Monday, June 29, 2009

Coup in Honduras

So I happen to be in Honduras when the first Central American coup in 26 years takes place.

Given that yesterday also included a near-highway robbery on the road to Honduras, yesterday was a pretty weird day. Especially since I found out about the coup when the bus driver just happens to mention it as we enter the country.

So I was wondering what would happen. And the answer seems to be not much. At least yet. Now, I am in a town far, far away from the capital and major business centers. But here, no one seems to care. It's the most mellow coup I've ever been involved with. Perhaps because it's the only coup I've ever been involved with.

However, things seem to be heating up a bit today, particularly in the major cities. Widespread condemnation from the international community and rising pressure from labor unions and the poor could plunge Honduras into crisis pretty quickly. With Barack Obama, the EU, and Hugo Chavez all opposing the Honduran military, it's hard to see how the coup can survive. Honduras has been a US client state for decades. Banana companies controlled the country in the early 20th century. It was the home of the Contras when they organized to launch against the Sandinistas. Today, it is a major center of maquiladoras. So there is a long American tradition of exercising power here. Given this history, can the military hold up in the face of real U.S. opposition? Much I think depends on what the U.S. opposition looks like. If Obama backs this up with some economic reprisals, decline in aid, etc., I think the coup falls apart in a heartbeat. If not, it might survive.

I usually oppose US intervention in Latin America. Certainly it has not gone too well in the past, to say the least. But this is a clear case of the Honduran elite class attacking democracy itself. It is not 1983 anymore and this kind of behavior is not acceptable. While Zelaya isn't such a great president, he was democratically elected and is clearly supported by a large percentage of the population. Plus, if the international community allows this coup to stand, the precedent is set that right-wing politicians and militaries can overthrow the new generation of left-leaning governments in Latin America without reprisal. Not allowing this precedent to take place is much more important than Honduras itself.

I am actuallly leaving Honduras for a bit today for El Salvador. But I'll reappear in a different part of the country briefly in a few days. I will be in the urban center of Choluteca then and am very curious as to how this situation has developed by then and how being in a much more important economic center than where I am now affects my sense of people's response to the coup.