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T. Solo: The Good Neighbour Wakes A Sleeping Giant

Varieties Of Imperial Decline : The Good Neighbour Wakes A Sleeping Giant

by toni solo

It could hardly be more clear. Good-looking, honey-tongued Mephistopheles Barack Obama refuses to formally condemn the coup d'état in Honduras as a coup d'état. The murders, the mass detentions, the media censorship, the brutal injuries to hundreds of peaceful protesters, the illegal expulsion of the democratically elected President, for this Mephisto all they add up to is an opportunity for dialogue. Were it not for the immediate vehement response to the coup from the ALBA countries and President Manuel Zelaya himself insisting on denunciations from regional organizations, the illegal, repressive coup would be consolidating itself even more quickly and comfortably than it is already.

Now Hillary Clinton has facilitated the next phase of the the coup by insisting on a dialogue that in practice legitimizes the coup d'état. More than one Obama admirer has suggested that his government might represent a kind of reincarnation of Franklin D. Roosevelt's “Good Neighbour” policy towards Latin America. Just remember that in Central America at that time the Roosevelt administration supported a string of bloody dictatorships : in Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza García; in El Salvador, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, in Guatemala, Jorge Ubico Castañeda and in Honduras, Tiburcio Carías Andino.

In Honduras the regional allies of the Obama administration have made a bloody and determined effort to return to that “Good Neighbour” era. Just as it has done in Palestine, the equivocal, double-talking Obama government accepts the murderous criminal fait accompli. It insists, not on correcting the injustice or punishing the crime, but on resolving the conflict between the murderous gangsters and their victims by means of spurious dialogue.

The mainstream media and many of their alternative counterparts justify Obama's effective support for the coup regime, essentially arguing that his response is better than it might have been under George W. Bush. But to the fundamental question whether there is any change in the enduring support United States governments have given Latin America's dictatorship, coup leaders, torturers, murderers and repression-mongers, the answer is categorical : there is no change.

Announcements of cuts in aid or military cooperation or World Bank Funding are short term measures, quickly reversed, that exert no immediate pressure on the coup regime. The aim of US State Department and Pentagon policy is to waste time so as to help the coup leaders arrive at the upcoming national elections in Honduras in as strong a position as possible. Above all, the US government's objective is to help their allies in the coup regime crush for the foreseeable future any chance of constitutional reform in Honduras, the issue which sparked the crisis in the first place.

Despite all the repression and the coercive electoral context dominated by the murderous Honduran military, the United States and its allies will all recognize the elections, scheduled for November, as legitimate. For them, but not for the Honduran people, everything will go back to normal. The designed-to-be-ineffectual dialogue – mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a right wing politician as cynical as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton – is the first phase of a process to legitimize the outcome of a vicious armed intervention that has destroyed constitutional legitimacy in Honduras and threatens stability throughout the region.

One cannot forget the words of Robert J. Callahan – longtime side-kick of death squad manager nonpareil John Negroponte, down through three decades. The night of Obama's election last November Callahan, then Bush's ambassador to Managua, now Barack Obama's, was asked if an Obama presidency might mean some change in US government foreign policy in Latin America. Callahan said no, he did not. So there is no possible reason for confusion. One is dealing with deep-rooted continuity not just with the Bush regime's policies but with policies that go right back to Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbour sham, to the era of talk-softly Teddy Roosevelt's Big Stick and well back into the 19th century. The Honduran coup demonstrates emphatically that Obama represents continuity we had all better believe in.

That coup is an intensification of the 2008 offensive by the neo-colonial powers carried out by their regional allies. One should remember the murderous incursion into Ecuador at Sucumbíos, the massacre in Pando by the Bolivian separatists, the destabilization of the Kirchner government in Argentina and the crisis around fake allegations of electoral fraud in Nicaragua. In May this year the right-wing opposition in Guatemala provoked a crisis by fabricating false accusations against moderate President Alvaro Colom. The coup in Honduras is the latest episode in what James Petras calls Obama's rollback campaign.

But if the United States has reverted to the Good Neighbour era, the response of the Honduran people has been to take up the example of the great national strike by rural and urban workers of 1954. In effect, the coup has woken up a giant that has slumbered for more than fifty years. Across Honduras mass demonstrations continue against the usurper regime, deepening their organization as they go.

On July 4th around 100,000 people protested in Tegucigalpa. On Sunday July 5th the crowd waiting for Manuel Zelaya's proclaimed but ultimately abortive return was reckoned by observers to be around 200,000 or more. One cannot know for how long people in Honduras will be able to sustain that level of resistance faced with constant detentions, violent repression of peaceful protest along with threats and intimidation of every kind. It is also close to harvest time, so the very important rural workers segment of the protest movement will be distracted by that at what could prove a decisive time.

In 1954, the massive mobilization lasted over two months from May to July. In the end that great strike movement made possible many progressive measures that helped transform the country's quasi- feudal society of the time. In 1955 women got the right to vote. Later in the centrist government of Ramón Villeda Morales, important social legislation was passed like the Labour Code, the Agrarian Reform Law and Social Security laws. All those measures moved Honduras closer to being a more truly democratic society. Despite the many inaccurate descriptions of Manuel Zelaya as a leftist, his true political orientation is firmly in the social democrat direction of Villeda Morales.

As in Zelaya's case, the Honduran army staged a coup in 1963 against the Villeda Morales government when his administration had just a few months to run. Just as they are doing now, the coup regime engaged in a fierce campaign of repression and intimidation to silence the opposition. Within months, President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized the coup government. We will soon see whether this time around the coup regime and its patrons in the US oligarchy, along with their regional allies, can put the giant they have woken up back to sleep.


toni solo is an activist based in Central America - contact via

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