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    Where the Coup in Honduras Could Lead

    By Manuel Yepe*

    A CubaNews translation by Mercedes Rosa Diaz.
    Edited by Walter Lippmann.

    The events unleashed by the coup ousting Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya have yet to produce a clear outcome; nevertheless, the event is teaching the people of Latin America some important lessons about how old issues will be handled in these new times.

    Latin Americans and residents of the Caribbean listened in horror that last Sunday in June as they received news that signaled the real possibility of a return to a past of oppression and repression that they had intended to bury.

    Their fear drew on the memories of those unfortunate times during which the armies of the continent were merely the custodians of the imperialist interests of the United States, watching as local governments played the game of “representative democracy,” and adjusting their political stances to conform with the norms and limitations imposed by the local oligarchies. If one of them surpassed his limits or broke the rules, the fig leaf would be ripped away and the military would rise to power.

    Throughout the 20th century, the bloody (more or less) coup was the remedy of choice for toppling national governments which tried to get out from under the subordination of the oligarchies. It also helped bring to power some of the most repudiated dictators, who soiled the histories of practically every country in Latin America and the Caribbean. A common characteristic of all the coups on the continent is that they had been ordered, organized and/or authorized by Washington.

    What is novel about the coup in Honduras is that it has taken place during a period of new correlations of political forces in Latin America and the Caribbean that have been developing over the past half-century. In addition is the fact that there is a president in the White House with singular characteristics, who is embroiled in covert and overt activities with all camps.

    Some political analysts are already describing Honduras as a dress rehearsal for a new type of coup, one designed to respond to the new forms of struggle in the region, where leftist leaders who are freely elected defy the status quo and resist complying with those limits allowed by their democracies.

    Just as the coup in Honduras itself caused consternation, the Honduran peoples’ support for president Zelaya, and the massive resistance against the coup, with its integrated social organizations grounded in an enormous grass-roots campaign, has surprised many specialists.

    From the first moment, in Honduras, the region and the world, speculation swirled about what attitude the government of the United States would assume, considering that it was the principal suspect of having instigated the coup in the first place, given its past history of sponsoring criminal military coups on the continent.

    Only this time, the hopes sown by brand-new president Barack Obama, who campaigned on a policy of change very different from his unfortunate predecessor, promised the possibility of a different proclamation from the United States.

    But as events have unfolded, contradictions have arisen regarding the actions of the U.S. government that lead more than a few scholars of international relations to believe that the intentions of the coup did not exclude neoconservative objectives hostile to Obama.

    Those who maintained—in fairness to the presumption of innocence—that negotiations had to take place with coup leaders, seemed content that this time the United States did not force regional consensus or coerce its closest allies to distance themselves from the will of the majority, as was its usual custom. This attitude is what has allowed regional unity to flourish in the first place.

    But before long, Washington’s act hinted at discordant manipulation that would leave its president in a sad place indeed.

    Obama’s discourse seemed definitive when he announced that the coup was illegal and that democratically-elected José Manuel Zelaya would remain the only president. He also acknowledged that “it would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition, rather than democratic elections.”

    Nevertheless, two weeks after that announcement, and even more forceful ones supporting the return of Zelaya to the presidency, the United States still has not even withdrawn its ambassador to Honduras, as all the other countries in the continent have done. Although the de facto government has made it clear that it only counts on the support and acknowledgement of Israel and Taiwan, it is clear that the military base in Palmerola, infamous for its role in the “dirty war” against Nicaragua during the first Sandinista government, and where there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, is the command center for the coup. Along with the hundreds of military advisers who occupy official positions, Washington controls the situation in Honduras.

    Fidel Castro, the most accredited revolutionary leader on the continent, has prophesied that if president Zelaya is not returned to his office, a wave of coups will be unleashed to sweep away many governments in Latin America. This would weaken the authority of many civil governments in Central and South America, and coup leaders would disregard the civil government of the United States.

    If this were to happen, the unrestrained revolution that simmers in the bowels of the continent would not be able to be contained. Given the subjective and concrete conditions that shaped the region’s development, the option for peaceful change would go up in smoke. There would be no alternative but to follow the path of insurrection and armed conflict, like the one that liberated Cuba 50 years ago. Only this time, it would be on the scale of many unified, experienced countries that won’t relinquish the modest democratic gains of the recent past, and who refuse to return to the violence of tyrannical regimes and new operations like “Condor.”

    *Manuel E. Yepe Menéndez is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba’s ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.

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