Honduran Coup & U.S. Change

I am at least a little encouraged that there’s been some change in U.S. response to coups overthrowing democratically elected, left leaning, leaders in Latin America when our President and Secretary of State are referring to the ouster by the military of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya as a coup. On the other hand, I have to agree with the assessment of some, including The Nation and the LA Times, that the Obama administration’s response is “tepid”.

As Benjamin Dangl describes it in Truthout:

Early Sunday morning, approximately 100 soldiers entered the home of the left-leaning Zelaya, forcefully removed him and, while he was still in his pajamas, ushered him onto a plane to Costa Rica.


After Zelaya had been taken to Costa Rica, a falsified resignation letter from Zelaya was presented to Congress, and former Parliament leader Roberto Micheletti was sworn in by Congress as the new president of the country. Micheletti immediately declared a curfew as protests and mobilizations continued nationwide.

    Since the coup took place, military planes and helicopters have been circling the city, the electricity and internet have been cut off, and only music is being played on the few radio stations that are still operating, according to IPS News.

    Telesur journalists, who have been reporting consistently throughout the conflict, were detained by the de facto government in Honduras. They were then released, thanks to international pressure.

    The ambassadors to Honduras from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were arrested. Patricia Rodas, the foreign minister of Honduras under Zelaya has also been arrested. Rodas recently presided over an OAS meeting in which Cuba was finally admitted into the organization.

    The military-installed government has issued arrest warrants for Honduran social leaders for the Popular Bloc Coordinating Committee, Via Campesina and the Civic Council of Grassroots and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, according to the Weekly News Update on the Americas.

While as Truthout notes, initially on Sunday, President Obama said only that he was “deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya,” and Secretary of State Clinton stated “We are withholding any formal legal determination,” they both were referring to it as a coup by Monday.

A quote from the New York Times:

“We do not want to go back to a dark past,” Mr. Obama said, in which military coups override elections. “We always want to stand with democracy,” he added.

This definitely is an improvement from the past.  However, as the LA Times notes:

But while condemning the overthrow, U.S. officials stopped short of declaring it a coup and would not demand the reinstatement of Zelaya. The administration left its ambassador to Honduras in place, while several left-wing governments in the region recalled theirs.

And despite control over millions of dollars in American aid and massive U.S. economic clout, the administration did not threaten sanctions or penalties against Honduran coup-backers for forming a new government the day after Zelaya was dragged from his bed and evicted from the country.
Wait, but President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton called the overthrow a coup, didn’t they?  What does the LA Times mean when it said they “stopped short of declaring it a coup”?
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the political crisis “has evolved into a coup.” But U.S. officials have not made a legal determination that the action actually constituted a coup, a finding that would trigger cutoffs of U.S. aid.
Oh, yes!  We have an administration full of lawyers, don’t we?  They do say they tried to avert a coup, to give them credit.  However, their response still seems a little cautious?  Is that the word?  No, maybe just not that enthusiastic.

Nonetheless, Obama offered a frank appraisal of U.S. history in the region, referring to its involvement in many of the region’s coups over the last century.

“The United States has not always stood as it should with some of these fledgling democracies,” he said at the White House. “But over the last several years I think both Republicans and Democrats in the United States have recognized that we always want to stand with democracy, even if the results don’t always mean that the leaders of those countries are favorable towards the United States.”

Now, why this lack of enthusiasm?  Could it be because President Zelaya aligned himself with the poor and against corporations exploiting workers? 

According to the Truthout article:

  When Manuel Zelaya was elected president on November 27, 2005, in a close victory, he became president of one of the poorest nations in the region, with approximately 70 percent of its population of 7.5 million living under the poverty line. Though siding himself with the region’s left in recent years as a new member of the leftist trade bloc, Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), Zelaya did sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2004.

    However, Zelaya has been criticizing and taking on the sweatshop and corporate media industry in his country, and he increased the minimum wage by 60 percent. He said the increase, which angered the country’s elite but expanded his support among unions, would “force the business oligarchy to start paying what is fair.”

Now why are so many mainstream news agencies reporting the issue was Zelaya wanting to extend his term in office when it was actually re-writing the constitution that was going to be the issue on the ballot (to be voted on by the people)?

The key question leading up to the coup was whether or not to hold a referendum on Sunday, June 28 – as Zelaya wanted – on organizing an assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.

    As one media analyst pointed out, while many major news outlets in the US, including the Miami Herald, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, said an impetus for the coup was specifically Zelaya’s plans for a vote to allow him to extend his term in office, the actual ballot question was to be: “Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?”

According to Truthout:

Leading up to the coup, on June 10, members of teacher, student, indigenous and union groups marched to demand that Congress back the referendum on the constitution, chanting, “The people, aware, defend the Constituent [Assembly].” The Honduran Front of Teachers Organizations [FOM], with some 48,000 members, also supported the referendum. FOM leader Eulogio Ch·vez asked teachers to organize the expected referendum this past Sunday in schools, according to the Weekly News Update on the Americas.

    The Supreme Court ruled that the referendum violated the constitution as it was taking place during an election year. When Honduran military Gen. Romeo Vasquez refused to distribute ballots to citizens and participate in the preparations for the Sunday referendum, Zelaya fired him on June 24. The Court called for the reinstatement of Vasquez, but Zelaya refused to recognize the reinstatement, and proceeded with the referendum, distributing the ballots and planning for the Sunday vote.

Oh, wait, I forgot to mention one thing, the elephant in the room.

Vasquez, a former student at the infamous School of the Americas, now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), went on to be a key leader in the June 28 coup.

Ah, yes, as President Obama alluded to, our bad past history, of training future dictators and military leaders who overthrow democratically elected governments, and imprison, torture, kill and disappear people to hold onto their power.

And the people are rising up once again:

Members of social, indigenous and labor organizations from around the country have concentrated in the city’s capital, organizing barricades around the presidential palace, demanding Zelaya’s return to power. “Thousands of Hondurans gathered outside the presidential palace singing the national hymn,” Telesur reported. “While the battalions mobilized against protesters at the Presidential House, the TV channels did not report on the tense events.” Bertha C·ceres, the leader of the Consejo CÌvico de Organizaciones Populares y IndÌgenas, said that the ethnic communities of the country are ready for resistance and do not recognize the Micheletti government.

I, for one, would like to see a stronger response from President Obama.

If the White House declares that what’s happening in Honduras is a coup, they would have to block aid to the rogue Honduran government. A provision of US law regarding funds directed by the US Congress says that, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available … shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

    “The State Department has requested $68.2 million in aid for fiscal year 2010 [for Honduras], which begins on October 1, up from $43.2 million in the current fiscal year and $40.5 million a year earlier,” according to Reuters.

Now, to give the Obama administration credit, according to The Nation, Secretary of State Clinton did say:

“The United States has been working with our partners in the OAS (Organization of American States) to fashion a strong consensus condemning the detention and expulsion of President Zelaya, and calling for the full restoration of democratic order in Honduras,” she said Monday. “Our immediate priority is to restore full democratic and constitutional order in that country.”

That we’re fully engaged in these diplomatic efforts is a good thing, and let’s hope the regional strategy works.  There is more we could be doing, however, such as pulling our ambassador and bringing our aid to a halt as long as there’s an illegal regime in power.  All of which we would expect the U.S. to do, if they didn’t find the government that’s legitimately in power a little too far to the left.

Definitely some change, and considerable change to the last administration.  We’d no doubt be embracing the coup right now if Bush was in power. We still could do better, and we should be on the side of democracy and the Honduran people.





Hope for Party Unity?

I have to admit, I was impressed by Hillary Clinton’s speech for unity at the Democratic National Convention tonight. She hit all the right notes (“No Way, no How, no McCain!), even if she was a little vague on specifics on Obama. She really seemed like a class act tonight, reminding her supporters what’s really at stake, the nightmare of the last eight years, and what another four years of Republican rule (specifically McCain) will be like.

With delegates waving banners that read “Hillary” or “Obama” on one side and “Unity” on the other, Mrs. Clinton encouraged supporters to rally behind Mr. Obama for the sake of struggling Americans she met during the campaign.

“I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me?” Mrs. Clinton said. “Or were you in it for that young marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?”

Yet, I can’t help still feeling a little uneasy, reading some of the back story from the New York Times mentioning Hillary and Bill still being bitter and how many of her top fundraisers are still unwilling to support Barack. It’s especially disturbing to hear of some of her supporters talking about how if Obama fails in November, Hillary is sure to get in when 2012 rolls around (and can’t help worrying Hillary and Bill may feel the same way).  What will this country be like after another four years of a Republican President bowing to the wishes of the neo-cons and religious right?  Do they really think Hillary will get elected in that climate (or that any of the rest of us would forgive her or them and give her the nomination)? 

This election really will make a difference, one way or another.  There is a big difference between Barack Obama and John McCain.  Especially on the issues that matter, including women’s rights.  Are Hillary’s supporters willing to have four years of McCain just because their candidate lost the primary?  Just because they don’t have a woman this time, let the man most likely to continue turning back women’s rights get elected?

Even coming from the left, like me.  There’s just too big of a difference to hold out for . . . Nader?  Cynthia McKinney for the Greens?  I wish I could be more enthused about either of them and actually feel I was sacrificing voting for Barack, but they’ve both been too far out there this time.

True, there are issues like FISA, where Barack has given in.  He seems a little too willing to go to escalate the war in Afghanistan and in supporting Israel.  Then again, at least Barack is for diplomacy, which does offer some hope; in addition to wanting us out of Iraq (granted, I’m not sure how soon he’ll get us out).  Then there is his choice of Biden, who those of us on the left have even more issues with (to me, especially, Biden’s support of the credit card companies’ legislation making bankruptcy harder, while taking money from a major credit card company).

Yet, to say as some have, “He’s chosen Biden?  That’s the last straw!”?

What’s the choice, letting McCain get in there?

Barack is strong on domestic issues like health care and job issues.  He believes in diplomacy.  He doesn’t believe in torture, or the suspension of habeas corpus.  I think he’s the best mainstream candidate (meaning someone who can get elected) in years.

I do have hope, and for the first time in a long time.

I also think Michelle Obama is really a class act.  In addition to her excellent speech last night (reminding us of Barack’s work on poverty issues since he was a community organizer in Chicago), she had nothing but kind words to say about Hillary when she was interviewed by PBS tonight before Hillary’s speech.

Yes, there has been both sexism and racism in this campaign, and Michelle has kept her cool even when dealing with the double whammy of both of them (“terrorist fist jab”?  “baby mama”?)  The latter tells you just how racist Faux, err Fox News is.  Their catch phrase for unwed mothers (who I don’t think should be put down in the first place), and they’re using it to refer to a married, to a U.S. Senator, Harvard Law School educated woman.   Incredible.  In the 21st century. . . and people actually watch that channel . . . for news.  Fair?  Balanced?  Unfair and unbalanced. 

Do we want them setting the agenda another 4 or 8 years?

43rd Caucus Musings

OK, so it’s nearly a week after the 43rd District Democrats’ Caucus, and I only stayed through the alternate seating process.  I don’t have a lot to report back, but both a friend’s experience caucusing and an article in this week’s The Stranger give me a few more thoughts on the process.

It was a nice day, so I walked (misjudging the time)  and I arrived just a little before the 10 am sign in deadline at the old Lincoln High School in the Wallingford neighborhood.  Lincoln is currently filling in for Garfield High during their re-construction, hence the Bulldog signs in the gym.  In the gym was where I spent most of my time, first standing in line to sign in (as an Obama alternate), then hanging out in the crowded bleachers waiting to see if I would be needed.  The gym was packed, with a lot of hopefuls standing in another line as well, this one in hopes of being delegates to the next level (as it turned out, you didn’t need to be a delegate or even an alternate for that).

Actually, I didn’t hang out on the bleachers most of the time, instead wandering around and taking pictures.  We had speakers while waiting – including State Senator Ed Murray, several judicial candidates, and US Rep. Jim McDermott (although a kid on Heely shoes stole the show, sometimes zipping around the talking politicians). 

We waited until they checked all the sign in sheets, then went over to another packed room where the actual delegates were crowded into to verify, finally reading off the names of the needed alternates.  I wasn’t needed, and while I could have stayed and just watched all afternoon (without having a vote), I decided to go home (maybe going to the County Convention, where alternates do have a vote, in about a week).

So, I heard from one of my friends who went through the process, as an Obama delegate, in another Seattle district.  She stayed through a very long day of listening to next level candidate after next level candidate, lasting long past the time allocated.  Admittedly, it had to have been more of a mess this time.  I forget which year I went through the whole process (I would have been either a Bradley or Kucinich delegate), but I seem to recall the only difficulty was getting enough volunteers for the next level.  This year everyone wants to go (well, a slight exaggeration), preferably all the way to the Democratic Convention in Denver

All this will need to be done over again, to select delegates for the next level at the next level.  My friend, quite reasonably, asked, “Isn’t there a better way to do this?”  While the political insiders love this process, even most of us who are willing to go through it find it maddening (and don’t hold me to the County Convention, come to think of it, I remember last time. . .)  Of course, only a small percentage of Democrats go to the caucuses to begin with (even with this time’s unprecedented draw), compared to those who would have voted.

Back to the 43rd District Caucus.  After all our current public officials and candidates spoke, someone breathlessly announced there was one more speaker, they had a special treat for us  Barack?  Hillary? No, Sean Astin, stumping for Hillary

If you’re like me (and most of the 43rd was), the response was “Who?”  He had to resort to telling us he’s Patty Duke’s son (which cleared up the mystery for some of us old enough, err barely old enough in my case , but probably not for the younger delegates).  Sean Astin, it turns out, is an actor himself, and was in The Lord of the Rings movies and on the tv show, 24.  Wait, isn’t that one of the shows advocating torture I blogged about in my Trekkies Against Torture post (to be fair, I still haven’t watched it)?

I was amused at the time, that Hillary would send along a tv star to a grassroots caucus, thinking he would impress anyone.  Especially in Seattle, where, as far as most of us were concerned, McDermott was the only possible celebrity we saw that day (and only because he’s had enough courage to speak out against the war, from the very beginning).  During his speech to the alternates, Astin made the usual unity bid, that while he supported Hillary, if Barack Obama was nominated he would, of course, support him (to which we all cheered, Obama supporters outnumbering Clinton’s at least 2 to 1 in the 43rd).

At least, that’s all I remember him saying.  According to article in The Stranger, during the next level delegate nomination process, after I left, Astin said a little more:

Astin’s speech was most memorable for this line: “Should Obama get the nomination, I will become a massive Barack Hussein Obama supporter.”

Hussein? Eyebrows shot up. Brows furrowed. Heads turned. A friend in the audience texted me: “Hussein!?” I’m not sure what Astin was up to with that line, but someone probably should have told him that Seattle’s 43rd District is the last place in the U.S. where subliminal messaging around Obama’s middle name is likely to move Democrats toward Clinton.

Hillary chooses as her spokesman someone who uses the neo-con trick of emphasizing Barack’s middle name?!!

That about says it all. 

Hillary keeps making it harder and harder to go with this party unity thing (and the only thing she’s got going for her there is I don’t want McCain, who is going to give us even more of the same than she will).

I may not go Green, but I don’t think I’ll be able to fake the smile if Hillary manages to get the nomination by shady, if legal, means and we’re stuck with yet another Republican-lite Democratic candidate.

IMG_4191 (2)

Tell the Democrats: Let the Voters Decide!

So, how did the Democrats come up with this “Superdelegate” system where Democratic Party insiders can potentially overturn the will of the people at the convention?

Seattle lawyer and superdelegate David McDonald explains in the Seattle PI says the system came about because of a 1980 parliamentary brawl between supporters of Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy.

That was what led to the creation of the superdelegates’ role, to have party elders step in to provide a decisive, party-unifying bloc of votes to whichever candidate appears the strongest contender for November.

How paternalistic! 

Even though Obama is in the lead by over 100 delegatesClinton could still win by making use of superdelegates and other “incendiary steps” including arguing to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates banned for holding their primary too soon, according to a New York Times article.

I was happy to see both Democracy for America and Move On have petitions now telling the Democratic Party to “Let the People Decide”:

Democracy for America’s petition: http://www.democracyforamerica.com/votersdecide

Move On’s petition:


Tell the Democratic Party to Let the People Decide !


Got Hope? Grassroots vs Superdelegates

I’m feeling quite good about the results of today’s caucus and being an Obama alternate for the Legislative Caucus and County Convention. I have not felt so hopeful about national politics in some time, although I can’t entirely shake my cynicism.   A cynicism apparently justified, as it appears the superdelegate system created by Democratic party insiders could hand victory to Clinton, even if Obama has a majority of grassroots delegates.

First, back to the caucus, which I have mixed feelings about as a democratic (and Democratic) system.  While there is now a state primary next Tuesday, in Washington State, only the results of the caucus count as far as the Democrats are concerned.  So, you have to go if you want your vote counted (even if you’re not feeling good, as was the case for me this afternoon). 

The caucus is inherently undemocratic, as it disenfranchises the vast majority of party members who don’t turn out, many more of whom would for a straight forward vote.  Although, one could argue that’s (generally) by choice, with a few exceptions for people who have to work that day, etc.    It is more democratic in bringing people together, and we have a choice in selecting the delegates we send on to vote for us (something I have no idea how they did in Oregon where we voted in a primary); yet most people attending seem, like me, to be slightly resentful of the process and concerned that it leaves so many out.

Did I mention it was very disorganized?  Ah, well, as Will Rogers said, “I belong to no organized party.  I’m a Democrat.”  Still, we managed to wait in long lines to enter (with helpful directions from the Communists tabling outside, while leaflletted by Ron Paul supporters), find our room with the help of volunteers who didn’t seem to know much more than we did, squish into the overcrowded rooms, stand in long lines to sign in, and select, for my precinct, 7 Obama and 1 Clinton delegates, with the equivalent in alternatives.

Personally, I think Obama has stood by his principles more than Clinton has and not been railroaded by the Republicans, and not taken money from lobbyists. 

I’m not particularly nostalgic for a return of the Clintons, beyond the fact Bill was considerably better than the Bushs (especially Dubya).  He still was Republican-light, and I think Hillary is too, for all their confrontationism. Clinton continued with the dismantling of the safety net started in the Reagan/Bush I Era.  A war on welfare instead of a war on poverty.  Continued sanctions on Iraq that caused starvation and disease of children.  Free trade instead of fair trade.  Remember WTO?  Ahh yes, and the tear gas and curfew as they cleared the streets partially due to threats by the Clinton administration Bill wouldn’t come otherwise.  Bill, allegedly the former peace activist, afraid of protesters. 

Are Hillary’s positions any different?  Or will we just be in for 4 – 8 more years of Republican-light, encouraging them to drift yet farther right as they have this time?

I like that Barrack has made fare trade on of his issues, and keeping the internet democratic and open to all without superhighway service to those sites with money and gravel roads for the rest of us.  I like that he’s not taking money from lobbyists.  I like that he’s talking about diplomacy (and troubled that Hillary is blasting him for that).  Yes, we should talk to everyone, even our enemies. 

So, todays results in Washington and elsewhere were overwhelmingly for Obama (even more so in my precinct).  Yet, I read that these “superdelegates” could take it all away if no one already has the majority of the needed delegates from the people. Superdelegates, including elected officials like Governors and Senators, Democratic National Committee insiders, etc. constitute 796 of the delegates, about 15–20%, in a system “intended to restore some of the power over the nomination process to party insiders, tempering the zeal of party activists.”

Barrack is concerned that the superdelegates could throw the nomination to someone who doesn’t have the majority of the people’s delegates.  Hillary defends the system (joking she’ll get back Kennedy and Kerry if it were to go by the will of Massachusetts voters who went for her):

“Superdelegates are, by design, supposed to exercise independent judgment,” she said at a news conference in Maine, according to MSNBC. “But, of course, if Senator Obama and his campaign continue to push this position, which is really contrary to what the definition of a superdelegate has historically been, I will look forward to receiving the support of Senator Kennedy and Senator Kerry.”

Well, why should a group of party insiders, whoever they are for, have more say than the people’s elected delegates?  The whole system is set up to circumvent the will of the people, with the whole idea that party insiders know best.

I hope someone thought to propose a resolution today to do away with the superdelegate system (and wish I had thought of it).

It’s not in the party’s best interest to get Hillary as their nominee, at all costs.  Barrack has brought an amazing number of people into the party, from groups including young people, minorities and people usually disillusioned by the system.  People and energy they stand to lose if they use superdelegates to take away the popular vote, for even if they hold their nose and vote Democrat in November, they certainly won’t be out organizing and campaigning.