Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Comparison of World Treatment of Libya and Honduras

Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, seized power in a military coup d’etat in 1969. In addition to being the President of the African National Union, he has been elected President of the United Nations General Assembly.

It was in his latter capacity yesterday, that the Libyan dictator addressed the Assembly in a 90-minute diatribe filled with bizarre statements and conspiracy theories. Libya is one of several members of the UN whose leaders took power through military coups.

In contrast, Roberto Micheletti, the President of Honduras, has been condemned by the U.S. and the rest of the world. Honduras’ membership has been suspended from the Organization of American States and its government denied representation at the UN. Honduras has been subjected to economic sanctions and other measures by the Obama Administration.

The world is isolating and punishing Honduras because of a coup that removed the previous president earlier this year. But the difference between the treatment of the Honduran government and that of Libya and others is even more pronounced when one considers that the ouster of the previous Honduran president was not by a military coup, as in the case of Libya and the others, but as a result of a constitutional process. That process was necessary to defend Honduran liberty against the ousted president’s attempt to extend his term beyond the constitutional limit, as I observe in my post, A Coup for Democracy in Honduras.

Regardless of whether or not an ouster according to a constitutional process and replacement by a civilian member of the ousted leader’s own party, meets the definition of a coup, the process in Honduras was carried out in order to preserve representative democracy, not to establish a dictatorship, as was the result of Qaddafi’s coup in Libya, for example. In this sense, it was much like the forced resignation of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon. Furthermore, the Honduran government has continued to guarantee the rights of its citizens and has scheduled elections already for November, while the Libyan people have neither enjoyed basic human rights nor seen any competitive elections under Qaddafi.

The reason for the different treatment of Honduras and states whose governments seized power in military coups is two-fold. First, the ousted Honduran president’s attempt to extend his term unconstitutionally was part of a rise of authoritarianism around the world, especially in Latin America, led by Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez. These Latin American dictators represent the replacement of pro-American governments with anti-American ones.

A second reason for the singling out of Honduras causes even the U.S. and other Western states also to oppose the ouster of the would-be Honduran dictator and his replacement by a

pro-American government: an emphasis on the process over the result. The Obama Administration and other Western governments regard elections as conferring legitimacy to a government, even if that government becomes undemocratic. This view is inconsistent in such cases when the initial legitimacy conferred to a government by an election is lost by its establish of a dictatorship. It is the overthrow of that government, especially if performed by constitutional means, which restores legitimacy.

As in the case of its recent betrayal of Poland and the Czech Republic (See my post, Obama Betrays Allies, Appeases Russia), the abandonment of the democratic pro-American regime in Honduras suggests the Obama Administration either cannot distinguish between friend or foe, or is not interested in making alliances with pro-Western states, but more interested in better relations to hostile regimes.

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