When Is A Coup Not A Coup?

June 29, 2009

Supporters of President Zelaya gather outside the presidential palace 29 June 2009

Supporters of President Zelaya gather outside the presidential palace 29 June 2009

When is a coup not a coup? That’s the question raised by Washington’s mysterious reluctance to officially declare that the removal of Honduras’ democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya by the military does in fact constitute a coup d’etat.

Although Secretary of State Hilary Clinton did admit to reporters today that “We do think that this has evolved into a coup” – when it was pointed out to her that U.S. law forbids sending military aid to countries suffering such coups, she said that her government would not be complying.

According to Reuters, “She later said the United States was assessing the situation in Honduras and possible final outcomes before determining the next steps” and labelled the expulsion of Zelaya a series of “unfortunate events” while calling for “the full restoration of democratic order in Honduras” – with ot without the hapless president.

As far as Clinton is concerned, the priority is to restore “constitutional order.” As Zelaya was explicitly trying to change the constitution, that can only mean that she would rather see him permanently removed from the scene. Then we can all get back to being good little oligarchs again, sending the bananas and coffee flowing northwards again.

But the reality is that the Obama administration is acting illegally in not ending aid to Honduras while Zelaya remains out of office.  Washington continues to pursue its own regional aims, albeit via “regional allies.” As Clinton put it, “We haven’t laid out any demands that we’re insisting on, because we’re working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives, which are shared broadly.”

Not that “we haven’t laid out any demands because we have no right to demand anything of Honduras” but that we are demanding through proxies. This is a very traditional imperial stance, and is another indication that Washington is behind Zelaya’s removal.

Most governments in the region have in fact come out in support of Manuel Zelaya. The U.S., by refusing to admit even that he has been the victim of a military coup, stands isolated.

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