This month’s Review of the Month by Martin Hart-Landsberg, which addresses the Bolivarian Alternative for the America’s (ALBA), was written before the June 28, 2009, military coup d’état in Honduras (an ALBA member country) that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, expelling him from the country. Here are seven facts on the coup:
- U.S. Implicated. The U.S. embassy and high-level state department officials met with the coup plotters shortly before the overthrow of Zelaya. The state department has acknowledged that it knew of the coup plans but claims that it discouraged the taking of unconstitutional steps and denies “precise knowledge about military actions.” The generals behind the military coup were graduates of the notorious U.S. School of the Americas. John Negroponte, former U.S. ambassador to Honduras under Reagan, who helped mastermind the CIA-directed Contra War in the region, is a top advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lanny Davis, the main public relations specialist hired by the Latin American Business Council to represent the coup regime in Washington, was a close advisor of Clinton in her presidential election bid last year.
- ALBA Under Siege. The coup occurred only four days after three additional nations—Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines—joined ALBA. President Evo Morales of Bolivia (an ALBA-member nation) has declared that the coup was a clear “threat against the continued growth of ALBA.” Even as the coup was taking place, the United States announced that it planned to lease up to seven new U.S. military bases in Colombia, bordering ALBA nations Venezuela and Ecuador. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley indicated that the “lesson” that Zelaya and others should learn from the coup was not to follow Venezuela’s Bolivarian path, i.e., remain out of ALBA.
- Non-Binding Plebiscite Stopped. At the time of the coup, Zelaya was in the process of seeking a non-binding plebiscite (opinion poll) of the population to determine if they wished to elect a constituent assembly in November to rewrite the constitution. The current 1982 Honduran constitution had been imposed by the oligarchy with Washington’s support (and under the direction of Negroponte as U.S. ambassador) in the very midst of the U.S.-directed Contra War in Central America, in which Honduras served as the main U.S. client state. The coup was carried out on the eve of the plebiscite, in order to prevent the Honduran people from voicing their opposition to the current constitution.
- Honduran Oligarchy Winner. The Honduran oligarchy is so far the big winner in the coup. With military backing, the ruling-class controlled National Congress immediately swore in its president, Roberto Micheletti, one of the coup plotters, as the “new president” of Honduras. Micheletti is a determined foe of Honduras’ ALBA membership. For the oligarchy, the coup was necessary in the first place to prevent the plebiscite from generating a popular surge for a change in the constitution. But it was also necessary to ensure that the government would socialize the losses of the rich in the current economic crisis, and in order to guarantee that the United States would continue to subsidize the Honduran elites through economic and military aid.
- Honduran Population Resists. The Honduran population has demonstrated mass support for Zelaya in its street protests since the coup. A National Front to Resist the Coup D’État (FNRG) has been established in Honduras with tens and even hundreds of thousands (in a population under eight million) gathering in mass protests. All Latin American states and the Organization of American States (traditionally a vehicle for U.S. interests) have opposed the coup, chastising Washington for giving semi-official, “interim” standing to the coup government.
- U.S. Media Backs Coup. The U.S. media, aware of its imperial role, has insisted that the military coup had constitutional underpinnings, and that it was Zelaya’s fault for going forward with the plebiscite in opposition to the oligarchy-controlled Supreme Court. The notion that Zelaya was trying to make himself president for life has been widely propagated even though it is sharply contradicted by the facts (Zelaya’s term ends in January 2010 and a new president-elect would have been chosen on the November 2009 ballot). Cold War-style justifications for Zelaya’s removal are presented in almost every U.S. media news story, unabashedly defending the coup on grounds of imperial expediency.
- U.S. Promotes “Negotiations.” The Obama administration, while officially declaring the coup “illegal,” has sought to win precious time for the Micheletti regime by promoting “negotiations” between the deposed President Zelaya and the coup government, now holding the reins of power. The principal condition underlying the negotiations, established in Washington, is that Zelaya can return to the presidency but not to power. However, the coup regime has been determined to block any return of Zelaya to Honduras under any conditions. Meanwhile, the Obama administration has refused to use its power as the principal source of economic and military aid to Honduras, the recipient of 70 percent of Honduran exports, and the trainer of the Honduran military in order to compel the restoration of the democratically elected president. Instead, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared Zelaya’s attempts to return to the country as “reckless.” Washington is clearly hoping that protests in Honduras and throughout the Americas will cease and the coup will be “legitimized” over time—to the benefit of the U.S. empire.
We are pleased to announce that, beginning with this issue, Susie Day has taken over the position of Assistant Editor of Monthly Review, formerly occupied by Claude Misukiewicz (on Claude, see this space in the July-August 2009 MR). MR readers may be familiar with Susie’s satirical columns that have appeared regularly on MRzine. She has contributed to such publications as Monthly Review, Z Magazine, Sojourner, and Gay City News. We feel extremely lucky that she has chosen to devote her talents to MR.
Join us at MR’s 60th Birthday Party, 7pm September 17, at the Ethical Culture Society, Central Park West & 63rd Stree, New York City. Featured speakers are Grace Lee Boggs, John Bellamy Foster, Fred Magdoff, Robert McChesney, Michael Tigar, Rev. Jerimiah White; music by Toshi Reagon. Speakers and music to be followed by a reception, and the chance to talk with the MR crew. Details are listed on the back cover of this issue, or visit our Web site: monthlyreview.org.
This summer the world tragically lost two leading radical contributors to international political economy.
Peter Gowan, who died on June 12, 2009, age 63, was known particularly for his book, The Global Gamble: Washington’s Faustian Bid for World Dominance (London: Verso, 1999) in which he dealt with what he called the “Dollar-Wall Street Regime.” On May 2, 2003 he spoke at an MR conference in Burlington, Vermont on “Imperialism Today,” in commemoration of Harry Magdoff’s 90th birthday. His very important paper, “U.S. Hegemony Today,” was published in John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, ed., Pox Americana: Exposing the American Empire (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2004).
Giovanni Arrighi, who died on June 18, 2009, age 71, was a leading pioneer in world-system theory. He was coauthor of three Monthly Review Press books. Giovanni Arrighi and John S. Saul, Essays on the Political Economy of Africa (1973) and two books coauthored by Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frand and Immanuel Wallerstein: Dynamics of Global Crisis (1982) and Transforming the Revolution (1990).
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