Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Response to "Obama and the Honduran Crisis"

Read the original article here.

I was in Honduras for two weeks immediately after Zelaya's removal and kept close watch on the country through my job both before and after the removal. I had close personal access to the best information about most of what was happening in the country at the time. I expected to get down there and see exactly what all the media stereotypes portrayed in the first few days' aftermath: lots of violence, rioting, repression, etc. I could not have been more mistaken, and it was the shock of my life, to be honest.

Things were so normal that you wouldn't believe it. The city was not on lock-down, and life as usual continued. Yes there was a curfew, but Hondurans I spoke to at great length were completely fine with this- it reduced criminal violence for the period it was in place, a nice respite from the heightening crescendo of delinquency during the Zelaya years. In fact, I saw very, very few military or police personnel anywhere on the streets, even in nicer areas where you'd expect them to be omnipresent to prevent problems for the privileged folks that supposedly all back Michelletti once he assumed the presidency.

And the country was not/is not on the verge of civil war, and anyone who says that is not spending enough time on the ground there AND is not owning up to the fact that Central America is no longer in the 1980s. And even if Honduras did somehow devolve into civil conflict, it would have nada to do with Zelaya- he's called for an insurrection how many times, and it hasn't happened yet, has it? That'e because they don't like Zelaya, he has few supporters, and he's a political has-been who Hondurans are perfectly content to have out of country and no longer directly involved in their domestic politics. They felt he was a national embarrassment- his cheap antics with Honduran melons, his whole-family photo ops with former Pres Bush, his naming of a 29-year old model as ambassador to Mexico, the cowboy hat and boots, the popular vernacular and outdated anti-imperialist catch phrases all marked Zelaya as an anachronism for the times, and Hondurans knew it. Add to that his total inconsistency in domestic and foreign policy, his total personal unpredictability, and other stunts that befuddled and embarrassed Hondurans all over. I'm not just talking about rich Hondurans- I traveled around and spoke to poor ones, too. The ones who allegedly all support Zelaya in some folk's antiguated view of polarized Latin America from the Cold War. The poor ones I did meet who liked Zelaya had really bizarre reasons for it: they thought Michelletti was an Arab, for example, and that as president he would allow Iran (?!) to take over Honduras, for instance. So I don't have a lot of faith in Zelaya supporters and if they're any reflection of the man himself, then he's truly poorly suited to lead anything, let alone a country.

There were protests, but for the most part they were all bluster. The protestors- nearly all of which were Zelayistas and a large number of which were paid to protest- did a lot of wrecking of private property and public infrastructure, but generally did not attack the military/police and the security forces, in turn, seldom had any reason to act against the protesters. Most of the pro-Zelaya camp were exceedingly lazy at protests and usually left after getting their free food, a benefit of showing up for demonstrations. I have videos of this as evidence. Thus there was no repression becuase there was no one to repress. I used to sit and watch the CNN and Fox reports moments after something happened in front of me, and they were almost invariably wrong and draped in more drama than actually occurred on the streets. Those military or police personnel who got out of hand were isolated and did not represent a state-sponsored strategy. I happen to know for a fact that military and police personnel who got out of hand during the July 5 riots at the airport and subsequent ones were held to account by the interim government. The military are not thugs, the military is not the government, the government is not using the military to keep order any more than Zelaya tried using it to suit his own personal agenda at various moments. In fact, though I know Michelletti is no saint, he's done a far more admirable job of using the military keep public order during the crisis than Zelaya did his entire time in office, during which crime spiralled out of control and security forces were generally used not to keep order but to promote aspects of Zelaya's personal agenda- like paying protesters to surge against the legislature building, then pay cops to storm in threatenign violence, then Zelaya would show up and resolve the "crisis" and seem like a hero- even though he had personally orchestrated it.

The police are not torturing people who they detain for being out after the curfew, and there are no vast and widespread violations of human rights. The police, actually, detain people out after the curfew, hold them over night (they are not arrested in the formal sense- so no permanent criminal record), and report detainees to the local human rights ombudsman so that records are kept for liability purposes, since they know they'll be shrilly accused of abuses, et al.

The US did not instigate a coup or back it, and had zilch to do with most of what happened in the country after the fact. In fact, I can personanly vouch for the fact that the US was just as surprised and confused as anyone else when Zelaya was removed from country. The US did not see a coup coming- and the US line to any Honduran who ever remotely hinted at removing Zelaya was that whatever was done by Honduras, was be done by Hondurans... But if they expected the US to even consider supporting them, it had to be done legally and constitutionally. Hondurans opposed to Zelaya in high levels of government seemed contact to leave it at that. The idea that the US has some sort of special control over Honduras is erroneous- that ended quite a while ago, and even at its height it was never as all-consuming as people think it was. The US does not have magical power over other countries, even poor and otherwise powerless ones like Honduras. The US does not have most of the power so frequently attributed to it on this site's articles or on any other site. Hondurans are perfectly capable of messing themselves up without CIA or Pentagon authorization or instigation. Hillary Clinton is not serving Chiquita Banana and while the buck does stop with Obama, Honduras isn't Obama's responsibility and, at any rate, he has his plate full with other pressing issues.


1 comment:

safariman said...

Thanks for posting an honest, and truthful response.