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Navigating the Honduras Coup: Barack Obama and the New Alliance for Progress

By Chris Shortsleeve

As the crisis in Honduras escalates, as the coup regime enters its fourth month of political power, evicting OAS representatives, barricading the Brazilian embassy, and instituting martial law, it is worth revisiting a question that has not been sufficiently and systematically discussed in left publications – namely, why the seemingly confused policy towards Honduras by the Obama administration? Why the vacillation between rhetorical condemnation of the Honduran coup on the one hand, and the complete absence of meaningful political pressure on the coup regime itself on the other? Furthermore, where does Honduras fit in the future of US imperialism – what does Obama’s response to this coup perhaps indicate for the future of US policy in Latin America?

With a political, military, and economic embeddedness that almost mirrors places like Pakistan and Iraq, Honduras is essentially a US client state. The Honduran economy and political elite are completely dependent on the United States, as 70% of all Honduran exports end up in the U.S., 40% of all capital investments originate in the US, and the entire Honduran military is funded and trained by U.S. aid. Thus, contrary to Obama’s recent press conference statement that “there is no magic button” to the Honduran political situation, there actually is: the US has merely to cut off the $100 million in aid it gives to Honduras each year, and the coup regime would be untenable literally in a matter of weeks.

This obvious hypocrisy gave rise to certain theories on the left this summer that perhaps the US was behind the Honduran coup. After all, why would Obama and Hillary Clinton back Zelaya, a left-center president who has been knick-named “little Chavez” throughout the region, when the coup regime so clearly represents a conservative restoration of unchecked US financial power in the region, a staging ground, perhaps, for a whole new era of neoliberal policies throughout Latin America? Why, if under Micheletti, Honduras could become for Latin America what Iraq has failed to become for the Middle East – the poster-child of the Project for a New American Century – has the Obama administration publicly condemned such a golden opportunity for the long term hegemony of American imperialism throughout Latin America?

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