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Home / Articles / News / World /  S.C. Senator forces U.S. change on Honduras stance on elections
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Saturday, November 14,2009

S.C. Senator forces U.S. change on Honduras stance on elections

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican known for his efforts to block influence domestic immigration and health-care issues, has scored a foreign-policy coup by helping to compel the Obama administration to shift its stance on strife-ridden Honduras.

After demanding for months that deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya be restored to power, senior State Department officials now say they'll accept the outcome of Nov. 29 elections in the Central American country even if Zelaya doesn't reclaim his post.

"We support the elections process there," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Thursday. "We have provided technical assistance. ... These elections will be important to restoring Democratic and constitutional order in Honduras."

That position is a marked change from the tough stance President Barack Obama took in the days following the June 28 removal of Zelaya, when Honduran soldiers launched a dawn raid and whisked him away in his pajamas.

"We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the democratically elected president there," Obama said the day after Zelaya's ouster.

DeMint, by contrast, cited a Honduran Supreme Court ruling, later approved by the Honduran Congress, that the military had followed constitutional provisions in removing Zelaya and installing Roberto Micheletti as interim president.

While the U.S. government froze aid and took other punitive steps, DeMint held up two State Department nominations all summer and into the fall.

Christopher Sabatini, policy director at the Council of Americas, a New York-based organization of international businesses, said DeMint has had a major impact on the Obama administration's evolving response to the Honduran strife.

"DeMint's role has been disproportionate to his interest in Latin America," Sabatini said. "He chose to take a stand on this, and he plunged headlong into it. He drew a line in the sand."

In August, a report by the nonpartisan Library of Congress concurred with DeMint, saying that Zelaya's ouster was legal, though it said Honduran soldiers had overstepped the law in secreting him out of the country.

Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, snuck back into Honduras on Sept. 21. He's holed up in the Brazilian Embassy there, sleeping on a couch, wearing his trademark Stetson, giving interviews and greeting various dignitaries.

DeMint, the only senator to have visited Honduras during the crisis, stopped blocking the U.S. diplomatic posts on Nov. 5. He said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had given him her word that the United States would no longer insist on Zelaya's return to power, a claim Clinton aides haven't disputed.

"I'm very thankful that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have finally taken the side of the Honduran people and have committed to letting them choose their own future," DeMint told McClatchy on Saturday.

Zelaya accused the U.S. leaders of abandoning him.

"They have left us in the middle of the river, saying now that their priority is the elections and not the restoration of democracy," Zelaya said Friday on a Costa Rican radio station.

While DeMint's opposition played a key role in forcing the U.S. policy shift, he got a big assist from Zelaya.

At the time of his removal, Zelaya was seeking to annul a constitutional clause limiting the president to a single term and to hold a referendum on the change.

When lawmakers refused to support the referendum, Zelaya imported ballots from Chavez, the flamboyant anti-American Venezuelan leader with whom he'd earlier concluded a major oil-import deal at discounted prices.

Once ensconced in the Brazilian Embassy, the deposed Zelaya said "Israeli mercenaries" were trying to kill him with poison gas and described broad conspiracies behind his ouster. He later apologized for the claim about Israel.

Latin America experts who know Zelaya say it's hardly an understatement to call him eccentric.

"He has no ideological or intellectual convictions whatsoever," said Sabatini, the analyst at the Council of Americas.

"His ideology has always been a melange of strange theories pulled from odd places that have no coherence and no bearing on reality," Sabatini said. "What he got from Chavez is oil and money. He was bought and paid for by Chavez."

As part of a broader effort to reverse President George W. Bush's often unilateral foreign policy, Obama has tried to mend fences with Chavez, even shaking hands with him at their first meeting in April.

Chavez, who called Bush "the devil" in 2006, has praised Obama while continuing to attack U.S. influence in Latin America.

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As an American who lived several years in Honduras, married a Honduran (13 yrs), gave birth to my son there and currently have a business operating there, I have deep personal ties with the country and culture. The media reports have for the most part been very biased, only showing the "resistance" to the interim government.  They did not show the peace marches which took place all over the country in the days after Zelaya was removed, when 60,000 plus people in each city were all wearing white shirts and asking that the country come together to promote peace, unity, and democracy.  I am so thankful for the few including Senator DeMint who could see past all of Zelayas publicity antics and realize that his removal was a lawful and necessary step in really restoring democracy in Honduras.  I was there in country with my family on June 28th, and yes there were some sporadic protests countrywide.  What most people don't know, or don't want to aknowledge is that most of these "protesters" were imported from Nicaragua and Venezuela, and were paid to create havoc.  The "human rights abuses" were primarily against these people who destroyed public and private property and were acting like paid terrorists. God bless the Honduran people for standing up to the Chaves take-over which surely would have taken place if Zelaya were still in office. They only want peace in their beautiful country which I consider my second home. 

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT

I was very sorry to hear that Drs. Valenzuela and Shannon are confirmed as this will almost certainly assure continued foreign policy disasters in Honduras (regardless of election results) and elsewhere in Latin America.  See below and the congressional testimonies of Drs. Insulza, Shannon and Valenzuela.

--------------

Mason Fordmasonford@verizon.net

19 Trail West

Kinnelon, NJ 07405

Telephone (973) 838-6350

E-mail

 

December 17, 2009 (MAcSLt12-17-09)

To: President Barack Obama, c/o White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Copies: Senator John Kerry/Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Congressman Howard Berman/House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senators Jim DeMint, Richard Lugar and Robert Menendez/Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

E-mail copies to: Governor Bill Richardson, Mark Alexander and various media.

 

Re: U.S. Western Hemisphere Foreign Policies.

 

To All Concerned:

 

After some eight months of my intense study per prior notes and below, the attached AP article from the Newark Star-Ledger, "Study: PAC money influenced Cuba embargo", although containing a number of false assumptions, has defined the challenges as to the total collapse and failure of our Western Hemisphere Foreign Policies. The key is that although this Cuban PAC does not represent the sentiments of the majority of Cuban-Americans and our lawmakers do not unilaterally set our foreign policies, it is certain that the great majority of Cuban-Americans, in fact all Americans, such as the undersigned, and our lawmakers, as well as most Latin Americans, do support "conditioning business and tourism with the Castro regime with human rights and democratic reforms".

 

The challenge is that after almost one year of the Obama administration, the Bush administration State Department team, Thomas Shannon and Arturo Valenzuela, which has completely misinformed and manipulated the Secretary of State and the White House, remains in solid control of our Western Hemisphere policies, all Western Hemisphere embassies and the Organization of American States (OAS). While these Shannon/Valenzuela policies are also based in "conditioning business and tourism with the Castro regime with human rights and democratic reforms", there was and are two "kickers" of a hidden agenda that negate all our policies and US-Cuba discussions as shown below.

 

Last April, in total good faith President Obama was perfectly clear in publicly declaring to the Latin American leaders at the initiation of the Trinidad and Tobago Summit V that his personal policies and therefore those of the United States (U.S.) were: (1) to abandon our outdated past policies and institute new ones that (2) would no longer be based in our military power behind the Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt "big stick" Corollary but rather (3) would directly deal with all Latin nations in diplomatic discussions as equals and (4) not interfere in their internal affairs. This announcement was met with total positive acceptance by all Latin leaders, including our prime adversaries, Hugo Chavez and Fidel and Raul Castro (however possibly and irrelevantly "tongue-in-cheek"), and open diplomatic discussions on all issues were offered.

 

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Most unfortunately, it became immediately clear during Summit V that our true foreign policies had not changed at all but rather were the same policies of Drs. Insulza, Shannon and Valenzuela and the entrenched State Department bureaucracy as have guided our Latin American actions for many years and through the prior Clinton and Bush administrations. Cutting through much obscuring rhetoric, our true Summit and hemisphere policies as established by Drs. Shannon and Valenzuela and OAS Secretary General Insulza as well documented on the public congressional record, stressing foreign policy committee appearances and testimony and considering some concise questions and opinions on OAS operations and Cuban policies by Senator Lugar, as well as announced by the White House and covered in Secretary Clinton’s congressional testimony, are: (1) OAS Summit V was focused on re-admission of Cuba to the OAS (2) based on some U.S. concessions to the Cuban people as to family visits and money transfers and (3) the position that the Castro government was in imminent collapse and would be forced to make major concessions as to (4) release of political prisoners, press freedom and "money skimming" of financial transfers, all as preconditions to further discussions.

According to Dr. Valenzuela, the above approach followed by the U.S. and OAS on the issues of Cuba at the Summit (5) ". . . represents the crowning achievement of the Inter-American system.".

According to Assistant Secretary Shannon, the U.S. and OAS approach to Cuba at the Summit was a complete success as resulting in the (6) "signing of a consensus document" as to the "Inter-American system finding a way to include Cuba". Mr. Shannon also stated that the new approach on Cuba focuses on (7) increasing links to the Cuban people while "trying to build some degree of dialogue with the Cuban government". Also according to Dr. Valenzuela, our policies are (8) purely political in nature where China and others are not a threat since their efforts in the hemisphere are restricted to economic and commercial interests.

 

As respectfully as possible, it is suggested that all these positions are arrogantly irrelevant to fact as they show complete ignorance of the united positions of all Latin countries, including by Mr. Insulza as to the positions of the OAS Latin member states, and had no chance of even being considered at the Summit, nor were they. It is beyond all doubt that these Insulza, Shannon and Valenzuela policies are in diametric opposition to President Obama’s policy declarations at the Summit and caused the Summit to implode in total disagreement in an immediate collapse of the U.S. controlled OAS "Inter-American system", as clearly documented at the Summit and in the months following the Summit.

Of special interest was the comment by Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva as the designated Summit spokesman for all Latin leaders that Cuba would be readmitted to the OAS "within weeks". It is essential to understand that this statement by President da Silva, as well as one he made as shown below at the close of the Summit, has major policy implications. As I can confirm and testify from long personal experiences tied to Panama, the OAS is recognized as totally controlled and funded by the U.S. and our policies and as a dysfunctional Washington debating club offering prestigious ambassadorial and staff assignments to selected Latin personnel, and especially as to the selection of the Secretary General, if they "toe the (U.S.) line". President da Silva’s statement implies Cuba being readmitted to a new and reconstituted independent OAS implementing the new U.S. policies put forth by President Obama.

 

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The hidden "catch 22" agenda, of course, is that our policy and that of Dr. Insulza in the name of the OAS established that the three concessions were set (1) as pre-conditions to (2) initiating discussions through the OAS, neither of which was acceptable to not only Cuba but every single Latin country.

 

Again, after our true policies were defined by the White House and Secretary Clinton, the Summit imploded. According to the Latin media and leaders and in direct opposition to Drs. Insulza, Shannon and Valenzuela and again as expressed by Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva

(Dr. Shannon’s proposed assignment) as the principal spokesman for all the Latin leaders, the facts are as follows.

o Summit V ended with a "badly written" "mis-used" document that "in an act without precedent was only signed by one of the attendant countries, the host Trinidad and Tobago, and that lacks even a mention of the situation of the Cuban embargo", which was the sole joint issue of concern to all the attendant Latin countries. The only consensus reached was that only Prime Minister Manning of Trinidad and Tobago would sign the document.

 

o President da Silva specifically stated that the Summit had been expected to "end the pitched battle of the issues of Cuba and the economic crisis" by "the necessity of lifting U.S. sanctions that weigh down Cuba and prevent its incorporation into the OAS". President da Silva concluded his final summary remarks on Summit V with the statements, as echoed here by only Senator Lugar, and with the unanimous support of all Latin leaders, that the minor steps of changing restrictions on Cuban-American travel and money transmissions started in a positive direction but are insufficient and that "it is important that these steps be amplified and be presented without pre-conditions". "In the end, those who have suffered and continue to suffer under the restrictions of the embargo are the Cuban people." "Direct dialogue between the two governments can open the door to concluding this situation, with which the Americas no longer wish to continue." "Direct dialogue" without the OAS and "without preconditions" are the two "kickers" of a hidden agenda that negate US-Cuba discussions

. (Above translations and emphases by the undersigned.)

 

The following has occurred since the Summit failed: (1) Cuba has refused re-entry to the OAS and established their own precondition to discussions, the lifting of the U.S. embargo; (2) every single Latin country has again sided with Cuba in opposition to our policies toward Cuba and the rest of Latin America; (3) Bolivia has been subjected to economic repression by the U.S. and their President Evo Morales has accused President Obama of lying at the Summit and is almost certainly studying his position in regard to the OAS; (4) Honduras has been removed from the OAS with associated economic repression and might have no interest in re-entry dependent on events, as appears more likely each day; (5) tension by accusations of aggression are increasing between Honduras and Nicaragua, (6) we are making public statements as to Mr. Zelaya’s intentions to negotiate which he has refuted; (7) we are implementing a major military presence in Colombia, a nest of well armed,

trained and supported extremist radicals located between Venezuela and Bolivia, resulting in Hugo Chavez alerting the Venezuelan military and people as to possible armed conflict - again in this

regard, at the Summit President Obama stressed the need for diplomatic dialogue in view of our major military power advantage, which may or may not be at all true in an Andean jungle guerilla

 

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war involving Venezuela, Colombia, FARC, drug cartels, possibly a faction of the Colombian Army who might desert and switch sides, possible intervention of some sort by Cuba, Bolivia, the Peruvian Shining Path, international opposition, and requiring consideration of the incited possibility of spreading to Central America; (8) in spite of Hugo Chavez’s weak position with Latins in general, socialist alliance ALBA becomes stronger every day as the OAS has again proved to be

singularly ineffectual and may well collapse based on their handling of the Cuban and Honduran situations; (9) China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and others are moving in to supplant US economic development efforts, (10) Cuba has re-established diplomatic relations with El Salvador, (11) the situation in Honduras has collapsed with Manuel Zelaya effectively inciting civil war, and in summation; (12) the Inter-American OAS system has become mired in a self-created quicksand pit of potential self destruction.

 

One other "catch 22" is the fact of major concern that Dr. Insulza is a Chilean socialist publicly supporting a socialist agenda with the support of the Latin ALBA socialist alliance alternative to the OAS. Another "catch 22" is such as the press coverage here as to the OAS and Brazilian positions on the situation in Honduras not actually being the positions of the Brazilian government or the OAS but those of socialist Dr. Insulza and a contingent from the Brazilian socialist party that met with Manuel Zelaya in the Brazilian embassy. As near as I personally can see, only Senator Lugar and Governor Richardson appear to have a true grasp of all these issues but nonetheless the White House remains misdirected by the Insulza, Shannon and Valenzuela triumvirate, who remain in total control of the OAS (a new nominee has failed to direct a testimony report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), all our embassies where the Bush appointees remain entrenched, and most importantly our misguided failed policies in the region.

 

At this time: Senator DeMint will no longer block Thomas Shannon as Ambassador to Brazil, which would place the primary current Bush policy maker in the most important Western Hemisphere ambassadorship; the new OAS ambassador nominee, no doubt nominated by Thomas Shannon to support the upcoming candidacy of socialist Jose Insulza, who was installed by the Shannon/ Valenzuela team after removing the favored former democratic President of El Salvador candidate; did not submit testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, obscuring the status of this other critical policy position; and as to the most critical issue of the architect of all this chaos, Arturo Valenzuela, as to his continuing control as Assistant Secretary nominee, is entirely unknown.

 

Very truly yours,

 

Mason Ford

 

 

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Those who live by the golpe die by the golpe. Amen?

 

 
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