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Obama Keeps a Campaign Promise!

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By Will Offensicht  |  July 9, 2009

With all that's going on in the world these days, it's easy to overlook the goings-on in one of the lesser republics on one of the less-important continents in the smaller hemisphere.  Current events in the nation of Honduras are worth a few moment's look, however, if only because they provide a shining gold star for Barack Obama: a campaign promise he successfully fulfilled exactly as advertised.

First, the story.  Manuel Zelaya, the recent President of Honduras, tried to violate the Honduran constitution by carrying out an illegal referendum which would have made it possible for him to remain in power after his four-year term ends.

Under Honduras' constitution, only Congress can call for a referendum, which they refused to do.  Mr. Zelaya ordered up ballot papers and demanded that the army distribute them.  The army refused; Mr. Zelaya fired the general in command.

The Supreme Court reinstated the general and ordered that the unauthorized ballot papers be seized.  Instead, Mr. Zelaya led a group of supporters in a mob attack on his own air force base, carried the ballots away by force, and prepared to hold the referendum against the law and the wishes of every other branch of government.

On the orders of the nation's constitutional court, the army arrested Mr. Zelaya for treason and expelled him from the country; Congress voted almost unanimously to install Mr. Micheletti in his place.

The Plot Thickens

Despite Mr. Zelaya's illegal behavior as confirmed by the Honduran Supreme Court, the Economist refers to the incident as an "old-fashioned coup."

To be fair to the Economist, Latin American armies generally do end up running the country after getting involved in politics.  This case, however, appears to be quite different in that the army acted directly in support of a court order.

No other nation has recognized the new President.  Mr. Obama, strongman Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations have urged that Mr. Zelaya be restored to office.

As the Economist puts it, "The only people who don't seem to want the president back in his job are Hondurans."  Mr. Zelaya "won Honduras's presidential election in 2005 as a law-and-order candidate for the mainstream Liberal Party only to alienate most of the country by allying himself with Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's leftist president."

The Economist explains that Mr. Zelaya has been linked to Mr. Chavez for some time:

Mr Zelaya's presidency has been marked by a rise in crime, corruption scandals and economic populism.  He pushed through big wage increases for teachers and government workers.  When money ran short, he turned to Mr Chavez for petrodollars.  Despite more than $100m in Venezuelan aid, the government has stopped paying some suppliers.

In opinion polls, Mr Zelaya's approval rating sank to 30%.  Mr Chavez is unpopular in a conservative country with close ties to the United States, its main trade partner.  Honduras's media are full of allegations of infiltration by communist agents and drug traffickers from Venezuela and Nicaragua.  But Mr Chavez's attempts to link the United States to the coup were undercut by Mr Zelaya himself.  In an interview with El Pais, a Spanish newspaper, hours before he was ousted, he thanked the United States for opposing the army's plans for a coup. [emphasis added]

The San Francisco Examiner points out that attempting to subvert the Honduran Constitution - which Honduras' Supreme Court ruled Mr. Zelaya to have done - is punishable by loss of Honduran citizenship, yet Mr. Obama defends Mr. Zelaya as if he'd been thrown out by an unjustified and unlawful army coup.

The Wall Street Journal didn't see the army as mounting a coup; they reported on July 6 that Mr. Zelaya's attempt to return to Honduras was frustrated when the army blocked the airport runway.  Their article "Honduras at the Tipping Point" placed much of the blame for the disorder on Mr. Obama's support of Mr. Chavez.  After reviewing Mr. Zelzyz's violations of Honduran law, the WSJ said:

Mr. Chavez is demanding that Mr. Zelaya be reinstated and is even threatening to overthrow the new Honduran president, Roberto Micheletti.  He's leading the charge from the Organization of American States (OAS).  The United Nations and the Obama administration are falling in line.

Is this insane?  You bet.  We have fallen through the looking glass and it's time to review how hemispheric relations came to such a sad state.  [emphasis added]

After reviewing the corrupted electoral process by which Mr. Chavez became the effective dictator of Venezuela and pointing out that the United States had endorsed the results even though it was impossible to audit the election, the WSJ explained what Mr. Chavez's illegal seizure of power meant for Honduras and other countries in Latin America:

Predictably, Washington's endorsement of the flawed electoral process was a green light.  Mr. Chavez grew more aggressive, emboldened by his "legitimate" status.  He set about using his oil money to destabilize the Bolivian and Ecuadorean democracies and to help Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Argentina's Cristina Kirchner get elected.  Soviet-backed Fidel Castro was able to intimidate his neighbors in the 1960s and '70s, and Mr. Chavez has done the same thing in the new millennium.  This has given him vast power at the OAS.

Hondurans had the courage to push back.  Now Chavez-supported agitators are trying to stir up violence.  Yesterday afternoon airline service was suspended in Tegucigalpa when Mr. Zelaya tried to return to the country and his plane was not permitted to land.  There were reports of violence between his backers and troops.  [emphasis added]

This is a moment when the U.S. ought to be on the side of the rule of law, which the Honduran court and Congress upheld.  If Washington does not reverse course, it will be one more act of appeasement toward an ambitious and increasingly dangerous dictator.

Mr. Obama supported the Iranian establishment despite their conducting a blatantly rigged election.  During our recent Presidential campaign, we observed that Mr. Obama seemed to be taking Chicago-style politics nationwide and pointed out that he got his start in politics with a group of "community organizers" whose core competence seems to be padding the voting lists with ineligible voters.

It seems that Mr. Obama doesn't mind fraudulent elections.  It's no surprise, therefore, that he'd be slow to criticize vote-stealing ayatollahs who shoot protesting students in the streets, but why criticize Hondurans for removing their President after following due process as defined in Honduran law?

Mr. Obama's Campaign Promise

This brings us to the campaign promise.  Back when he was running for President, Mr. Obama said that he planned to sit down with various dictators and tyrants for unconditional talks. Here's the transcript of the relevant debate:

COOPER: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would.

Tom Hayden, ex-husband of "Hanoi Jane" Fonda, reports that Mr. Obama has done just that:

According to eyewitness sources, under the apparently blind eye of the global media, the two leaders had lengthy conversations. The media covered the friendly photo of the initial handshake between the two leaders, then made much ado about an apparently-impertinent Chavez handing Obama a book in Spanish by Eduardo Galleano.

What has not been reported is that Obama, leaving his advisers behind, held lengthy private conversations with Chavez where only an interpreter was present.  It is not known what occurred in the secret talks.  [emphasis added]

Now we have it.  Mr. Obama engaged in secret talks and perhaps even cut some sort of deal with Mr. Chavez, the man who destroyed democracy in Venezuela and has been doing his best to destabilize the rest of Latin America.

Let's review: Both the Wall Street Journal and the Economist report that Mr. Zelaya, then President of Honduras and a Chavez ally, had his ballots printed in Venezuela and tried to hold an illegal referendum.  The Supreme Court ordered the army to seize the ballots; Mr. Zelaya and his supporters stole the ballots and attempt to hold the referendum in defiance of the Supreme Court.  As a result, the Court, supported by Congress and the majority of Hondurans, ordered the army to arrest Mr. Zelaya.

That should make a pretty good case for America to support the Honduran people and encourage Hondurans to uphold their laws as they've done, but no, Mr. Obama supports a Chavez ally who attempted to fiddle the election system to get an extra term in office just as Mr. Chavez did in Venezuela.

Mr. Obama doesn't seen to mind electoral fraud so long as it works out OK for him or for his allies.  Having watched our last election, that's a change we can certainly believe in, but we didn't expect him to take Chicago politics international.  We hope that the Hondurans will continue to push back against Mr. Chavez - and against Mr. Obama as well.

Things have come to a pretty pass when conservatives, who usually support our nation's foreign policy, find themselves supporting the citizens of a foreign country instead.  We find ourselves supporting the citizens of Honduras who don't want their corrupt president back against our foreign policy establishment which wants him back in office.

We're used to seeing liberals oppose the foreign policy that comes out of the White House as in "no blood for oil," " US out of Viet Nam," but our being adamantly opposed to our own foreign policy is quite exotic and uncomfortable.  Let's hope we need not get used to it.

But hey, score one for promises kept!