[News] Are Republicans Breaking US Law in Honduras?

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Wed Oct 7 11:41:05 EDT 2009


http://www.counterpunch.org/

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 it’s 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 Obama’s 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 week’s trip by 
Senators Jim DeMint (R- South Carolina), Aaron 
Schock (R-Illinois), Peter Roskam (R-Illinois), 
and Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado); and Monday’s 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 didn’t know about 
Obama’s policy of not meeting with Micheletti? No.

Mack’s report from his trip, for example, reads: 
“After ending the luncheon, the Ambassador 
re-emphasized the Obama Administration’s 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 DeMint’s 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 
hasn’t 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 Zelaya’s 
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 Obama’s hesitation has only girded 
Micheletti’s 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 Micheletti’s soldiers.

That hasn’t 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 military’s 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 here’s 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 there’s 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




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