[News] A Coup in Honduras ... So Twentieth Century!

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 15 12:21:45 EST 2010

January 15-17, 2010

Magical Realism

A Coup in Honduras ... So Twentieth Century!


“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a 
country go Communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.”

-– Henry Kissinger, June 26, 1970

“I’ve heard many in this room say that they will 
not recognize the elections in Honduras. 
does that mean in the real world, not in the world of magical realism?”

-- W. Lewis Amselem, US Representative to the 
Organization of American States, Nov. 11, 2009

For US magical realists, a coup becomes a coup 
after Washington defines it as such. On March 10, 
1952 Cuban General Fulgencio Batista grabbed 
power and sought to legitimize his coup by 
holding fake elections. Magically, the coup 
makers won; Washington recognized Batista.

In 1964, Brazil’s military removed President João 
Goulart and covered naked crime with electoral 
fig leaves, as if coups came with routine republicanism.

In 2009, few imagined military goons taking 
orders from a corrupt supreme court, kidnapping a 
President and exiling him to Costa Rica. Fewer 
imagined Costa Rican President Oscar Arias 
cooperating with kidnappers, and instead of 
charging them with major felonies, allowed them 
free return in their military plane. More 21st 
Century Magical Realism surfaced when Arias 
evolved from collaborator to mediator – with US and OAS blessing.

Washington could have frozen the plotters’ 
assets, or denounced the coup-supporting Honduran 
congressional hooligans for producing a fake 
resignation letter by President Manuel Zelaya, 
one he had not signed and with the wrong date.

In stead of the State Department labeling the 
blatant heist a coup, officials “studied” the 
absurd allegation that Zelaya had violated 
Honduras’ Constitution by calling for a 
referendum (consultation) with his people -- to 
see if they wanted to change the document. 
Indeed, a 2009 State Department human rights 
report had labeled as corrupt the very Supreme 
Court that ordered Zelaya arrested – but not kidnapped and exiled.

By November, the thugs had repressed opposition 
media, killed, tortured and beaten protesters. 
Then, the conditions were ready for the plotters 
to hold “elections.” 50% or less voted for 
candidates that reflected none of Zelaya’s 
programs. Despite charges of fraud and 
irregularities, Washington recognized the process 
and beseeched the world to forget Honduras’ 
disagreeable past: five months of a nation’s upset stomach?

With US support, President “Whatshisname,” a 
member of the worried crème de la crème, moved 
the former Banana Republic now riddled with 
maquiladoras, back into “the community of 
nations” – with objection from dozens of member countries.

“Hey,” said a reporter in Tegucigalpa, “the 
election was as legitimate as the Afghanistan 
farce.” Success took longer than its plotters 
desired, but official Washington defined last 
year as ancient history. The kidnapping of 
Zelaya­for offering legal steps to reform -- and 
subsequent death squad murders, well, “let auld acquaintance be forgot

The dozen oligarchic families have owned the 
country for decades. They learned from their 
experiences with the quixotic Zelaya’s 
“disobedience” not to delegate political control 
to even wealthy allies. The hotsy totsy class has 
now pushed family members to “win” congressional 
seats and “serve” on the court.

Hondurans’ Cro Magnon elite replaced Zelaya 
because, like many illegitimate entities, they 
grew concerned that their victims, the majority 
of Honduras, would mobilize and change the 
constitution: the foundation that protected them 
against structural change. Zelaya’s proposed 
non-binding referendum threatened their minority rule.

A new Constitution would allow the majority to 
replace the Cold War system.  From the late 1940s 
on, Washington trained local militaries to use 
anti-Communism as the pretext to repress 
movements advocating policies opposed by large US 
investors and local aristocracies. 
Counterinsurgency from the 1960s through the 
1980s became the era of military dictatorships -- with republican façades.

Utopians believed Obama’s ascension would bring 
change: the President would respect even 
elections that didn’t turn out as desired, one 
that had prevailed for centuries when Latin 
Americans elected the “wrong” presidents.  “I 
don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a 
country go communist due to the irresponsibility 
of its own people. The issues are much too 
important for the Chilean voters to be left to 
decide for themselves,” said Secretary of State 
Henry Kissinger, justifying support for the 1973 coup in Chile.

Thirty six years later, at the Trinidad summit, 
President Obama eschewed such crudeness. The rule 
of law went hand in hand with its globalization policies. Coups upset business.

So why did the ruling elite and its military 
stage a coup and ultimately get Washington’s blessing?

Because they thought they could get away with it. 
And they did. The old policy, favoring large 
corporations and banks, prevailed. After all, 
Obama’s first acts were bailing out big banks and 
auto companies. So, thanks to amnesia (was there 
a coup there?), Honduras is again safe – 
temporarily – for Chiquita Banana, US banks and local aristocrats.

PART 2 next week.

Saul Landau has written for Counterpunch for 
years. Counterpunch published his 

Nelson Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico

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