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What's the latest from the political crisis in Honduras?



Along with the week between Christmas and New Year’s, August is supposedly a slow time for news.

That’s not to say nothing’s happening in the world. There’s plenty happening. Like Christmas, August is only considered “slow” because media muckety-mucks tend to time their vacations to coincide with congressional and presidential vacations.

“Slow news month” is, in fact, a synonym for “plenty of trees are falling in the forest, but we can’t hear it because half the news department is on vacation.”

How slow of a news month is August 2009?

Alyssa Milano’s wedding photos made the cover of People last week. People! I mean, In Touch Weekly I’d understand. But People?

And over in the supposed real news category, August has been so slow that Fox, CNN and MSNBC made stars of every screeching, under-informed, over-opinionated, occasionally armed douchetard who showed up at a health care town hall forum.

The coverage of the so-called health care “debate” has been so vile and misleading that I’m almost glad broadcast news outlets have ignored so many big stories this month. Better to ignore than distort, I suppose. Among those biggies is the ongoing political crisis in Honduras.

On June 28, several hundred Honduran troops stormed elected President Manuel Zelaya’s home. They threatened to shoot him if he did not comply with their demand that he board an airplane and accept exile to neighboring Costa Rica. I wish somebody would do that to me. I need a vacation.

The overthrow is the result of months of growing rancor between Zelaya and his rivals in Honduras’ legislature and military. On the day he was exiled, Hondurans were to vote in a nonbinding referendum put forward by Zelaya asking the people if they supported amending the country’s constitution to allow presidents to serve more than one term in office.

Zelaya’s opponents say the referendum was laying the foundation for an attempt to remain in office beyond the expiration of his current term in January 2010. His critics were also concerned that Zelaya was becoming too much of a leftist. Historically, Honduras’ government has been closely allied with the United States. Zelaya, however, openly courted the friendship of the U.S.’s two biggest Latin American rivals, Cuba and Venezuela.

Zelaya intended the referendum to be binding, but he was overruled earlier this year by the wise Latinas and Latinos on Honduras' Supreme Court. Undeterred, Zelaya simply declared his referendum nonbinding.

Zelaya’s critics are almost certainly right about him attempting to extend his power. Incumbents don’t typically ask the population about overturning term-limit laws because they’re idly curious. They do it because they want to extend their term in office. Ain’t that right, Mayor Bloomberg?

Nevertheless, what happened on June 28 was still a coup. That’s not only my word for it. The U.N. and the Organization of American States called it a coup and demanded Zelaya’s return.

The Obama administration acts like it's a coup, but thus far hasn’t used that word. Doing so would trigger automatic sanctions and suspend aid to Honduras. Instead, Obama is using the threat of an aid cut-off to force the coup-doers into negotiations with Zelaya.

The U.S. is trying to get Zelaya back in to serve out his term, on the condition he drop the referendum and promise to exit office for good in January 2010. Negotiations so far have gone nowhere. Honduras’ new government is defiant and Zelaya is cold chillin’ at a hotel in Nicaragua near the Honduran border.

Superficially, the stalemate may seem like a defeat for the Obama administration, but it’s not necessarily. Latin American leaders are universally gratified by Obama’s open respect for the democratic process. Obama’s approach contrasts strongly with Bush’s, who in 2002, cheered the coup that briefly toppled Venezuela’s anti-U.S. but very-much-elected President Hugo Chavez from office.

If Obama & Co. can help broker a deal returning Zelaya to office and smoothing the path for a free election to replace him, Obama will have simultaneously flexed diplomatic muscle while soothing the feelings of Latin Americans who’ve long been annoyed at the United States for trashing regional democracies in favor of gringo-loving toadies.

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