English language television in the United States mined the minutiae
of Michael Jackson’s upcoming funeral, millions watching Spanish,
Portuguese and French language media in the rest of the Americas
were transfixed by live broadcasts of the Honduran military shooting
and killing a 10 year-old boy and other protesters.
the U.S.-Mexico border to the southern tip of Argentina and Chile,
Latin Americans were besotted by television and internet images
of the tens of thousands of Hondurans who risked their lives while
staging a peaceful march to the airport where a plane carrying the
ousted President of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and United Nations
President Miguel d’Escoto was trying to land.
the course of Sunday’s mass mobilization by Hondurans, many
throughout the continent watched the drama of the police stepping
out of the way of the marchers when their chief declared that he
“holds the military responsible” for any bloodshed.
Shortly after blood was, in fact, spilled as at least 2 people were
killed by the military and several others were injured, according
to Telesur, which broadcast live from the Tegucigalpa airport.
and official outrage in response to the killings and shootings are
sure to intensify pressure on the military coup leaders who already
face worldwide denunciation and pressure. The Organization of American
States (OAS) suspended Honduras' membership Saturday; The European
Union and most countries in Latin America with embassies in Honduras
have withdrawn their ambassadors; the World Bank and some governments
have either suspended or frozen loans to Honduras.
the military coup leaders are still recipients of U.S. economic
and military aid.
a result, the whole Latin American world is watching Honduras and
President Obama, who still has not heeded calls to suspend U.S.
military aid to Honduras. In fact, Latin America may well be where
the decline and fall of Obama’s global rock star status begins.
Obama Administration has chosen to respond to the crisis in a manner
that will signify little to millions watching the bloodshed taking
place in Honduras; While nobody in the hemisphere wants the return
of the actions of the Bush era, many already believe that the Obama
Administration’s inactions mean that the “new”
or fundamental “change” Obama promised during his also
widely-viewed Summit of the Americas speech last April adds up to
little more than this: more militarismo, but with a smile.
example, rather than officially declare and denounce the Honduras
putsch as a “coup”, which would, among other things,
trigger a cutoff of military and other aid, the Obama Administration
has instead chosen the symbolic act of suspending joint military
a region where U.S. military aid, U.S. military training and U.S.
political support for dictatorships responsible for killing, torturing
and disappearing millions are at the heart of why Obama needed urgently
to signal a “new” U.S. policy, Obama’s continued
“Si Se Puede” (Yes We Can) to continued military aid
for such human rights violation-plagued governments as those of
Colombia, Mexico and Honduras will only tarnish his and the U.S.
image in the region.
President’s inability or unwillingness to call for an immediate
suspension of U.S. military aid is already raising questions about
the motives and role of Obama Administration operatives like Hugo
Llorens, the current U.S. Ambassador to Honduras.
2002-2003 – the year many in Latin America condemned the attempted
military coup in Venezuela - Llorens was the Director of Andean
Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC).
was charged with advising then President Bush and his National Security
Advisor on issues pertaining to Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru,
and Ecuador. Although Llorens and the Obama Administration do not
recognize the current government, they did, apparently, know that
the Honduran coup was going to take place.
the Obama Administration knew of the coup and did not cutoff aid
immediately after it took place, makes its claims that it tried
to “stop” the coup seem naive, at best.
the Administration may not cutoff aid even after coup-appointed
Honduran Foreign Minister Enrique Ortez described President Obama
as "ese negrito que no sabe nada de nada” (that little
black boy who knows nothing about nothing) is to add political insult
to tragic injury before a hemispheric audience; That Obama may not
cutoff military aid even after Sunday’s increased bloodshed
adds even graver injury to that insult.
in Latin America, a region where the word “Honduras”
now means “defend democracy”, a region where many know
that Democrat-led U.S. regimes have propped up military dictatorships,
assassinated leaders and covertly destabilized left-leaning governments
with the same zeal and effectiveness as Republican regimes, President
Obama and the United States, no longer have the luxury of being
on the wrong side of history made on the streets. This hemispheric
sensibility was articulated forcefully by Argentinian President
Cristina Fernandez, who traveled with the Presidents of Ecuador
and Paraguay to El Salvador on Sunday in order support Zelaya. During
their late night press conference, Fernandez seemed to speak to
and for millions when she stated, "We're not just defending
Honduras. We're defending ourselves." The question President
Obama must answer as unequivocally and rapidly as possible is, “Who
are Latin Americans defending themselves from?”
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Roberto Lovato is a contributing Associate Editor with New
America Media. He is also a frequent contributor to The Nation and his work has
appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, Der Spiegel, Utne Magazine, La Opinion, and other
national and international media outlets. Prior to becoming a writer,
Roberto was the Executive Director of the Central American Resource
then the country’s largest immigrant rights organization. Click
here to contact him or via his Of América blog.