One issue that has been of recent concern on this blog is the coup and pending elections in Honduras tomorrow. It has been five months since the de facto rulers of Honduras have ousted the democratically elected Mel Zelaya with the military, illegally exiling him. In following due process, Zelaya should have been charged through a court of law via regular legal procedures. The purported issue at stake was whether Zelaya, in scheduling a non-binding poll, was going in for a power grab to secure another term as president, but evidence of Zelaya’s intent to do so was not examined publicly. In essence, Zelaya was accused of doing something that the current government thought he would do, not something that he had actually done.
In the meantime, the de facto leaders of Honduras have waged a war at home against any opposition to its rule and one abroad with a successful public relations effort, led by Lanny Davis, a Clinton supporter in 2008 and pro-Israeli spinmeister. Lanny Davis has ties to the pro-Isreali lobby, is the treasurer of a pro-Lieberman PAC, and has even referred to himself as a “good friend” of George W. Bush. With credentials like these, it is no wonder that the current government in Honduras tapped Davis to run its PR effort. He is firmly planted in the neocon political establishment, and in doing so, he made it more plausible to connect Zelaya to South American, socialist boogeyman Chavez, even though evidence from the Millennium Challenge Scorecard, utilizing data from the World Bank, UNESCO and Heritage Foundation, shows that the country had relatively high scores for economic freedom. And if the connection of Zelaya to Chavez wasn’t enough to earn the minds of people on the fence in supporting the coup, Davis could also connect Zelaya to Ahmadinejad in Iran, citing Chavez’s support of the Iranian President in his own election woes this spring, which fits nicely with his pro-Israeli portfolio.
Back in Honduras, there have been mass arrests, illegal detentions, violations of women’s rights and the blocking of media that is not favorable to the de facto government. Groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented these abuses, which have yet to be investigated or prosecuted by the Honduran attorney general’s office. Furthermore, many candidates who are running for public office, including one presidential candidate, have removed their names from the ballots for tomorrow in protest against the existing government, likely producing lopsided results. And the current state is coercing workers into participating in the election by informing them that they must show documentation indicating that they have voted or else they may lose their jobs. So far only Panama, Costa Rica, and Peru have indicated that they will recognize the election results, along with the US, as signaled by State Department official Thomas Shannon earlier this month.
The US should reconsider recognizing tomorrow’s elections in Honduras not only because of the widespread abuses of the existing government but to show that things can be different in the region – that there can be full participation in elections by all factions, not just the elite or the usual suspects. Additionally, Secretary Clinton should pay closer attention to the situation and not merely assume that her pal Lanny Davis has it under control. Lanny Davis has credibility issues and is too tied to business interests and neocon factions. If the current government truly represents democracy, it would not abuse those who disagree with it and would allow freedom of the press. Last month a US polling firm surveyed Hondurans and found that 54 percent of the respondents favored a constitutional assembly to resolve the current crisis. This is what ousted President Zelaya was calling for: a constitutional assembly. The US could support dialogue that would lead to a constitutional assembly and not recognize the new government until they restore civil liberties and human rights, while promoting more transparency. Doing so could help restore the credibility and faith that many hoped would accompany the Obama administration, instead of the business as usual approach that the US has taken for decades, contributing to the distrust and skepticism that our neighbors have of US intentions. We wouldn’t tolerate elections under these oppressive conditions, why should we expect the Hondurans to do so?