Honduran coup tests waning US clout in Latin America
The coup happened apparently against US wishes, showing the erosion of America’s influence in a region it once controlled.
Sunday's military coup in Honduras is a reminder of democracy's shallow roots in much of Latin America, and it provides a major test of US and international influence in what was once the quintessential banana republic.Skip to next paragraph
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The White House said Monday that its goal is to see democratic order reestablished. But the US refrained from formally declaring Sunday's actions a "coup": a move that would require a cutoff of US aid.
Instead, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the US will work with the international community to see that Honduras returns "to the rule of law and constitutional order within a relatively short period of time."
The Organization of American States is set to take up the issue in an emergency session Tuesday.
But the fact a military coup occurred apparently against US wishes suggests how American dominance in the region has waned.
"The days when the US had a decisive say in the region about what happened in a particular country – whether it had a coup, or a leader friendly to the US survived – are long gone," says Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Latin America Project coordinator for Washington's Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. "Since the cold war, the US has shifted its strategic focus to the Middle East and Asia, which is a good thing, but it also means the US is less influential in the region and can be taken by surprise."
The deposed president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, attended a summit of leftist Latin American presidents in Nicaragua Monday, a day after his country's military awakened him in Tegucigalpa's presidential palace and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. The Honduran Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, who said the military action came in defense of the Honduran constitution – and who rebuffed any external effort to reverse the military action.