Many conservatives see President Obama as siding with Ch·vez and Castro in the Honduras crisis. And while he might not have consciously taken their side, his response certainly played into their hands.
On June 28, the Congress and Supreme Court of Honduras, with the assistance of the Honduran Armed Forces, physically removed President Manuel Zelaya from his residence and expelled him from the country. In a matter of hours, a new Honduran government was sworn in. The new government stated President Zelayas removal from office was the result of legal orders issued by its supreme court. It promises, unlike Zelaya, to abide by the Constitution, move ahead with national elections, and respect basic rights and liberties. The underlying fear that Zelaya was following the path of Cuba and Venezuela into the ranks of unfree nations was pervasive among those who deposed Zelaya.
This removal of President Zelaya came after an intense institutional crisis. Ex-President Zelaya, with the support of Hugo Chavez, Fidel and Raul Castro and Daniel Ortega, had deliberately pushed Honduras to the brink of civil war by his efforts to hold a referendum on changing the Honduran constitution. And yet on the way to the train wreck which the Administration surely saw coming, no voices were raised in public protest, no official statements of concern issued. The sad reality is that the Obama Administration allowed the situation in Honduras, its first real crisis in Latin America, to spin out of control, and then reacted poorly once it erupted.
The Obama Administrations response to the removal of Zelaya has been to follow the lead of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), who both issued resolutions condemning the removal of Zelaya and demanding his return. Instead of leading the multilateral efforts and seeking to reduce conflict, the role the United States usually plays in international disputes in the Western hemisphere, the Administration was more concerned about trying to teach Honduras and its new government a lesson about the Inter-American Democratic charter. While defending the right of Zelaya to return Honduras and the presidency, it ignored the strong public sentiment against Zelaya and his efforts to destroy the system of checks and balances that are fundamental to the Honduran constitution. As it called for Zelayas return, a position demanded by Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro and other non-democrats, the Obama Administration failed to explain how it intends to help protect Latin America from Chavista subversion and the slow strangulation of individual freedoms and liberty.
Following Honduras withdrawal from the OAS and the failure of Zelaya to return home on July 5, the situation in Honduras begs an active diplomacy by the Obama Administration that will tackle the underlying issues, promotes peace and conflict resolution, and preserve the constitutional balances necessary to govern a fractured nation.