Venezuela demands US clarify Honduras position

July 11, 2009

Speaking on behalf of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on July 6, former Venezuelan interior minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin called on United States President Barack Obama to clarify his government's position on the coup d'etat in Honduras.

Democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya was ousted in the coup on June 28.

"There must be a categorical pronouncement and concrete actions by Obama in rejection of this coup d'etat", Rodriguez Chacin said, because it is "clear this coup is being supported by the military establishment of the United States".

Rodriguez Chacin said the coup must be understood in the context of increasing global political confrontation. He said it represented an attempt to destroy the progressive advances in Latin America, embodied in the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).

ALBA is a bloc of nine countries, spearheaded by Venezuela, which aims to promote an alternative development model in the region to the neoliberal model imposed by the US, based on economic and social justice, fair trade and participatory democracy.

Condemnation of the military coup has been near universal, but the response of the US government has been slow. The initial statement from the White House did not denounce the coup or call for the reinstatement of Zelaya, but called for "all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter".

Although Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton have made statements condemning the ousting of Zelaya and calling for his return, the US state department is yet to legally define the coup as a "coup".

A law passed by US congress forbids granting aid to any government that has come to power through a military coup. Under pressure from a united Latin America to reject the coup, US state department official Ian Kelly said on July 2 that the US has "paused" economic aid "directly aiding the government" pending the outcome of its legal finding.

However, in a state department press briefing on July 6, Kelly said most activities funded by the US would not be affected by the measure, including humanitarian aid and "democracy promotion" programs.

The US also continues to maintain diplomatic ties with the coup government of Roberto Micheletti. US ambassador to Honduras Hugo Florens remains in Tegulcigalpa, the Honduran capital, in an official capacity.

The BBC in Spanish said on July 7 that the Honduran ambassador to the US, Roberto Flores, who supports the coup, continues to retain official diplomatic accreditation from the White House and official access to US diplomats. This is despite his being fired by the legitimate president, Zelaya, after the coup.

State department officials have admitted that they knew about the coup plans for several months, but claimed they were trying to promote dialogue.

In a July 7 report, US-Venezuelan human rights lawyer Eva Golinger documented links between the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which grants US$49 million a year to Honduras, and International Republican Institute (IRI) with groups involved in the Honduran coup. The IRI is considered the international branch of the US Republican Party.

Another "damning piece of evidence linking the IRI to the coup", Golinger said, is a slideshow presentation by Susan Zelaya-Fenner, assistant program officer at IRI, on March 20 discussing Honduras. Zelaya-Fenner joked to audience laughs: "Coups are thought to be so three decades ago, until now, again."

Golinger said: "The majority of the recipients of [USAID] in Honduras, which comes in the form of funding, training, resources, strategic advice, communications counseling, political party strengthening and leadership training, are organizations directly linked to the recent coup d'etat.

"These organizations form part of a coalition self-titled 'Unión Cívica Democrática de Honduras' (Civil Democratic Union of Honduras) that has publicly backed the coup against President Zelaya."

An indication of the US role was the extremely close military relationship between Washington and the Honduran military, US political analyst Michael Parenti said. "The Honduran military is trained, advised, equipped, indoctrinated, and financed by the United States national security state.

"The generals would never have dared to move without tacit consent from the White House or the Pentagon and CIA."

Although the US has suspended "joint military operations", it continues to keep about 600 soldiers in the Soto Cano airbase in Honduras.

A statement by the Honduran Congress, which backs the coup, on July 6 said a delegation of "members of the Honduran National Congress and private sector and former members of the Honduran Judiciary will hold a press conference in Washington, D.C., to speak on recent events in Honduras".

The statement said there would be "several days of meetings with United States policymakers to clarify any misunderstandings about Honduras' constitutional process and to discuss next steps to ensure the preservation of the country's democratic institutions".

Kelly responded that "we don't know about a delegation coming here. So this is — if the delegation is from this de facto regime, the State Department wouldn't meet with them."

In Zelaya's highest-level talks with US officials since the coup, he met Clinton on July 7 in Washington. Clinton announced that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias would mediate talks between Zelaya and the coup junta.

Clinton said: "We are supporting the efforts that the OAS [Organisation of American States] has made but we think there needs to be a specific mediator."

Clinton would not state that the US wanted Zelaya returned, as this would "prejudice" the negotiations.

However, speaking earlier from Russia, Obama said: "America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies."

Venezuelan political analyst and former vice-president Joss Vicente Rangel said the contradictory response of the US administration reflected two political lines on Honduras.

There is a public line coming from Obama and the White House, and another from "the political machinery that remains intact from the Bush administration", which is being applied through the US military and advisors based in Honduras.

[Reprinted from]

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