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How the Obama Admin Turned its Back on Democracy in Honduras (and Missed a Chance for a Real "Change" in Foreign Policy)

Why Obama has not taken a much stronger stand against the Honduras coup is a lingering mystery.

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Four judges, including the president of Honduran Judges for Democracy, were fired in May 2010 for criticizing the illegality of the coup. Two of them went on a widely-supported hunger strike in the nation’s capital. Judges who participated in public demonstrations in favor of the de facto government remain in power.

Finally, at the  Guardian, my colleague Joseph Huff-Hannon notes the special persecution of journalists:

Indeed, in 2010 at least eight journalists have been killed in mysterious circumstances in Honduras, all of them critics of the coup and/or of powerful business interests in the country. None of those murders have been solved, and Reporters Without Borders has called Honduras the world’s most dangerous country for journalists in the first half of 2010.

I think it is safe to say, This is not what democracy looks like.

Why Obama has not taken a much stronger stand against the coup is a lingering mystery to me. Latin America was unanimous in its condemnations, and the crisis presented the new administration an opportunity to set a different tone with the region. The United States could have promoted unity and shored up some pro-democracy credibility by staying firm in insisting that Zelaya—who only had a few months of his term left to serve anyway!—be reinstated. In terms of domestic politics, the president has traditionally been given wide latitude in dealing with these types of foreign crises. And, unlike with Iraq or Afghanistan, it is highly improbable that the matter would ever have been a serious issue for Obama at the polls.

As it is, I see U.S. policy toward Honduras as a victory for State Department hacks and old foreign policy hands from the Clinton administrations of the 1990s. It is tone deaf with regard to the region—and as far as democracy and human rights are concerned, it does not speak well of their biases.

Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, 2008). He can be reached via DemocracyUprising.com. This column originally appeared in Dissent.

 
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