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.
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The State Department says it was aware of the political tensions leading to Sunday's coup, actually working behind the scenes to head off military action. On Saturday, the day before the coup, Mr. Zelaya had told the Spanish newspaper El Pais that he would have been deposed if not for the support of the US embassy in Tegucigalpa.Skip to next paragraph
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While acknowledging that the US no longer calls the shots in Latin America as it once did, other regional analysts say it is hard to imagine that the Honduran military acted without at least an assumption of tacit US support.
As a result, they say Obama will have to move beyond rhetorical condemnation to show that he and US partners won't let the coup stand.
"Remember that the general in charge of this is a graduate of the School of the Americas," the US military training center for the region's militaries, says Miguel Tinker Salas, a Latin America specialist at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. "You have to assume they were communicating with someone in the US."
The general in question, Romeo Vásquez, had refused Zelaya's order to provide security for a referendum Zelaya had called for Sunday to test the public waters for a constitutional reform to allow reelection of presidents, currently outlawed by the Honduran constitution. When General Vásquez refused the order Zelaya fired him, but the Supreme Court reinstated him.
Mr. Tinker Salas says the crisis over use of the referendum has its roots in Honduras's cold war era constitution, which was written by the country's "liberal elites" and does not provide for referendums.
"The referendum is the primary vehicle through which change has occurred in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and the elites know it," says Tinker Salas. "They wanted to nip this thing in the bud."
Given the international pressure now bearing down on Honduras, he adds, "they may have shot themselves in the foot."