Obama: "Deeply Concerned" Over Kidnapping of Honduran President
By Al Giordano
A statement by US President Barack Obama just sent out by the White House:
"I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."
As Kristin Bricker has been reporting the past few days here on Narco News, there have been mounting threats of military coup d'etat against democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya (photographed above with Obama at the April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad). Today is a national election day and the bone of contention is Zelaya's placement of a non-binding referendum that asks the Honduran people if they want another referendum in November to decide whether to reform the Constitution.
Truth is, Honduras has long been run by an oligarchy (rule by a select wealthy class) and the popular Zelaya has had to contend with a military brass, a judiciary and a legislature (and its corrupt political parties) that is openly hostile to his center-left government. While reasonable folks can disagree over whether the non-binding referendum should have gone to ballot today over the objections of the country's Supreme Court, the oligarchy lined up against that vote has just reportedly overplayed its hand by kidnapping the President:
Honduran army troops seized President Manuel Zelaya early today and sent the leftist president into exile in an apparent coup, reports from the Central American country said.
Troops moved through the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, and surrounded the presidential palace and other government buildings. The state television network was off the air as hundreds of angry Honduran citizens poured into the streets and shouted support for Zelaya. "The fact is, this is a coup d'etat and the president of Honduras has been kidnapped and beaten up," Honduras' ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carlos Sosa Coello, told CNN's Spanish-language network.
When similar events occurred in 2002 in Venezuela, the Bush White House blamed the kidnapped president for his own abduction and gloated, cheering the coup d'etat. (Over the following three days masses of Venezuelan citizens overpowered the coup, took back the public television station and broadcast to the people that their president had not resigned but had been abducted. Venezuelan President Chavez was brought back to power by a nonviolent civil resistance movement.)
What is happening in Honduras, though, has got to be the most boneheaded coup attempt in Latin American history: to kidnap a president on an election day, and without the support that Washington historically gave past military coups from Santiago to Caracas, is not likely to work out as planned for today's coup plotters. Presuming that Zelaya is still alive and not critically wounded, it's a good bet that he'll be back in a matter of days, if not hours, more popular than before.
(Note: I'm about to get on an airplane. Will be back in the newsroom this afternoon. Check with Narco News for updates over the course of the day.)