Here's something I wrote several days ago trying to get out in a slightly different form in the press. The real original was much longer, and the publishable version is much shorter.
On June 28th, the entire hemisphere suffered a blow to democracy with the military ouster of the constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya. Since then, business groups behind the coup have waged an all-out PR war in Washington, in an attempt—to quote the U.S.president—to "put lipstick on a pig." For the stability of the entire region, we must examine the lies being advanced to justify not just a coup d’etat, but well-documented systematic violations of human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement by the de facto Honduran regime.
Lie #1: Zelaya was removed for orchestrating a power grab
Zelaya never expressed an intent to remain in power, and not a single action he had taken could have led to that outcome. The basis for this claim was a poll he had proposed, akin to a Gallup poll; this poll would have served as a non-binding recommendation to the National Congress, which would then have decided if it should allow Hondurans to vote in the general November election on the issue of whether a citizen assembly should be convened to examine the constitution, after Zelaya’s term as president had finished.
Lie #2: Zelaya’s removal and the institution of the de facto government were constitutional
Nowhere in the Honduran constitution does it say that a president may be removed. The constitution specifically states that no Honduran citizen (let alone a president) can be expelled from national territory. Arrest warrants are only legally permitted to be carried out by the civilian police, not the military. 25 legislators who opposed Zelaya’s ouster were not invited to the special Sunday session of Congress on June 28th in which the “interim president” was “unanimously” voted in. If the legal case against Zelaya was so strong, why was he denied due process?
Lie #3: Zelaya is a Chavez puppet
Zelaya is aligned with the majority of Latin America in seeking to support a model of development that develops resources for the majority poor—not just for multinational corporations. In joining ALBA, an economic and political agreement with most other Latin American countries that emphasizes bringing people out of poverty, Zelaya showed his solidarity with the people of Honduras, who widely supported both this move and his agreement with Petrocaribe to supply much-needed low-cost fuel, an initiative that had been seriously considered by former presidents with far less friendly relations with Chavez. Zelaya’s positions, especially in the past year, have responded not to foreign interests, but to the desperate needs of the majority of Honduran people.
Lie #4: This is a struggle between Communism and Democracy
At no point did Zelaya propose anything resembling a communist political or economic system in Honduras, although he has expressed an affinity for democratic ideals enjoying the support of the vast majority of Hondurans. These include accessible education, healthcare, access to land and decent housing, and other measures that could be called socialist in the same way that U.S. fire and police departments can be called socialist. He recently raised the minimum wage, provoking the ire of the Honduran elite who have spent millions of dollars financing the coup and subsequent lobbying efforts to defend it. On the other hand, the coup government, which was born from a violent breach of the constitution, has remained in power through military force, targeted assassinations and disappearances overseen by 1980s death squad leaders, the violent suppression of all media not supporting the coup, the imposition of curfews and the terrorizing of the overwhelming majority of the population that opposes it. If anything, in terms of political systems, the current situation is a battle between a weak but improving electoral democracy and fascism.
Lie #5: Zelaya instituted “mob rule”
A profoundly classist argument, this refers to support Zelaya has received from the poor majority, whose strength lies in their numbers rather than military force or control of ideological institutions (e.g., media and established religion), which are entirely controlled by the coup government. This “ruling mob” is merely the public that the Honduran elite has despised for so long.
Lie #6: This is a battle between Zelaya and “interim president” Micheletti
For many of the hundreds of thousands of Hondurans who have risked their lives in recent weeks to fight for democracy and human rights, Zelaya is beside the point. Many of them are not even Zelaya supporters. They are protesting the takeover and militarization of their country by a small group of wealthy elites, bent on preventing them from participating in a geniune democratic process. The situation in Honduras today is not a power struggle between two Honduran strongmen; it is a class war declared on the poor by the wealthy. The latter owns all the media, all the weapons, and all the institutions of government, including the public funds being depleted to fund the violent suppression of the people.
Lie #7: By threatening to return to Honduras, Zelaya is inviting a bloodbath
Zelaya was unconstitutionally removed from his post and his country. He has a legal and ethical right to return. If the threatened bloodbath were to occur, that blood would be on the hands of those who control all the guns, all the death squads, and all the institutions of violence: the coup government, and the coup government alone. The vast majority of the Honduran population is unarmed, fears the military with its history of violent repression, and dreads civil war. Blaming Zelaya for a future bloodbath for trying to restore democracy is an absurd case of blaming the victim for the brutal plans of the current regime.
Lie #8: Nothing’s going on here
The de facto regime repeatedly insists that everything is normal, democracy is healthy, and human rights are not being violated. To the contrary, independent human rights reports and citizen journalists have provided abundant proof that since the coup, numerous targeted assassinations of coup opponents and journalists have been carried out, as have dozens of instances of torture, military break-ins of private homes, and forced disappearances.
It is time for President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to take a firm stance against the violence being carried out in Honduras by individuals and institutions trained by the U.S. military both in Honduras and at the School of the Americas, by taking concrete measures required by U.S. law in the case of a coup: removing their ambassador, ending all military alliances, and cutting off trade. It is time that we, as Americans, demand they do so. If we accept the lies supporting the violent attack on Honduran democracy, we only weaken our own.