October 18, 2009
After traveling to Honduras earlier this month to show his support for the June 28 military coup, Congressman Aaron Schock ironically spoke of his concern for democracy and “the will of the Honduras people.”
The ousted President Manuel Zelaya, however, is the democratically elected leader who – with the support of the tiny Honduran elite – was forcefully removed from power by the military. And despite the massive propaganda campaign against Zelaya, his popularity hasn’t changed. According to a poll that was just released, only 17.4 percent of Hondurans support the coup and a majority still favor Zelaya’s return to power.
While the State Department and the White House view the matter differently, Schock continues to argue that Zelaya was illegally attempting to change the constitution so that he could run for another term, thereby making the coup perfectly legal and constitutional. The truth is another matter.
While President Zelaya did call for a non-binding referendum on whether the public would support rewriting the 1982 constitution – which has already been rewritten 16 times – such action was apparently perfectly legal under the 2006 Honduran Civil Participation Act. Moreover, Zelaya repeatedly said that any changes made by the constitutional assembly, including allowing a second presidential term, wouldn’t apply to him, since his term ends in January.
The real reason that Honduran soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the middle of the night and flew Zelaya at gunpoint to Costa Rica was because of opposition by the wealthy beneficiaries of the status quo to his redistributive policies – such as raising the minimum wage, subsidizing public transit and providing free school lunches and pensions for the elderly – that began to address the massive inequalities and desperate poverty in the third poorest country in the hemisphere.
Since taking power, the coup government of Roberto Micheletti has closed down critical media outlets, blocked access to international news sources like CNN, and regularly beaten, arrested and killed courageous, peaceful protesters calling for a return to democracy and the rule of law.
Schock’s embarrassing stance on Honduras only adds to the rich, sordid history of politicians from both sides of the aisle backing military dictatorships and repressive regimes that are seen as beneficial to our “economic interests,” while paying lip service to democracy, human rights and freedom.