June 30, 2009

Is the US behind the coup?

Richard Seymour, Morning Star Online.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya had been irritating the country's ruling class for some time with his support for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, and his calls for drug legalisation. But the attempt to maybe, pending a possible future referendum, democratise the system a little was a step too far.

Supposedly at the centre of the controversy is a referendum that had been scheduled for Sunday.

As writer and lawyer Eva Golinger points out, it would not have been a binding vote but "merely an opinion poll to determine whether or not a majority of Hondurans desire to eventually enter into a process to modify their constitution.

"Such an initiative has never taken place in the central American nation, which has a very limited constitution that allows minimal participation by the people of Honduras in their political processes," Golinger writes.

"The current constitution, written in 1982 during the height of the Reagan administration's dirty war in central America, was designed to ensure those in power, both economic and political, would retain it with little interference from the people."

Ah yes, the Reagan years, during which time Honduras was the base for CIA training of Nicaraguan death squads.

This was also the era during which US ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte was helping to flood the country with military aid so that Battalion 316 could murder and torture dissidents.

Says Golinger: "Zelaya, elected in November 2005 on the platform of Honduras' Liberal Party, had proposed the opinion poll be conducted to determine if a majority of citizens agreed that constitutional reform was necessary.

"He was backed by a majority of labour unions and social movements in the country. If the poll had occurred, depending on the results, a referendum would have been conducted during the upcoming elections in November to vote on convening a constitutional assembly.

"Nevertheless ... the poll was not binding by law. In fact, several days before the poll was to occur, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled it illegal, upon request by the Congress, both of which are led by anti-Zelaya majorities and members of the ultra-conservative party, National Party of Honduras (PNH)."

The Miami Herald, naturally enough, vocalised the propaganda of the would-be putschists a couple of days ago, namely their speculation that the aim might secretly be to try to remove the cap on presidential re-elections and thus have some sort of elected dictatorship just like that Chavez monster.

So, to forestall the possibility, the military has installed an unelected dictatorship. The White House is denying any involvement in the coup. Is it a plausible denial?

Back to Golinger. "Another major source of funding in Honduras is USAID, providing over $50 million annually for 'democracy promotion' programmes, which generally supports NGOs and political parties favourable to US interests, as has been the case in Venezuela, Bolivia and other nations in the region.

"The Pentagon also maintains a military base in Honduras in Soto Cano, equipped with approximately 500 troops and numerous air force combat planes and helicopters.

"Foreign Minister Rodas has stated that she has repeatedly tried to make contact with the US ambassador in Honduras Hugo Llorens, who has not responded to any of her calls thus far.

"The modus operandi of the coup makes clear that Washington is involved. Neither the Honduran military, which is majority trained by US forces, nor the political and economic elite, would act to oust a democratically elected president without the backing and support of the US government."

Well, I would say that if the behemoth just to the north has a military base in your country and funds your military and major pro-US parties, then you probably do have to get its permission before overthrowing the government.

The Honduran army will presumably now have a brief to deal with the protesters, the social movements, the labour organisations and everyone else who has been inconvenient in backing Zelaya and might now try to resist the coup. They're calling it a "bloodless" coup. For now.

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