In a significant development in hemispheric relations, the Obama admininstration yesterday condemned the June 28 Honduras coup d’état more strongly than ever, announced the cutoff of additional millions in economic aid and declared it would not accept the legitimacy of elections under the auspices of the coup government.
In an interview shortly after his meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya pronounced the US decisions “a great step forward” for the Honduran popular resistance to the coup and a “positive message in favor of democracy.”
Following the State Department meeting, a US spokesperson announced the termination of “a broad range of assistance” to Honduras as a spur to encourage the return of President Zelaya and democratic processes to the country, which has been under repression for two months.
Zelaya told The Nation that the US would terminate multi-year Millennium Challenge grants in the range of $200 million, involving funds for roads, ports and infrastructure. Clinton chairs the Millennium Challenge corporation, which meets next week.
Asked if Clinton intended a message to the coup regime in Honduras, Zelaya responded forcefully that it was a “direct blow in the face of [Roberto] Micheletti” because “the golpistas‘ [coup organizers] plan was to negotiate with the candidates for an exit strategy so that they don’t have to pay for their crimes, and get away with their crimes after an election. When you don’t recognize the legitimacy of the elections, you are breaking up the plan of the golpistas.”
With these decisions, the Obama administration has made clear that it embraces the Latin American consensus that the coup was an illegitimate transfer of power. “Mexico, Central and Latin America already had taken a position on the elections. We were only missing the United States. Now in light of these statements, the entire continent is condemning these elections under the de facto regime,” Zelaya said.
When probed on the conditions when the sanctions might be lifted, Zelaya said only “when democracy is restored and President Zelaya returns.” He said he is “prepared to return independently of any US plans” in order to “protect the population.”
There will be “a permanent convulsion” and a “permanently ungovernable country” if he cannot return, and “that’s what everybody wants to avoid.” The social movements in Honduras “are not willing to go back to the way things were before,” he noted.
What the June 28 coup was able to prevent, for now, was an advisory referendum planned for three days later on whether there should be a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduras constitution, promoting greater participatory democracy. But the same coup also provoked the rise of a new social movement with its own dedicated members, martyrs and new memories.