4006 COHA Report,Honduras: The Obama Administration’s First Latin American Waterloo

Honduras: The Obama Administration’s First Latin

American Waterloo

The staging of the Honduran presidential election on November 29 was meant to represent a satisfactory resolution of the Honduran crisis in Washington’s thinking. But to short-sighted U.S. policymakers, the magnitude and prohibitive costs of their maladroit strategy are being left out of the equation. Meanwhile, what seems to be a solution for Washington actually lives on as a profound problem for much of the rest of the hemisphere, as well as for long-term ties with such major regional actors as Brazil, Argentina, and the Venezuelan-led ALBA nations. These latter nations, at least for now, refuse to accept the validity of what they see as a tainted strategy unfolding in Honduras. Their split with the U.S., when it comes to Washington’s apparent decision to recognize the integrity of the November 29 presidential ballot and the December 2 vote in the Honduran Congress to recognize an anti-Zelaya status quo, is definitive. Moreover, what could have been looked back upon as a stunning victory for U.S. diplomacy was, in a matter of days, transformed into a staggering defeat.

Once the Honduras crisis came onto its agenda, Washington irresponsibly threw away an extraordinary opportunity to rehabilitate its tattered reputation most recently formed under the Bush administration. The Obama administration was all too ready to turn its back on upholding principles that reject an extra-constitutional change of government for a policy charted by the absence of both a Plan A and a Plan B. Rather than adhering to a policy that had been adopted by the entire international community, almost without exception, the State Department repeatedly first affirmed and then backed away from a strategy in which chaos ruled the day. Easily, the most obvious casualty, in terms of a damaged reputation, was Secretary of State Clinton, who at every policy juncture affecting Honduras shepherded a self-caricaturing policy of too little and too late accompanied by gross illogic. She was perpetually behind the curve when it came to the day-to-day articulation of Washington’s mooncalf Honduran policy. Instead of crafting a stance that would prove harmonious with domestic and international goals, Washington’s failed Honduras policy became an embarrassment for its lack of grace and class.

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This analysis was prepared by COHA Director Larry Birns

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