[News] Are Republicans Breaking US Law in Honduras?
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 7 11:41:05 EDT 2009
October 7, 2009
GOP Delegation Violates the Logan Act
Are Republicans Breaking US Law in Honduras?
By BRENDAN COONEY
As if the right needed to add to its
anti-democratic pedigree, Republican leaders have
flocked to Tegucigalpa to bolster the junta in Honduras.
Nine Congressional Republicans including seven
in the past week as the crisis heats up -- have
now met with Roberto Micheletti, who took power after a military coup June 28.
This is a coup that has been denounced by
everyone from the Organization of American States
to the United Nations, which passed a resolution
calling categorically on all states to recognise
no government other than that of the elected
president, Manuel Zelaya. No state has recognized Micheletti as president.
But U.S. Republicans have.
He is the president of Honduras, said Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Monday.
Some people tell me 'de facto' government, but
under the Constitution of the Republic I am
seated here with the president of this country and its a great honor.
Leading us further down the rabbit hole is South
Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, a member of the
Foreign Relations committee, who visited
Micheletti and his backers Oct. 2: We saw a
government working hard to follow the rule of
law, uphold its constitution, and to protect
democracy for the people of Honduras.
Consistent with every other country, from
Venezuela on the left to Colombia on the right,
U.S. President Barack Obamas policy has been to
not recognize or meet with Micheletti.
Since contact with Micheletti is in direct
conflict with stated U.S. interests, these nine
Republicans, as well as Senate Minority Leader
Mitch McConnell, who has aided them, seem to have
broken U.S. law. The Logan Act says that anyone
who without government authorization directly or
indirectly commences or carries on any
correspondence or intercourse with any foreign
government or any officer or agent thereof, with
intent to influence the measures or conduct of
any foreign government or of any officer or agent
thereof, in relation to any disputes or
controversies with the United States, or to
defeat the measures of the United States, shall
be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
Tomas Ayuso, a research fellow at the Council on
Hemispheric affairs who spent the summer
reporting on the crisis from Tegucigalpa, agrees.
The members of Congress meeting with Micheletti
are in violation of the Logan Act, he said.
There have been three Republican trips to
Honduras to meet with Micheletti: a July trip by
House members Connie Mack (R-Florida) and Brian
Bilbray (R-California); last weeks trip by
Senators Jim DeMint (R- South Carolina), Aaron
Schock (R-Illinois), Peter Roskam (R-Illinois),
and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado); and Mondays visit
by House members Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida),
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Florida), and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida).
Though ignorance of the law is no defense, could
it be that our representatives didnt know about
Obamas policy of not meeting with Micheletti? No.
Macks report from his trip, for example, reads:
After ending the luncheon, the Ambassador
re-emphasized the Obama Administrations policy
of no contact with Honduran President Micheletti.
Congressman Mack nonetheless demanded that all
sides should have their arguments heard, and
therefore insisted on the meeting.
How is that not a violation of the Logan Act?
Incidentally, Mack has called the Organization of
American States dangerous for supporting Zelaya
an elected leader and not Micheletti a coup
leader. By that logic, he finds every country in the world dangerous.
That Republicans would wage battle against
democracy comes as no surprise. But how Democrats
let them get away with sabotaging the stated
interests of the United States is another matter.
Sen. John Kerry, who chairs the Foreign Relations
Committee, tried to stop DeMints trip to
Honduras, but when DeMint appealed to McConnell,
he wound up riding to Honduras in a Pentagon
airplane. How could Obama not have known that his
own Defense Department was thwarting him? Why
hasnt the airplane matter been investigated?
Obama has been disturbingly blasé about the coup,
perhaps because Zelaya had become a critic of the
United States in the vein of Chavez. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton even called Zelayas
attempted return reckless. But Obama now has
begun rescinding visas for backers of Micheletti,
and he has cut off $30 million in aid to Honduras.
These moves come more than two months after the
coup, and Obamas hesitation has only girded
Michelettis will. [U.S. officials] are doing
these piecemeal steps to see how the de facto
regime responds, said Vicki Gass of the
Washington Office on Latin America, a human
rights group. And each time the de facto regime
remains intransigent, they up the ante, but it takes them way too long.
Opponents ousted democratically elected Manuel
Zelaya for trying to hold a referendum on
rewriting the constitution. They accuse him of
wanting to get rid of the single-term limit, a
charge he denies. In a pre-dawn raid, the
military seized a pajama-clad Zelaya and sent him
to Costa Rica. He snuck back into the country
Sept. 21 and has been holed up in the Brazilian
embassy, surrounded by Michelettis soldiers.
That hasnt stopped Republicans from arguing that
the United States should support a putsch that
even one of its leaders has admitted is illegal.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, the
Honduran militarys chief lawyer, Colonel
Herberth Bayardo Inestroza, acknowledged that it
was an illegal military-led coup: In the moment
that we took him out of the country, in the way
that he was taken out, there was a crime.
Inestroza justified the move by saying that
merely imprisoning Zelaya would have led to
bloodshed, because his supporters would have
demonstrated for his release. We know there was
a crime there, he said. [But] what was more
beneficial, remove this gentleman from Honduras
or present him to prosecutors and have a mob
assault and burn and destroy and for us to have
to shoot? If we had left him here, right now we
would be burying a pile of people.
As for the raft of U.S. Republicans backing the
coup (and refusing to call it a coup), their fear is something else: socialism.
This is about trying to stymie the Obama
administration's efforts in Latin America and the
Republicans obsession with Hugo Chavez and their
concern about his expanding influence in the
region, Dan Erikson, a senior associate at the
nonpartisan Inter-American Dialogue think tank in
Washington, told the Associated Press.
Whether or not the Republican trips are found to
be illegal, they are surely helping Micheletti
dig in his heels. The toxic soup is likely to
boil over after the Nov. 29 election, whose
results the United States and other countries
have said they will not recognize because of the
coup and crackdown on civil liberties.
Meanwhile Republicans blow on for freedom,
somehow keeping their faces straight. The way
out of this problem is to respect the free and
fair elections that the people of Honduras are
going to have," said Ros-Lehtinen, whose sterling
right-wing creds include cheerleading the U.S.
invasion of Iraq and telling Israel after it
bombed Syria: We are a better world because you did that.
I will tell my colleagues (U.S. Congressmen) to
come to Honduras, not to see the newspapers, CNN
or any media, to come here to meet with the
legitimate government to listen their aspiration
of living in peace and democracy, Ros-Lehtinen said.
This aspiration apparently includes shutting down
two media outlets, banning freedom of assembly,
and arresting over a thousand protesters. The
crackdown has killed eleven people, according to
the Committee for Families of the Disappeared and
Detainees in Honduras, or Cofadeh. On Sept. 30,
Micheletti rounded up the 55 farmers who had
occupied the National Agrarian Institute to
protest the coup, and a judge ordered 38 of them
to be held on charges of sedition.
Joining Ros-Lehtinen in her Oct. 5 visit was Rep.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart and his younger brother, Rep.
Mario Diaz-Balart. All three are Cuban exiles
long driven by opposition to Fidel Castro. The
Diaz-Balarts are sons of Rafael Diaz-Balart,
minister of the interior under the U.S.-backed
Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, overthrown by
another coup leader, Castro, in 1959.
The anti-democratic instincts of the right are
not limited to politicians with such a personal kite in the sky.
The Wall Street Journal gave a platform to
Micheletti on its op-ed page, on which amid all
the rationalizations for the coup, he writes,
Regarding the decision to expel Mr. Zelaya from
the country the evening of June 28 without a
trial, reasonable people can believe the
situation could have been handled differently.
And heres how the fair-and-balanced Journal
editors sugarcoat Micheletti: Mr. Micheletti,
previously the president of the Honduran
Congress, became president of Honduras upon the
departure of Manuel Zelaya. He is a member of the
Liberal Party, the same party as Mr. Zelaya.
Departure? The only departure here is from the
world of reason, in which we can call a military
seizure of a president a coup and not an act of
freedom, and see it as something that needs to be
resisted by other governments before theres a lot more blood spilled.
Brendan Cooney is an anthropologist living in New
York City. He can be reached at:
<mailto:itmighthavehappened at yahoo.com>itmighthavehappened at yahoo.com
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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