To mark the one month anniversary of the military coup that deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, select press, think tankers, members of the diplomatic (including at least a dozen ambassadors “from Canada to Chile”) gathered at the Argentine Embassy in Washington for a reception for the Minister of Communications for the “Constitutional Government of Honduras” Enrique Reina.
Reina is actually a bit more than the minister of communication for the deposed Honduran government. When the military launched its coup, it had an ally in the Honduran ambassador to the United States, Roberto Flores Bermudez. This caused a schism within the embassy, with about half the Honduran foreign service loyal to Zelaya and half following the ambassador. The United States revoked the former ambassador’s visa, and since then Reina has acted as the “constitutional government’s” representative in the United States.
I had the opportunity to talk to Reina and a number of other South American diplomats and gauge their reaction to the machinations of certain members of congress, led by Connie Mack of Florida, that are supportive of the de-facto Honduran government. Mack recently returned from Honduras. And, via The Hill upon his return he had this to say:
“The Organization of American States, State Department and Obama administration got it wrong,” Mack said. “We’re siding with the OAS and Chavez and Castro and that group over an ally.” Mack said Zelaya “is playing a game here and Hugo Chavez is pulling the strings.”
Reina and nearly all of the South American diplomats with whom I spoke made the similar point that sentiments like this harken back to the bad old days of the Cold War — a time when the United States viewed Latin American governments in clear dichotomy between left and right. Left bad. Right good. End of story.
But in this case, the entire world (save a handful of Republican members of the United States congress) have united around Zelaya. Left wing Latin American governments like Venezuela find themselves on the same side of the debate as right wing governments of Columbia. This suggests that the coup transcends politics. As one Latin American diplomat told me, “We have all seen what a coup is. When you wake the president up at five in the morning with a gun to his head and kick him out the country that is a coup!”
The one place where the coup has apparently not transcended regular politics is the United States Congress.