The Dim-Post

June 30, 2009

The General in his Labyrinth

Filed under: general news — danylmc @ 7:35 am

The Economist reports on the coup in Honduras:

THE scene was reminiscent of many in the 20th century, when military coups against democratic governments were sadly common across much of Latin America. At dawn on Sunday June 28th a group of soldiers barged into the residence of Manuel Zelaya, Honduras’s president, disarmed his guards, dragged him to an air base and flew him to exile in San José, Costa Rica. The army silenced the state television station, cut electricity supplies and the bus services in the capital, Tegucigalpa, and sent tanks and planes to patrol the city. “I was brutally taken out of my house and kidnapped by hooded soldiers who pointed high-calibre rifles at me,” said Mr Zelaya. “But until the next elections, I will continue to be the president of Honduras. Only the people can remove me.”

The toppling of Mr Zelaya took the region by surprise. Honduras, although small, poor and ravaged by corruption and violent gangs, has seemed a more solid democracy than, for example, neighbouring Guatemala. Mr Zelaya, a Liberal, alienated the leaders of the country’s main political parties last year by joining the leftist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, an alliance led by Venezuela’s populist president, Hugo Chávez. Yet Mr Zelaya’s policies have been only mildly social-democratic, such as an increase in the minimum wage.

The cause of Mr Zelaya’s downfall was his attempt to emulate Mr Chávez by organising a referendum to call a constituent assembly. He seemed to hope that this would enable him to remain in power, perhaps by changing the constitution to allow him to stand for a second term in an election due in November. This embroiled Mr Zelaya in a conflict of powers. The Congress and the courts both rejected the referendum.

One of the nice things about the end of the cold war is that civil disputes like those in Honduras and Iran play themselves out more or less internally – if these events happened back in the 1970’s or early 80’s then the US and the USSR would pick sides (more or less arbitrarily) pour guns and money into these countries and let them tear themselves apart for a decade or so. Obviously an anti-democratic coup is not great, but such events are now universally condemned. Twentyfive years ago Reagan would have been praising the new dictator of Honduras as a ‘founding father’.

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12 Comments »

  1. I have not quite praised it but have blogged that it may not be totally unjustified.

    Comment by David Farrar — June 30, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  2. Since the Americans couldn’t use their own soldiers to fight throughout the cold war they had to use proxies.

    These proxies tended to be awful but they were up against genocidal communism.

    Comment by Simon — June 30, 2009 @ 1:52 pm

  3. Simon: “These proxies tended to be awful but they were up against genocidal communism.”

    You’re not serious, are you? Patrice Lumumba was a ‘genocidal communist’ and Mobutu was a better alternative? Salvador Allende was a ‘genocidal communist’ and Pinochet was a better alternative? Really?

    Comment by Eddie Clark — June 30, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  4. The one classic example of a ‘genocidal comnmunist’ leader was Pol Pot in Cambodia. And the US actually supported him, just because he hated the Viet Cong.

    Comment by kahikatea — June 30, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  5. The US supported plenty of scum (the Carter admin helped start a war in Afghanistan which much later gave us 9/11) but all communism leads to genocide.

    Comment by Simon — June 30, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  6. I believe, gentle Dim-Post readers, that this Simon is the same one who forthrightly contended to me, and enlarged upon his contention when challenged on its absurdity, that the Clark government was morally equivalent to the Khmer Rouge, since both were communism.

    I mean, I hate communism as much as the next guy, but honestly – there are shades of red, they’re not all blood-coloured.

    L

    Comment by Lew — June 30, 2009 @ 4:42 pm

  7. The US supported plenty of scum (the Carter admin helped start a war in Afghanistan which much later gave us 9/11) but all communism leads to genocide.

    Wow – you’ve really changed the way I look at my local public library . . .

    Comment by danylmc — June 30, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  8. Lew you are confusing me with someone else.

    Comment by Simon — June 30, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

  9. I suppose there is room for two rabidly anti-communistical Simons in the NZ blogosphere.

    L

    Comment by Lew — June 30, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

  10. I have not quite praised it but have blogged that it may not be totally unjustified.

    Zelaya was unpopular and (obviously) unpopular with the army, so the best way to get rid of him would have been via protests and general strikes. The problem with overthrowing the government by force is that it’s tough to ever hand power back to civlians, who might turn around and throw you in prison or execute you for treason – so it tends to be an irrevocibile step.

    Comment by danylmc — June 30, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

  11. I agree Danyl that is the problem – as seen in Fiji. However in this case both the Supreme Court and the Congress (unamiously) backed the removal of the President, and the military seem to have not assumed power but handed it over to the next in line for the Presidency.

    It may still turn to custard, but so far it comes as close to a “justified” coup as I have seen.

    Comment by David Farrar — June 30, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

  12. Danyl, if your local public library doesn’t have “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression”, it should.

    Comment by Ron — July 1, 2009 @ 2:03 am


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