The United States declared a policy of “non-intervention” in the affairs of sovereign nations in 2009, but in the case of Honduras — historically a strong American ally — the United States has intervened on several occasions on behalf of an anti-American caudillo, Manuel Zelaya.
The State Department has indicated that it will not accept the Honduran elections that will occur on Nov. 29, even though the primary candidates were democratically and freely elected before the June 28 crisis that resulted in Zelaya’s ouster. The administration is acting against its own interests by supporting Zelaya, a person Secretary of State Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 has described as “reckless,” and a strong ally of regimes seeking to undermine the United States.
In addition to supporting the return of an anti-American leader, the United States intervened in the internal affairs of Honduras and cancelled the visas of members of the independent Honduran Supreme Court and many in the Honduran Congress for opposing Zelaya’s attempt to unconstitutionally extend his rule.
Americans who care about their Latin American allies need to know how much Hondurans have suffered over the last few months and in particular in the last few days, partly as a result of U.S. actions.
The return of ex-President Zelaya to Honduras on Sept. 22 — which was seen as an “opportunity” by Secretary Clinton — has caused widespread devastation and chaos in the country. Several banks and grocery stores were looted by Zelaya supporters. Many Hondurans had to fight their way to buy food when the national curfew was temporarily lifted. The citizens of Honduras had to hide inside their homes after Zelaya indicated that he “came in peace,” but that if he was not reinstated his call was for “fatherland or death.” He declared the need for a “final offensive” on Sept. 28, even if it resulted in violence. Zelaya is now planning to establish a “parallel” government to run the country after the November elections and has called for a national insurrection. Many of his supporters are mercenaries paid by Hugo Chavez.
Because the United States has cut relief to Honduras, many doctors, teachers and farmers paid by international aid could lose their jobs, and Honduras could fall into a greater maelstrom. Many international and local businesses that provide valuable jobs are considering leaving Honduras because of the political instability. Funds have been withdrawn from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration leading to concern about the supply of currency reserves. People fear for shortages of food and gas.
Is this what the international community wants? It is easy for those who don’t have family in Honduras or are not in the country to pontificate about the situation in favor of Zelaya — a chaotic man who is putting the lives of his own people in danger. His attempts to recklessly land in Honduras in July, to revolt near the border with Nicaragua a few weeks later and to secretly enter the country are a clear indication of how he has led a country of 7 million people to the threshold of madness — with the “non-intervention” support of the United States and the international community.
My Yale education has influenced my perspective on the Honduran political crisis. As an undergraduate at Yale in Berkeley College 16 years ago, I audited classes taught by John Gaddis and Paul Kennedy. Those professors often said it is important for U.S. foreign-policy stakeholders to understand the reality inside foreign countries and to conduct thorough research of the history and predominant trends of other nations prior to shaping U.S. policy toward those countries.
Based on this, I believe that supporting the Honduran November elections is the best avenue to avoid further bloodshed.
Yalies should seek to become thoroughly informed about the situation in Honduras to make up their own minds about the political crisis. In addition, Yalies such as John Kerry ’66, who became Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in 2009, as well as former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, can play an important role in the debate. Yale students can contact their representatives in Congress to let them know that supporting the November elections can be an important solution to the crisis.
Oscar gonzales is a 1993 graduate of Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences .