Honduras crisis ending with a whimper

Honduras crisis ending with a whimper

If all goes according to plan this weekend, the Honduran leaders who ousted President Manuel Zelaya in the face of nearly unanimous international opposition, will hand power to a new government:

The months of turmoil as Zelaya pressed for his reinstatement, the negotiation and U.S. shuttle diplomacy are about to be overtaken by business as usual — Honduran style.

Even many of the poor who supported Zelaya as he aligned himself with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Latin America’s new left say they will vote for conservative front-runner Porfirio Lobo, a 61-year-old wealthy businessman who is ahead by double digits in the polls.

"I will vote for the one who can fix this and give us work right now, because those suffering are the poor," said Reina Gomez, 53, a single mother who washes clothes for a living and who supported Zelaya in 2005.

Time’s Tim Padgett writes that "the international community is poised to brand the vote illegitimate," but, with the possible exception of Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega, the outrage is likely to be pretty short lived. With a (somewhat) democratically elected leader back in power, most of the countries that condemned Zelaya’s removal (and got stuck in the position of advocating for the increasingly erratic leader) will likely quietly resume relations with Honduras’s new government after a cooling-off period. 

So what did we learn from all of this? Padgett says the affair shows "how little progress Central America has made since the coups, civil wars, and corruption of the past." This seems a little unfair. During the Cold War era, U.S. or Soviet backing allowed coup governments to simply remain in power, becoming military dictatorships. The international condemnation of the Honduran coup forced the government to quickly hold elections to hand off control to a more legitimate leader. This has been a consistent pattern in recent coups. 

If anything, the Honduras crisisis a demonstration that the United States and international organizations simply don’t have as much power to influence a country’s internal politics as they commonly assume.