The Honduras coup leaders just don’t get Obama
Honduras’s interim government has sent a lobbying team to Washington to try to talk the Obama adminsitration out of its pledge to impose sanctions if ousted President Manuel Zelaya is not returned to power. I can’t help thinking they don’t quite understand the new U.S. president’s priorities: Appealing to free trade supporters, they hope to ...
Honduras's interim government has sent a lobbying team to Washington to try to talk the Obama adminsitration out of its pledge to impose sanctions if ousted President Manuel Zelaya is not returned to power. I can't help thinking they don't quite understand the new U.S. president's priorities:
Honduras’s interim government has sent a lobbying team to Washington to try to talk the Obama adminsitration out of its pledge to impose sanctions if ousted President Manuel Zelaya is not returned to power. I can’t help thinking they don’t quite understand the new U.S. president’s priorities:
Appealing to free trade supporters, they hope to nudge the Obama administration away from its threat to impose sanctions on the impoverished country, where export-assembly factories are dominated by U.S. firms and investors.
“I imagine there would be some reaction from them” to trade sanctions, Amilcar Bulnes, head of the Honduran Council of Private Business, said Monday.
Zelaya’s foes appear to hope President Barack Obama doesn’t have the time or energy for this battle when he has weightier problems like his push to reform the U.S. health care system and turn around the economy.
“Honduras is a small, poor country,” Bulnes said. “The world would look very bad if it takes out its wrath on this country.”
Obama has never been much of a free trader, particularly when it conflicts with a political principle, and as for looking like a bully, the U.S. position on this issue puts it on the same side as the OAS and the EU, neither of whom have recognized the new government. In fact, the U.S. would more likely be accused of meddling if it didn’t oppose the coup. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the U.S. cares more about it’s overall standing in the region (particularly with powerful regional players like Brazil) than it does about its relationship with Honduras.
This also seems ill advised:
Micheletti vowed not to back down – and implied that Washington is betraying a staunch ally, one that let its territory be used as a staging area for U.S.-backed Contra rebels battling Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government during the 1980s and more recently sent troops to Iraq.
Touting your country’s role in two of the most controversial Republican foreign policy ventures of the last quarter century is not really the best way to win over a Democratic president who (I’m just assuming with Nicaragua.) opposed both of them.
U.S. ambassador Hugo Llorens claims that the Obama administration had tried to talk the parliament and military out of the coup, but the interim government still seems genuinely shocked that the U.S. has not backed them up. Micheletti and co. may have assumed that when push came to shove, the U.S. was not going to stand up for Zelaya, a power-hungry, leftist who also happened to be backed by Hugo Chavez. They seem to have profoundly misjudged the degree to which the new administration values international public opinion over regime type.
Still, speaking of Sandinistas, I think Daniel Ortega may be pushing his luck.
YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Image
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
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