Now Is the Time to Restore President Zelaya

22 September 2009

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to Honduras yesterday; President Zelaya is under the protection of the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa.  The coup regime immediately declared a curfew; Honduran military and police have surrounded the embassy, violently dispersing President Zelaya’s supporters.

As Secretary of State Clinton has noted, the question of whether President Zelaya can return to Honduras has been resolved by events.  He has returned.  The question is now restoring him to office.

Speaking after meeting with Costa Rican President Arias, Secretary Clinton said:

now that President Zelaya is back, it would be opportune to restore him to his position under appropriate circumstances, get on with the election that is currently scheduled for November, have a peaceful transition of presidential authority, and get Honduras back to constitutional and democratic order in a very — on a very clear path toward that goal.

That’s good.  But before there can be a diplomatic resolution of the crisis, the US must make clear to the coup regime that a violent crackdown will not be a way out.  The reports from Honduras indicate that a violent crackdown is already underway.

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Amorim has warned that any threat to President Zelaya or the Brazilian embassy would be a grave breach of international law.  OAS Secretary General Insulza said the de facto authorities must be responsible for the security of President Zelaya and for the Brazilian Embassy.

But an adviser to the coup regime’s foreign ministry claimed that international law would not stop the coup regime from raiding the Brazilian embassy.

As has been the case throughout this crisis, the statements coming from the U.S. have not been as strong or clear as the statements coming from Brazil and the OAS.

Now is the time to restore President Zelaya to office, as Secretary Clinton has said.  Now is also the time for Secretary Clinton to make clear to the coup regime that a violent crackdown will not provide a way out of the crisis.

As it has throughout the crisis, the U.S. media is largely burying the news from Honduras.  Now is the time for Americans to speak up.  The State Department comment line is 202-647-4000; the White House comment line is 202-456-1111.  Call now; if you have trouble getting through, call back in a half hour.  This is the political moment when the crisis is most likely to be resolved; this is the moment when citizens in Honduras protesting the coup are in great danger.

Robert Naiman is National Coordinator of Just Foreign Policy.  Naiman also edits the daily Just Foreign Policy news summary and blogs at the Web site of Just Foreign Policy, where this article first appeared.  Click here to contribute for Just Foreign Policy.