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Battling State Department amnesia

Pinochet was also known to wear hats.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of former Honduran president Mel Zelaya’s sudden reappearance in Tegucigalpa following his June 28 expatriation at the hands of the Honduran military. After extensively debating whether or not said military expatriation qualified as a military coup, the U.S. State Department finally arrived at the conclusion this year that whatever it was it had resulted in a government committed to democracy and constitutional order. The U.S. would presumably not welcome similar thought processes by foreign opponents, or a situation in which Iran spent the better part of a year hemming and hawing over whether it had in fact executed political prisoners before determining that the term execution was inconsequential and not an obstacle to the maintenance of human rights.

As for regimes slightly less adept at the manipulation of truth, Honduran coup president Roberto Micheletti was eventually forced to amend his claim last Sept. 21 that Zelaya was in a hotel in Managua, Nicaragua, after being presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such as the legitimate president’s appearance on the balcony of the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Aside from hiring U.S. lobbying firms to promote the coup on Capitol Hill, other coup government attempts at truth manipulation consisted of crafting pro-coup commercials for Honduran television starring Zelaya’s cowboy hat alongside the red beret of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez—although it was never clear why these two forms of Latin American headgear were any more ominous than those used by right-wing dictators.

Zelaya and companions remained in the embassy for over 4 months, during which time the Honduran police force and military amused themselves by violently dislodging anti-coup resistance members from the embassy environs, shining lights into the building in order to disturb the sleeping patterns of those inside, and playing loud and irritating music, which coup general Romeo Vásquez Velásquez endeavored to convince me during an interview was merely the “Las Mañanitas” birthday song. As for other Latin American nations in which the U.S. has feigned obliviousness to coups, the Honduran embassy in Guatemala City hosted its own political guest in August of this year: former Guatemalan prison system director Alejandro Giammattei, in search of asylum from accusations of involvement in a prison massacre and various other crimes.

Giammattei, who eventually turned himself into Guatemalan authorities, has just declared that he was offered safe passage out of the country by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala in exchange for his cooperation. Additional regional opportunities for irony include recent reassurances by former Guatemalan vice-president Eduardo Stein—coordinator of the post-coup Honduran Truth Commission—that the installation of an International Commission against Impunity in Honduras would not infringe on the judicial powers of the state, which are to thank for the exoneration of the Honduran military for its role in the coup. As the words “truth” and “impunity” appear to have been purged of all real significance, perhaps investigative chores should be clarified via the establishment of a Commission to Explain Why Romeo Vásquez is Now Director of the State Telecommunications Company While Anti-Coup Citizens Continue to be Assassinated.

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1 Comment

  1. Jeff says:

    Amnesia, hypocrisy and creative reinterpretation of reality past and present is an art form which “our” government, among others, has completely mastered. The State Department is very protective of “American” multinationals corporate interests in the Americas, but of course it’s deplorable when other countries like China, Russia and Iran involve themselves in and exploit their neighors.

    As soon as we dispense with hypocrisy and double-/multiple-dealing as though they were essential tools of legitimate statecraft, the better off we’ll be and the sooner we’ll regain some modicum of respect in the civilized world.

    Pot, meet Kettle.

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