Monday, August 10, 2009

Honduras Has Won


By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, August 07, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Diplomacy: In a quiet victory for a tiny democracy, U.S. buttinskies have stopped trying to restore a dictator to power in South America. Tiny Honduras is winning its fight for freedom.

Read More: Latin America & Caribbean

In a welcome about-face, the State Department told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in a letter Tuesday that the U.S. would no longer threaten sanctions on Honduras for ousting its president, Mel Zelaya, last June 28.

Nor will it insist on Zelaya's return to power. As it turns out, the U.S. Senate can't find any legal reason why the Honduran Supreme Court's refusal to let Zelaya stay in office beyond the time allowed by Honduran law constitutes a "military coup."

This marks a shift. The U.S. at first supported Zelaya, a man who had been elected democratically but didn't govern that way. Now they're reaching out to average Hondurans, the real democrats.

Sure, the U.S. continues to condemn Zelaya's ouster and still seeks mediation of the dispute through Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. But no U.S. sanctions means Hondurans have won.

Things could have worked out differently. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez first called for invading Honduras. That threat passed as it became clear Chavez couldn't project his power there.

Next, civil unrest was threatened by Zelaya. But Hondurans astounded the world by standing by their Congress, Supreme Court, attorney general, businesses and the church, all of which declared that Zelaya had violated the constitution and had to go.

Zelaya might have regained power, but only by becoming a dictator and ending Honduras' democracy. The people ended that.

The scariest outcome for Honduras was U.S. sanctions. They would have crushed the tiny country dependent on the U.S. for 80% of its trade. No sanctions, no Zelaya.

This isn't to say U.S. policymakers are happy or that the dispute is over. Honduras is still suspended from the Organization of American States, its trade has been disrupted, Venezuela's oil is still cut off, and its officials still can't get U.S. visas. But the worst is over. Whatever changes that come will be by Honduran consent alone.

The U.S. still supports Arias' mediation, and if that helps, good.

By ending the threats, talks can begin. Constructive solutions, like early elections or persuading Honduras' congress to add an impeachment law to its constitution, can now be put on the table.

The reality is, the Hondurans shouldn't be on the spot at all. What happened wasn't a coup; it was a good-faith effort by decent people to fix a difficult situation that threatened their democracy.

This, by the way, also opens the door to a return of democracy in troubled nations like Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. People in those nations can take courage from Honduras.

The U.S. was smart to take the side of freedom. The Hondurans, however, were right all along. After all, it's their democracy. And now they've won it back.

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