Hondurans went to the polls in yesterday's elections, choosing the conservative opposition candidate for their republic's new president. The turnout appeared to be higher than the previous election, despite the boycott by former leader, Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup earlier this year.
The coup was supported by the Honduran Supreme Court, the legislature and his own party after Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan left-wing dictator Hugo Chavez, had attempted to conduct a referendum to end presidential term limits, in violation of the Honduran constitution. After the coup, the United States and Latin American states refused to recognize the interim Honduran government, which was led by a member of Zelaya's own party, demanding that the ousted leader be restored to power. The U.S. cut off critical aid to Honduras. However, no deal was reached that would allow Zelaya to return to power. Instead, elections were scheduled and held. The losing candidate from Zelaya's party quickly conceded the race for the sake of national unity.
I had criticized the Obama Administration's decision to isolate Honduras for its actions which rescued its democracy from a would-be Chavist dictator in my post, A Coup for Democracy in Honduras. The ouster of Zelaya has now been legitimatized by the elections, which have restored representative democracy to the Honduran Republic. To its credit, the Administration had announced that it would recognize the results of a free and fair election. Some Latin American states, like Columbia and some Central American states, have followed the American lead, but others, especially those aligned with Chavez, are insisting on a return of power for Zelaya, if only until his term ends in January.
Regardless, the U.S. should end its punishment of Honduras and restore aid to its ally. The U.S. needs stable, democratic friends in Latin America not only for trade, but as a bulwark against the growing threat of Chavist authoritarianism.
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