Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Honduras seems trapped in the past. Radio stations play aging hits from Mexican crooner Jose Jose and cumbia dance numbers from the mid-’80s. Women’s fashions are out-of-date and guards nestling big rifles guard beauty salons and pharmacies as they have for decades.
Politics are also mired in the past in this deeply conservative country of 7 million people. While elsewhere in Latin America a new generation of leftists has taken power, putting business leaders on the defensive to some extent and to varying degrees, Honduras’ business elite flexed its muscles when a leftist prsident hinted he wanted to extend presidential term limits.
For four months Honduras has been led by a de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, who took over after the army, Supreme Court and Congress together pulled a coup on elected President Manuel Zelaya, who was flown out of the country. Zelaya later sneaked back in to take asylum in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Repeated attempts at a negotiated settlement between the two have dissolved into bickering.
Micheletti has shown staying power — even after he was isolated on the global stage. That’s because he is backed by a secretive and relatively small group of business leaders that have long wielded political power in this Central American country, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid and on its biggest trade partner, the United States. The Honduran Documentation Center think tank has documented the control that a group of intermarried families has on the country’s banks, industries such as the maquiladora factories that make clothes to export to the U.S., coffee and banana and cattle production, and power generation. The book “The Powers that Be and the Political System,” by a group of researchers, argues that the business class has increased its influence over politics since Honduras returned to democracy 30 years after two decades of off-and-on military regimes. The book says each business group owns a media outlet that helps it maintain and transfer power from the “dinosaur” leaders to the next generations of “babysaurs.”
TEGUCIGALPA – When ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya made a symbolic (and brief) return to his homeland on Friday, what could have been a potentially dangerous situation turned out to be a show for live television — a far cry from the bloody coups of the past in Latin America.
Even as he walked toward the border in sight of Honduran security forces waiting to arrest him, Zelaya, in his trademark cowboy hat, took a call from CNN’s Spanish language channel and conducted a long interview with the broadcaster.
Barack Obama’s American admirers are not the only ones who compare former U.S. President John F. Kennedy to the current U.S. leader. Leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vociferous critic of the United States, also invokes the charismatic late president when he talks about Obama, who, like Kennedy 48 years earlier, was a young senator when he was elected to the White House.
Chavez brought up Kennedy again this week, as he railed against Washington over the coup in Honduras, which many observers have called an unwelcome reminder of the ousters of Latin American leftists during the Cold War — waged partly under Kennedy.
from Tales from the Trail:
Deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya got his strongest endorsement yet from President Barack Obama on Tuesday as the exiled leftist leader returned to Washington to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The United States has joined Latin America in unanimously condemning the military coup in the banana-producing country that ran Zelaya out of town in his pajamas ten days ago.
But Washington has been reluctant to slap sanctions on Honduras and cut off U.S. aid. Instead it is cautiously looking for a negotiated and peaceful resolution to a crisis that looks like a win-win situation for the United States' main adversary in the hemisphere, Venezuela's leftist leader Hugo Chavez.
Zelaya, a wealthy rancher who turned left in office and signed on to Chavez's growing anti-U.S. coalition, is hardly the best poster boy for democracy. His moves to follow Chavez's example and extend presidential term limits in Honduras sparked the political crisis in which the Honduran Supreme Court, with the backing of Congress, ordered the army to oust the president.
After years of U.S. neglect of Latin America during the Bush administration, Obama is trying to improve relations with the region and cannot afford to be on the wrong side of a crisis that many Latin Americans see as a flashback to a dark era of military dictatorships supported by the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.
The interim government, led by Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti, argue that Zelaya’s ouster was legal as it was ordered by the Supreme Court after the president had tried to extend his four-year term in office illegally.
They say he was acting unconstitutionally and had to be removed.
The rest of the world seems to disagree. From U.S. President Barack Obama to arch-U.S. rival Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, world leaders have condemned Zelaya’s removal and used the term “coup.”
In the days before the coup, opposition leaders said they planned to impeach Zelaya over his plan to hold an unofficial public survey to gauge support for letting presidents run for re-election beyond the current one four-year term. They said a congressional committee set up to investigate Zelaya found he had violated the Central American nation’s laws and would ask Congress to declare him unfit to rule.
Does one unconstitutional act justify another? In a democracy, is it ever justified for soldiers to seize a president and spirit him out of the country? Does the fact that Congress quickly elected a successor, who will serve only until presidential elections in November, make any difference?