“We love our democracy, but we do not like Zelaya”
When news of the events in Honduras broke on Sunday morning, the response from the international media was immediate and piqued. “Coup in Honduras” flashed across millions of TV screens around the world. As hundreds of newsroom directors rushed to find Honduras on a map, the sense from the media was indignation and shock. References to the “bad, old days” of Central America abounded, recalling vicious and often bloody military take-overs.
Enter into this environment the deposed man himself, Mel Zelaya, speaking from a conference room inside the airport in Costa Rica; a visibly irritated Costa Rican president Oscar Arias by his side. Zelaya proceeded to spin a harrowing tale of a military siege and being roused from his bed, forced to hide to avoid the flying bullets, and finally being beaten and hustled off to a plane bound and unaware whether he would live or die. The media carried the news conference live and picked up Zelaya’s story as gospel feeding the emerging narrative of a return to those bad, old days.
Through it all, the government said little and had no prepared media response. Zelaya’s claims went unchallenged and the government has spent the last week digging out of the public relations nightmare. The reaction of world leaders was therefore little surprising.
Therefore, I am not so quick to put President Obama firmly in the camp of Hugo Chavez. I think the administration’s response says more about their relative inexperience and emotion-driven way of approaching issues than anything else. The State Department and a number of key staffers have stepped back and used more neutral language in the last couple of days, but the White House now finds itself in the awkward position of having already called for Zelaya to be restored. However, we are hearing more talk of “a legal, transparent process” and calls for “the rule of law” rather than the shrill tenor of Sunday and Monday.
The more disturbing pattern is the failure of Obama to get on the right side of any of these foreign issues, from Iran to Honduras he has failed to pick the side of liberty, insomuch that he should be interfering at all. As I observed on my Facebook page, Obama seems to be turning in to Jimmy Carter faster than Jimmy Carted did.