly state that they “don't recognise Roberto Micheletti as the president of Honduras… we recognise Manuel Zelaya” [Ian Kelly, US state department spokesperson], from the US administration’s perspective, the real subtext to the whole Honduran crisis is as follows: the political tide continues to turn in Latin America – this is a bad thing for US interests and prospects – it therefore must be arrested and stopped.

In the context of US economic, military and political influence being at an all-time low globally, what these mixed-messages reflect is simply a US administration that needs to project a less overtly imperialist and anti-democratic policy. Where, in times gone by, the US would have loudly proclaimed a coup, any coup, in Latin America as having been necessary to re-establish ‘democracy’ or resist the influence of ‘communist despotism’, given the times, the US is now somewhat constrained in what it can say and do. Given the extent of support that the deposed president Zelaya commands, the US has had no option but to publicly adopt a position that is supportive of his re-instatement.

To some, US ‘support’ for Zelaya is reflective of a change in policy towards Latin America that came with the ascent of Barack Obama to the office of president. This perception sees the US of today as a more benign force on the world stage. This is, however, to fundamentally misinterpret both the politics of Obama and the US system, and the wider predicament the US finds itself in.
éirígí made its position on Obama clear at the time of his election when the party said that, “there is nothing to suggest that Obama will address the inadequacies and crimes of the global system of ‘business for private profit through private control of banking, land and industry’ that the US stands at the head of. The poverty and politics of the US are essential by-products of the capitalist socio-economic model that reigns supreme in that country.”

In the realm of international relations, “Obama’s stance on foreign affairs clearly shows the way he envisages the US will interact on the world stage: his policies on Afghanistan and Iraq are essentially the same as those of the Republican ‘opposition’… his statements on Cuba during the election campaign clearly locate him in the realm of those annexationists who would wish to return Cuba to its former colonial state… His appointment of [the right-wing zionist] Rahm Israel Emanuel to the centrally important position of chief-of-staff is further indication of the approach that Obama will take in the realm of international relations.”

And why should it be otherwise? In the same article, it was stated how “it is a certainty that the US will continue for the foreseeable future on the course it has maintained for all of its modern history – that of being a capitalist and imperialist power. Barack Obama has never indicated that he intends to substantially change that direction. And this lack of substantive change will continue, to the detriment of the people of the US, of Iraq, of Afghanistan, of Cuba and beyond.” [http://www.eirigi.org/latest/latest151108.htmltest151108.html] To the “beyond” can now be added the name of Honduras.

If there was any real substance to the USA’s alleged support for Manuel Zelaya then, as the political commentator James Suggett notes, the Whitehouse would take substantive action where it really matters: “The US has cut off $18 million in economic aid to Honduras, but refuses to define the coup as a ‘coup’, which would obligate the US to cut off another $180 million. And, while the US claims to have cut off military aid, it continues to train Honduran military officers in the School of the Americas in Georgia, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).”

If there were any substance to the claim that the US didn’t support the coup it would heed Fidel Castro’s point that “the only correct thing to do at this point is to demand that the government of the United States ends its intervention, stops lending military support to the coup perpetrators and withdraws its Task Force from Honduras”.

Not only does the US refuse to ‘call a coup a coup’ and continue to train members of the same Honduran army, its activities in Colombia of late are also indicative of a deliberate heightening of tensions in the region.

In a recent article in Green Left Weekly, reporter Federico Fuentes wrote that “Colombia, which in March 2008 bombed Ecuadorian territory, has just opened the door to five new US military bases on its territory. This occurred just days after the US began to move out of its base in Ecuador, from which the government of President Rafael Correa expelled it.”

The escalation of tension also comes at a time when Colombia, having originally denounced the coup against Manuel Zelaya, has actively begun to fete the Honduran junta; according to an article published in the Cuban daily newspaper Granma, foreign minister for the dictatorship in Honduras Carlos López and an eight-member Honduran delegation met with Colombian president Álvaro Uribe in Bogotá in the last number of weeks.

In a separate but doubtlessly related incident, Venezuela has withdrawn its ambassador to Colombia and sent more troops and armoured vehicles to the border both countries share in a dispute ostensibly over claims that Venezuela is arming the FARC guerillas. However, as Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez attests, the real issue is that the US “wants to convert Colombia into the Israel of Latin America”.

According to Chávez, “the extreme right sectors continue to conspire… they were there in the White House and the OAS [Organization of American States] practically asking for Venezuela to be intervened in, that's what they want.” These developments coincide with a recent Israeli claim that there are members of the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah active in Venezuela with the knowledge of the Chávez government.

Be under no illusions. The situation in Latin America is precariously poised. There is no doubt that the hand of US imperialism lurks behind recent developments there. The possibility that the tensions that have been heightened and exacerbated by the coup in Honduras might erupt into open conflict and spill over into more widespread regional conflict is very real.

While military repression of trade unionists and members of the Honduran anti-coup National Front intensifies, opposition to the dictatorship is growing daily. Last week, the three principal trade unions in the country staged a hugely successful two-day general strike that brought the country to a standstill. President Zelaya is determined to return to the country and has set up base on the Nicaraguan side of the border. Zelaya has called for the establishment of a “popular, pacific army” to facilitate his return to power, stating that “we will begin with a training period. The best way is for five trainers to train 20.”

The New York Times reported at the weekend that Zelaya has thrown down an ultimatum to the effect that either the putschists “reverse the coup, or there will be generalized violence”.

In the same article, Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega is quoted as saying: “There is a danger that, to try to distract attention from the internal conflict they themselves created, they might organize a group of people with military training to attack a Honduran army position, for that to serve as a pretext for a retaliation against Nicaragua… we are not talking about an army that doesn't have a history of aggression against Nicaragua… But they shouldn't think they would have a cakewalk in Nicaragua.”Ortega concluded that Nicaragua “is preparing for war because we want peace”.

Further recognition of the escalating nature of the Honduran situation can be gleaned from Bolivian president Evo Morales’ linking of the coup to the furtherance of US interests with his unambiguous assertion that “this coup is a threat against the continued growth of ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas]”. Morales continued that a crisis in Honduras serves US interests because ALBA, of which Honduras is a member, “has defeated the proposal of the Free Trade Area of the Americas proposed by United States. The (ALBA) Trade Treaty for the Peoples will do the same with the United States’ Free Trade Treaty.”

There is a high likelihood that open conflict between the forces of progress and reaction will occur in Latin America. This will, in all probability, occur as a part of or as a precursor to new cycles of revolution, counter-revolution, and wider conflict globally. The growing pace of the division of nations and societies into political groupings representing different sectional and class interests is reflective of a wider and ever-deepening global economic crisis and polarisation between the forces of capitalism/imperialism and labour/internationalism.

As éirígí stated in a previous piece on the crisis: “The struggle on the streets of Honduras is, in its essence, a struggle between the past and the future, between the forces of reaction and progress, between the forces of capital and the rights and needs of people. The dignity of Latin America has been reclaimed by the hard work and struggle of the masses during the past decade. The maintenance of its dignity depends upon the overthrow of the putschists and the continuation of the project to build a Latin America based upon the principles of solidarity and co-operation.”

What you see in Honduras is another front in the battle for the heart and soul, and wealth of Latin America. It is a battle between the historical colonial rulers of that continent and its peoples, who have suffered under Spanish, US and indigenous collaborators’ jackboots for the last 600 years.

As recent events and developments demonstrate, it is a battle that the people of Honduras and Latin America are willing to fight. It is a battle that all democrats and socialists must be willing to fight also.

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