So former Honduran President Zelaya found a way to get back into the country, then hunkered down in the Brazilian embassy for safekeeping. I’m sure his remaining supporters are overwhelmed by this dramatic show of courage.
President Obama can’t be happy about this development. His Administration has taken a manifestly undemocratic position toward the situation in Honduras, as this blog has previously explored. Now, he’s gotten what half of what he said he wanted — Zelaya in the house, but not in power. As he has in all other moments requiring true leadership (CIA investigations; stimulus bills; annual budgets; Afghanistan strategies), President Obama has largely allowed others to take the lead.
But this debate has largely occurred off stage. Most Americans likely know nothing about the events in Honduras, and if they do, they have only heard the mainstream media’s uncritical recitation of the Obama line — it’s a military coup opposed by the United States. But the return of Zelaya to Honduras cannot help but place a spotlight on the details, and it may spark a true debate in this country about what our policy should be toward the Micheletti government. Why are we siding with Manuel Noriega, Hugo Chavez, and the Castro brothers? Why is this supposed military regime headed by the nation’s top legislator, and supported by all branches of its elected government? If the interim government fears democracy, why are they holding a new election this fall? And as I asked in a previous post, what should Honduras have done when Zelaya tried to override his nation’s constitution through a lawless referendum?
I’ll tell you what — exactly what it did do. In fact, Zelaya’s return provides an opportunity for the Micheletti government to correct its only error from its initial actions: to try Zelaya on charges of treason, which are specifically invoked by the Honduran constitution when a president attempts to extend his term of office. We should all pray that the situation remains calm and nonviolent. But I also hope that our President ends his impressively consistent track record of appeasement for dictators, aspiring and otherwise, and stands up for democracy and the rule of law in a nation that most might have assumed to be too poor to care.
In the meantime, I’ll be drinking Honduran coffee. A lot of it. You should, too.