HONDURAS: The Empire Strikes Back

Translated by Manuel Talens & Machetera


The Honduran crisis finally ended up on the dark side, through both the consolidation of the putschist regime and the institutionalization of illegitimate elections that will take place on November 29th. The White House has already declared that it will accept the election’s results as valid, in order to normalize democratic life and put an end to Micheletti’s “interim presidency”, a euphemism used since the first day by Washington to characterize the Honduran oligarchy’s coup d’état. This way, the gross violations of human rights and abuses of democratic freedoms that accompanied the electoral campaign will be condemned to oblivion. This painful outcome had been anticipated by several rightwing Republican politicians, who conditioned the ratification of Arturo Valenzuela’s appointment as Deputy Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs upon full recognition of an extremely anomalous electoral process that ought to be declared null and void from the outset. As the Argentinian newspaper Página/12 reported in its November 7th edition, South Carolina Republican senator Jim DeMint withdrew his veto of Valenzuela’s candidacy because — as he pointed out to the media — “Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Shannon have assured me that the U.S. will recognize the outcome of the Honduran elections regardless of whether Manuel Zelaya is reinstated.”

The significance of this resolution of the crisis goes far beyond Honduran politics: it marks the beginning of a new regressive stage, in which the United States returns to its traditional policy of supporting both military coups and authoritarian regimes sympathetic to imperial interests, as well as ratifying the hypocritical character and empty democratic rhetoric permanently enunciated by Washington. The lesson is worth learning: from now on, democracy will mean any regime that unconditionally submits itself to U.S. designs; on the contrary, if independence and self-determination are defended, a country will be considered authoritarian, populist or despotic. Uribe and Calderón are democratic, regardless of whether the former flagrantly violates human rights, has close relations with drug dealers and paramilitaries and unceasingly sabotages any possible peace agreements and the humanitarian prisoner exchanges needed for Colombia’s pacification; and regardless of the latter’s overnight dismissal of 46,000 electrical workers from the Compañía de Luz y Fuerza del Centro and his demented escalation of the militarization of Mexican political life.

On the other hand, Chávez, Correa and Morales are populist and authoritarian, dangerous for their neighbors, because they promote various social reforms and sow the seeds of discord in their respective countries. Here we see again the ancient and false conservative theory that considers class struggle not as a product of capitalism’s inherent social contradictions, but as the work of a perverse agent who, endowed with immense powers, introduces the virus of hate and conflict in societies that before its disastrous appearance were a paradigm of harmonious social relations.

Facing this painful backward movement of USAmerican foreign policy, many analysts and students of international reality consider that the victory of Honduran pro-coup factions shows the decline of USAmerican hegemony. On this basis, they end up clearing Barack Obama, supposedly because in spite of his efforts he was unable to guide the Honduran crisis toward a resolution compatible with democratic institutionalization. How sustainable is such an interpretation?

Two questions should be analyzed: on one hand, the progressive loss of U.S. hegemonic capacity on the region. On the other, the actual initiatives taken by the White House in face of the Honduran crisis. In the first instance, we must recognize that even if this superpower faces a decrease of both its control in the international system and its global economic gravitation, it is also true that this tendency doesn’t automatically manifest itself in Latin America and the Caribbean. Any hypothesis asserting that a relative global decline of the empire forces it to strongly cling to what its military strategists and diplomats consider its unquestionable backyard for territorial security would not be a bold one, but quite close to the truth. It is not by chance that this region was the target of the first foreign policy conceived by the young North American republic: the Monroe Doctrine. Therefore, an imperial global decline does not necessarily mean an equivalent deterioration of its capacity to control its traditional “area of influence.” There is no doubt that the prevalence that the United States used to have upon its neighbors south of the Río Bravo has weakened, but it is far from having disappeared. And this leads to the analysis of the second aspect stated above.

Did Obama act with all his will to solve the Honduran crisis according to the imperatives of democracy and human rights? Definitely not. His initiatives were hesitant as a result of the two lines of thought driving the formulation of its foreign policy. One of them is reactionary to the bone and deeply influenced by the necessities and strategies of the military-industrial complex, and finds its expression in Hillary Clinton, its better placed spokeswoman; the other — much more diffuse — would prefer to establish more respectful relationships with the countries of the area without abandoning past hegemony, bringing it more or less up to date: its main representative is Obama. The President was clearly overcome by his rivals in this conflict, as from the beginning they were able to impose their strategy on the Honduran crisis.

Does this interpretation validate the decline thesis? Not at all. But it is crystal clear that Obama has a barely marginal control over the USAmerican state apparatus. Therefore it would be more correct to say that it was the current occupant of the White House who could not choose any other direction, not the U.S. as an imperial power. In other words, once again we must distinguish between “permanent government” and “apparent government” of that country, the latter symbolized by its President. The problem is that the emptying of American democracy — a process that has been evolving throughout the last half century — leaves the presidential figure with very limited margins of autonomy to implement — even if he hypothetically wanted to - policies contrary to the permanent government’s interests: that disastrous framework of big oligopolies and its lobbies, armed forces, professional politicians and mass media that, as Gore Vidal said, has kidnapped USAmerican society.

In summary: the hegemonic decline hypothesis is refuted if one observes that, in spite of its weakness, Washington has managed to sign a treaty of military cooperation with Colombia that, as Fidel Castro reminded us a few days ago, amounts to a practical annexation of that South American country to the United States. That initiative is proof of the formidable capacity of pressure, dominance and control that the empire still has. It was the same capacity that permitted it to quickly remove the OAS General Secretary from the negotiating scene in Tegucigalpa (as his positions were completely unacceptable to the pro-coup factions) in order to substitute Oscar Arias, the old puppet of USAmerican politics. It’s this same capacity that has allowed it to maintain its criminal blockade of Cuba against all the forces arrayed against it, despite the fact that this policy was condemned by 187 of the 192 countries which make up the U.N. General Assembly and defended by only three: the United States, its client state, Israel, and the island of Palau (with 20,000 inhabitants) which according to the CIA is one of the U.S. Navy’s firing ranges in Micronesia. Or that which allows it to turn a deaf ear to the universal demand to pardon the five Cuban anti-terrorism fighters who are incarcerated under inhumane conditions in the United States thanks to a scandalous mockery of due process; or maintain its infamous prison, violating all human rights, at the Naval Base in Guantánamo.

If Obama had demonstrated the same determination to demand the immediate restoration of Zelaya to the presidency, the story would have been different. And he had the instruments at hand to do it: he could have decreed a temporary blocking of remittances from Honduran immigrants in the United States; or instructed U.S. businesses located in Honduras to ready plans for their eventual evacuation; or frozen the funds for the regime’s politicians and oligarchy, deposited in U.S. banks; or seized their lavish properties in Florida. These wouldn’t have been unprecedented measures; practically all of them were used by George W. Bush in order to frustrate the sure victory of Schafik Handal, the FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí de Liberación Nacional) in the 2004 El Salvador elections. Why was nothing similar done on this occasion? Because the policies of the U.S. establishment, its “permanent government”, were otherwise inclined and the White House’s tenant bowed to that decision.

To conclude, it’s not that the United States could not modify the results of the Honduran crisis, but that beyond Obama’s preferences, the dominant class in the United States and its political representatives in the state apparatus, did not desire another outcome to this conflict, even knowing the dire implications that this decision would have for peace and political stability in this Central American country. In line with the exorbitant militarization of hemispheric policy promoted during the years of George W. Bush — and through which the seven bases granted by Uribe are barely the tip of the iceberg — the “permanent government” of the United States opted to support the putschists instead of betting on a reconstruction of democracy. It has less to do with a question of incapacity than one of strategic selection aimed at reorganizing, manu militari, the empire’s tumultuous backyard in Central America, and launching an ominous warning signal to the leftist and progressive governments in the region.


Source: The author

Original article published on 13 November 2009

About the author, Atilio Borón

Machetera and Manuel Talens are members of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author and translator are cited.

URL of this article on Tlaxcala: http://www.tlaxcala.es/pp.asp?reference=9271&lg=en

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