Dr. Atilio A. Boron is Director of the Latin American Programme of Distance Education in Buneos Aires, Argentina. He was recently awarded UNESCO’s Jose Marti Prize. Visit his blog at http://www.atilioboron.com
In the face of the impasse that is occurring in Honduras, many voices are rising up to denounce the weakness of the response from the White House to the coup, ranging from a verbal recognition of Manuel Zelaya as the only legitimate president and, contradictorily, the surreptitious ratification of the coup by entrusting an obedient spokesperson of the empire, Oscar Arias, to act as “mediator” in the conflict. At this stage it is clear that the categorical condemnation of the coup made by the OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, broke with a deplorable tradition of that organization, which is surely the reason why Washington so quickly removed him from the process, substituting him with the docile Costa Rican president.
Given these criticisms, Obama supporters say that the United States can do no more than what it is doing, and that a military intervention to reinstate the constitutional president would be absolutely unacceptable. By putting the options in those terms the White House washes its hands of the matter and favours, albeit indirectly, the position of the pro-coup faction.
The problem for Obama is that if the United States persists in this attitude and the coup manages to consolidate itself, all his rhetoric about a “new beginning” in hemispheric relations will be irreparably damaged and the hopes that nourished his election dispelled forever, and not just in Latin America. Moreover, the consolidation of the coup faction would show that the occupant of the White House is not in control of the U.S. state apparatus and that his supposed subordinates, above all in the CIA and Pentagon, can sustain a policy that expressly contradicts the directives of the head of state.
But Obama has other options at his disposal which are much more effective than “mediation” by Oscar Arias. Making good use of the long experience gained during almost half a century of the blockade against Cuba, Washington could take some similar measures, those that would cause the immediate collapse of the Honduran thugs.
For example, he could put into practice what George W. Bush threatened to do on the eve of the 2004 presidential election in El Salvador when Chafik Handal of the FMLN comfortably led the polls of electoral prefences: prevent remittances from Salvadoran immigrants to their country of origin and warn North American companies to prepare a contingency plan for leaving the country in case of a victory by the FMLN candidate. This announcement was enough for panic to seize the population and the conservative ARENA candidate swept the polls.
If the White House did the same and began without further delays to bureaucratically hinder remittances from Honduran immigrants in the United States, and to warn its companies that they have to draw up plans for a rapid exit from Honduras, Micheletti and his gang would last for only a sigh. If to that is added the effective interruption of all forms of economic or military assistance and the request by the White House to its European partners to refrain from interacting with Tegucigalpa, the days of the coup would be numbered.
Will Obama have the necessary courage to promote this alternative? Or is he already resigned to being a mere figurehead of the reactionary alliance which lived its time of glory during the years of George W. Bush?
July 12, 2009
Translated by Susana Hurlich