Obama Imposes Sanctions on Impoverished Nation of Honduras, Despite Loss of Legal Basis for Doing So

The Obama Administration formally cut off aid to the impoverished nation of Honduras today, and announced other impending sanctions, to pressure the country to accept the return of its ex-president and would-be dictator.  The Administration did this even though its legal basis for doing so had been debunked and abandoned.

Earlier, the State Department planned to cut off aid to Honduras based on the false claim that its removal of ex-president Manuel Zelaya was a “military coup.”  But this claim was easily debunked, because Honduras replaced the ex-president with a civilian successor (a Congressman installed by Honduras’s Congress), who is backed by a democratically-elected legislature and a unanimous vote by the country’s supreme court.  (Indeed, the Honduras Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for the former president’s arrest, which soldiers duly carried out, and recently issued a ruling reaffirming that the ex-president’s removal from office was valid.  The Obama Administration retaliated against Honduras for this ruling by imposing travel sanctions against the Honduran people).  Moreover, Honduras’ removal of its ex-president was legal.

Now, the State Department more or less admits that admits that there was no military coup, citing “the participation of both the legislative and judicial branches of government” in the president’s removal.

But while its original justification for cutting off the aid has disappeared, the Obama Administration was determined to cut off aid anyway, logic be damned.  The Associated Press now reports that “the Obama administration on Thursday cut off all aid to the Honduran government over the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, making permanent a temporary suspension of U.S. assistance put in place after he was deposed in June.”

U.S. sanctions are causing suffering, malnutrition, and widespread unemployment in Honduras, blocking needed projects such as the construction of orphanages.

Honduras removed ex-president Zelaya after he systematically abused his powers: he sought to circumvent constitutional term limits, used mobs to intimidate his critics, threatened public employees with termination if they refused to help him violate the Constitution, engaged in massive corruption, illegally cut off public funds to local governments whose leaders refused to back his quest for more power, denied basic government services to his critics, refused to enforce dozens of laws passed by Congress, and spent the country into virtual bankruptcy, refusing to submit a budget so that he could illegally spend public funds on his cronies.

Journalists nonsensically refer to Honduras’s removal of its ex-president as a “coup” even while admitting that it was approved by the country’s supreme court, and stating that it was ordered by the court.  But if it was legal, by definition, it cannot be a coup, since a coup is defined as “the unconstitutional overthrow of a legitimate government by a small group.”

The ex-president’s removal was perfectly constitutional, say many lawyers and foreign policy experts, including attorneys Octavio Sanchez, Miguel Estrada, and Dan Miller, former Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes, Stanford’s William Ratliff, and the Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady.

President Obama’s demand that Honduras reinstate its would-be dictator has emboldened other elected leaders in Latin America to try to make themselves dictators. (Even the liberal Washington Post, which has not endorsed a Republican for president since 1952, admitted that the Obama Administration has shown a “willful disregard of political oppression” by left-wing dictators in Latin America).  Obama’s demand has been supported by the Cuban communist dictator Castro and the Venezuelan socialist dictator Chavez, who counted Honduras’s deposed president as an ally, despite his background as a wealthy and corrupt landowner.

Moreover, the ex-president’s removal was not a “coup” because it was not committed by a “small group,” as the definition of “coup” requires. The removal of Honduras’s president was supported by the entire Honduran Supreme Court, an almost unanimous Honduran Congress, and much of Honduran society. Honduras did not lose its government, but merely replaced one illegitimate part of it: its overbearing president. And his removal from office (as opposed to his subsequent exile) was clearly legally justified.

The fact that solders, not police, enforced the removal of Honduras’s ex-president does not make it a coup. Because soldiers, “instead of the police,” carried out the court’s orders to remove the ex-president, the removal has been falsely called a “military coup” by liberal journalists, the Obama Administration, the Carter Center, and the leftist regimes that now prevail in much of Latin America. But soldiers’ participation made sense. Only soldiers, not police, would have enough manpower to remove a would-be dictator who was the most powerful man in his country, with his own bodyguards. More importantly, the Honduran Constitution expressly vests the military — not police — with the power to enforce Constitutional guarantees like term limits, in Article 272. The president forfeited his right to rule by proposing an end to term limits (Honduras has had such a problem with elected presidents later becoming “presidents for life” through vote fraud and intimidation that Article 239 of the Honduras Constitution strips presidents of the presidency if they even “propose” an end to term limits). And soldiers have occasionally been used to enforce court orders, even in the U.S., such as in the 1957 Little Rock desegregation order.