The US and the Honduran coup

Revelations of US complicity with Honduran coup leaders comes at an inopportune time for Washington. It is waging a campaign to weaken or topple Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrapping itself in invocations of democracy and alleging that Ahmadinejad stole the June 12 election in Iran.

The administration is relying on the US media to limit the political damage resulting from its role in the Honduran coup and the exposure of its hypocrisy in relation to the Iranian elections. In contrast to the media’s coverage of Iran, there have been few breathless reports, amateur videos or Twitter feeds coming from Tegucigalpa.

The US role in Honduras must be appraised in the historical context of Washington’s violent and oppressive relations with Central America and its longstanding ties to the most reactionary forces in the region. As political and economic tensions mount, the big landowning and corporate interests and the US-trained officer corps in America’s traditional “back yard” fear the effects of populist appeals against US imperialism by left-nationalist figures like Chávez and Zelaya.

During the debate over Honduras’ joining ALBA, anti-Zelaya Honduran deputy Marta Lorena Alvarado attacked Chávez and warned, “We are allowing a man with a strange ideology to make his way into our population and into our manner of seeing Honduras’ history.”

Considering just the post-World War II period, the US and Honduran ruling elites have collaborated in huge crimes against the Central American masses. In the US-engineered 1954 coup against Guatemala’s elected president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, Honduras served as a base and training camp for a CIA “rebel force” on Guatemala’s southern border. The US intervention in Guatemala would ultimately provoke a series of civil wars prosecuted by US-backed anti-communist death squads, lasting over 30 years and claiming 200,000 lives, according to US figures.

In 1963, Honduran President Ramón Villeda was overthrown by military officers led by General Oswaldo López Arellano. US President John F. Kennedy then decided to end US adherence to the Betancourt doctrine, which held that the US should not recognize extra-constitutional governments. López Arellano called elections in 1971 but lost. He regained power through another coup in 1972.

The US responded to the 1979 overthrow of the Somoza family in neighboring Nicaragua by setting up the anti-communist Contra insurgency, which it funded in violation of US laws banning aid to the Contras. Based in Honduras, the Contras fought a war against the Nicaraguan Sandinistas that lasted until 1987, costing 60,000 casualties and displacing 250,000 people.

Seen in the context of Honduras’ historical role as a center of US-backed counterrevolution, the ouster of Zelaya constitutes a sharp warning to the working class in the Americas. Prompted by concern over the political ramifications of Zelaya’s links to Venezuela, a US-backed coup in Honduras could well be the signal for a broader regional campaign by US imperialism against Venezuela and allied regimes throughout the continent.  read more

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