Monday, July 6, 2009

Honduras and the US

Recent happenings in Honduras present the US, or rather the US managerial elite, with a problem.

In Honduras on Sunday, June 28, in the middle of the night, left-leaning president Manuel Zelaya was taken into custody by the Honduran military and spirited off to Coast Rica. The complaint was that he wanted to conduct a referendum to determine whether or not the Honduran people would like to have the opportunity, in the future, to vote on whether to change Honduras's constitution to allow a president to serve more than one term.

Here's the problem: Zelaya was a democratically elected president who was developing ties to other leftist leaders in Latin America. The people who got fed up and removed him are, to put it mildly, right-leaning members of the old oligarchical class, some of whom it would be fair to call fascists. And then there are the military leaders, some of whom were trained by the US at the School of the Americas in tactics specifically designed to squash exactly the kind of popular unrest we see in the wake of Zelaya's ouster.

So, which will it be: leftist democracy, or rightist dictatorship? Historically, the US has been more at ease with right-wing dictators like Batista (Cuba), Duvalier (Haiti), Pinochet (Chile), Somoza (Nicaragua), and others. Right next door to Honduras, in neighboring Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, from the 1950s through the 1980s, the US supported some of the worst human rights abusers in the history of humankind. And, for some time in the 1980s, the US essentially used Honduras as a base of operations for its war of terror against Nicaragua.

Conversely, the US has never been comfortable with leftist leaders such as Allende (Chile), Aristide (Haiti), Bishop (Grenada), Chávez (Venezuela), Morales (Bolivia), or Ortega (Nicaragua). Socialism, even in the relatively mild forms usually espoused in Latin America, makes us nervous: Give people health care? Give people free education through university? Give poor rural people land to work? Ensure workers the freedom to unionize and bargain for better working conditions? Limit the abuses of corporations like United Fruit? These kinds of goals don't mesh well with our national ideology of hyper-capitalism, hyper-individualism, and hyper-consumerism.

So what, if anything, will the Obama adminstration do about Honduras? So far, it's hard to tell. At this point I only hope that, for once, he can put the US on the side of right, rather than might.

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