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Not So Fast, Amigas y Amigos
by Colonel Robert Killebrew, Small Wars Journal
The United States has always had mixed feelings about our relationship with Central America, so when the Honduran Army sent President Manuel Zelaya packing last week, we joined with a chorus of regional leaders, including Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, in condemning the soldier's putsch.
But now that we've exercised our moral indignation, we ought to step back and take a deep breath. As reports continue to come in, it appears that it was Zelaya, not the army, that was most egregiously breaking the law. The president was apparently involved in his own takeover, against the courts and Honduran Congress, and was about to stage a Chavez-style referendum" on ballots printed in Venezuela and looted from an army warehouse where they were being safeguarded. The army's move was legitimized by the Honduran Supreme Court and applauded by the Congress, which has appointed a stand-in president until regular elections this November.
Certainly we deplore military coups, just as we deplore sin. But in the tangled web of Central American politics, Honduras has long been the U.S.' most staunch ally. Among the four states from Nicaragua north, it has tried hardest to convert from a military-run banana republic to a constitutional democracy and, until just the other day, with some success. It supported U.S. trainers in the Salvadoran civil war. It houses an American military joint task force. At our request, Honduran soldiers fought in Iraq. So while the verdict must be that military takeovers are bad, surely in this case there are extenuating circumstances for a faithful ally, particularly since the bottom-line issue seems to have been the survival of its constitutional form of government.