Conservatives say Obama is siding with Chavez and Cuba on Honduras

››› ››› LILY YAN

Conservatives in the media have criticized President Obama's condemnation of the Honduran president's ouster, asserting that Obama is taking the same side as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the leadership in Cuba. However, the European Union has also condemned the ouster.

Since the June 28 ousting of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, conservatives in the media have criticized President Obama's condemnation of the ouster, asserting that Obama is taking the same side as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the leadership in Cuba. However, these figures have not noted that the European Union has also condemned the ouster.

On June 28, Obama released the following statement on Honduras:

I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States [OAS] did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.

At a June 29 joint press availability with Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, Obama stated: "All of us have great concerns about what's taken place there. President Zelaya was democratically elected. He had not yet completed his term. We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras, the democratically elected President there. In that we have joined all the countries in the region, including Colombia and the Organization of American States." He later stated: "So we are very clear about the fact that President Zelaya is the democratically elected President, and we will work with the regional organizations like OAS and with other international institutions to see if we can resolve this in a peaceful way."

On June 29, the European Union posted on its website a "Declaration by the Presidency, on behalf of the European Union, on Honduras," which states:

On 28 June Foreign Ministers of the European Union strongly condemned the military actions which were directed against democratically elected President Zelaya and part of his cabinet and have violated the constitutional order of Honduras. The EU urges the immediate release of all detained governmental representatives and calls on all relevant parties and institutions to refrain from violence and to strive to find a swift and peaceful solution to the current situation. This should be in accordance with the existing constitutional order of Honduras, the principles of rule of law an democracy..

The BBC noted the European Union's statement -- along with statements on Honduras from other world leaders -- in a June 28 article.

On the June 29 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said of Zelaya's ouster: "They installed their own man, drawing a quick rebuke from Cuba, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, and our president." Beck added: "Wow, good company we're keeping ourselves with." Similarly, on the June 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, in arguing that Obama was "sending the wrong message to our allies and our foes," Beck stated: "I'm telling you, the policies that we have seem to always embrace our enemies and slap our friends across the face. It just doesn't make sense to me."

Other conservatives who have recently criticized Obama for taking the same side as Cuba and Venezuela include:

  • In a June 30 column titled, "Honduras Defends Its Democracy," Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote, "Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself." O'Grady added: "The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya's abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground."
  • On the June 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report, talking about Obama's position on Honduras, Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer stated: "Look, a rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions." Moments later, Fox News contributor Bill Kristol added, "And it does seem to me that it's unbelievable that, on the same day that's happening, instead of reserving judgment, President Obama is out there denouncing this one; whereas in Iran, it's 'hey, who knows if those elections were fair or not? There weren't international observers there.' "

Later in the discussion, Krauthammer said: "It's not harmless, America supporting the president in this, because it puts us on the side of the U.N., the OAS, and Chavez. Pressure on the government, isolation on the existing government of Honduras could bring it down and a restoration of this guy and a Chavez dictatorship."

From O'Grady's June 30 Wall Street Journal column:

But Honduras is not out of the Venezuelan woods yet. Yesterday the Central American country was being pressured to restore the authoritarian Mr. Zelaya by the likes of Fidel Castro, Daniel Ortega, Hillary Clinton and, of course, Hugo himself. The Organization of American States, having ignored Mr. Zelaya's abuses, also wants him back in power. It will be a miracle if Honduran patriots can hold their ground.

[...]

It remains to be seen what Mr. Zelaya's next move will be. It's not surprising that chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose, too.

Mrs. Clinton has piled on as well. Yesterday she accused Honduras of violating "the precepts of the Interamerican Democratic Charter" and said it "should be condemned by all." Fidel Castro did just that. Mr. Chávez pledged to overthrow the new government.

Honduras is fighting back by strictly following the constitution. The Honduran Congress met in emergency session yesterday and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law. It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward. The Supreme Court later said that the military acted on its orders. It also said that when Mr. Zelaya realized that he was going to be prosecuted for his illegal behavior, he agreed to an offer to resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Mr. Zelaya denies it.

Many Hondurans are going to be celebrating Mr. Zelaya's foreign excursion. Street protests against his heavy-handed tactics had already begun last week. On Friday a large number of military reservists took their turn. "We won't go backwards," one sign said. "We want to live in peace, freedom and development."

Besides opposition from the Congress, the Supreme Court, the electoral tribunal and the attorney general, the president had also become persona non grata with the Catholic Church and numerous evangelical church leaders. On Thursday evening his own party in Congress sponsored a resolution to investigate whether he is mentally unfit to remain in office.

For Hondurans who still remember military dictatorship, Mr. Zelaya also has another strike against him: He keeps rotten company. Earlier this month he hosted an OAS general assembly and led the effort, along side OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, to bring Cuba back into the supposedly democratic organization.

The OAS response is no surprise. Former Argentine Ambassador to the U.N. Emilio Cárdenas told me on Saturday that he was concerned that "the OAS under Insulza has not taken seriously the so-called 'democratic charter.' It seems to believe that only military 'coups' can challenge democracy. The truth is that democracy can be challenged from within, as the experiences of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and now Honduras, prove." A less-kind interpretation of Mr. Insulza's judgment is that he doesn't mind the Chávez-style coup.

The struggle against chavismo has never been about left-right politics. It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators. This crisis clearly delineates the problem. In failing to come to the aid of checks and balances, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Insulza expose their true colors.

From the June 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BRET BAIER (host): What about all of this: the coup, what it means for the U.S., and the response? We're back with the panel -- Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, the president has a knack for getting all of these big decisions wrong. Two weeks ago, he refuses to meddle in a country where peaceful demonstrators are getting shot by a theocratic dictatorship. He doesn't want to choose sides.

And now, he's eager to meddle on behalf of a president in Honduras, who is a Chavez wannabe, who's strong-arming his way to a referendum that has been declared illegal by his Supreme Court as a way to have a referendum to establish a constituent assembly, which will establish a new constitution, which will be a Chavez-like dictatorship.

That's what everybody understands in Honduras, and that's why the Supreme Court had ruled his referendum illegal. Only Congress has a right to call it, not the president. Congress had denounced it. The Supreme Court had told the military not to assist in the referendum because it's illegal. So Zelaya fires the chief of staff of the army. The Supreme Court orders him reinstated; he fires him again.

This guy is acting extra-constitutionally. Yes, he was elected, but Hitler was as well, and Chavez also was. It's easy to dismantle a democracy if you're a president, if you're intent on doing it -- and he's intent on doing it.

So, our decision ought to be, yes, a coup isn't a nice thing, but it's preferable to having Zelaya dismantle the democracy. And we should insist on the elections of a president as scheduled in November, so it's a temporary situation.

Look, a rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions.

MARA LIASSON (NPR national political correspondent): Look, I --

BAIER: We should point out, Mara, that Hugo Chavez said in a speech today, he referenced U.S. interference in Honduras. And U.S. officials are saying that they knew this coup was in the works --

LIASSON: Well, they tried to -- they tried to --

BAIER: -- and they were working behind the scenes.

LIASSON: You know what? I actually have a different take. I think that the president's words -- it's almost like he doth protests too much. I think that they're perfectly happy with the outcome of what happened. They'd rather not have a Chavez-like president, another one, in Central America.

Now, I think it's the correct public diplomacy in politics to say that, of course, we're for the democratically elected president, and we don't like coups in Latin America, but when all the dust settles, they'll be perfectly happy to work with this new guy.

They are not working to get Zelaya back into power. That's not what the U.S. is doing here. Now, you're kind of extrapolating that position --

KRAUTHAMMER: No, I --

LIASSON: -- from his statements.

I think that this is -- in terms of the split also in terms of the State Department and the White House with Secretary of State Clinton being less forward, not really willing to say this was illegal -- I think that, in the end, this is the outcome that the United States would have preferred. This is not the method that they want to publicly condone.

BAIER: We should point out the new guy is congressional leader Roberto Micheletti, who was --

LIASSON: Constitutionally --

BAIER: He was next in line. And --

LIASSON: He was next in line. The military didn't install him.

BAIER: He was sworn in as president.

LIASSON: This is what's supposed to happen. Right.

KRISTOL: Yeah, he's the equivalent of the speaker of the House.

LIASSON: Yeah. Right.

KRISTOL: He's become president. He has pledged fair and free presidential elections in November with international observers. That seems like a pretty adequate outcome for a president who was trying to go around the constitution and clearly was trying to stage his own kind of semi -- his own coup, as it were, you know, sitting as president.

So, I don't know quite why our president is so upset about what seemed to be a good outcome.

LIASSON: He's not so upset.

KRISTOL: I disagree. He's playing a very dangerous hand there. Chavez says he's going to intervene and invade. And we are signing onto resolutions --

BAIER: Invade Honduras?

KRISTOL: Yes. And it's not out of the -- you know, the guy, he can do it. I mean, the guy -- and he's going to say, the OAS says this is illegitimate; the U.S. says this is illegitimate. Obama makes it sound like we won't recognize the new government. He's been, of course, much tougher on this than on Iran, as several people have pointed out.

But, again, I come back to the fact this new government has set free and fair elections in November. That's a pretty -- that's not really your classic military coup -- your takeover for 15 years, you're sticking people in jail, you're dissolving congress.

And it does seem to me that it's unbelievable that, on the same day that's happening, instead of reserving judgment, President Obama is out there denouncing this one; whereas in Iran, it's "hey, who knows if those elections were fair or not? There weren't international observers there."

LIASSON: He corrected that statement.

BAIER: Charles, how does this end up?

KRAUTHAMMER: It's not harmless, America supporting the president in this, because it puts us on the side of the U.N., the OAS, and Chavez. Pressure on the government, isolation on the existing government of Honduras could bring it down and a restoration of this guy and a Chavez dictatorship.

BAIER: Manuel Zelaya, the president who was ousted, is going to be at the United Nations tomorrow, and we will have coverage of that.

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