Chávez, Honduras, and the new Cold War

It is well known in Honduras that Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez was front and center of last year’s political crisis. In the parallel universe that is international news media, notably AFP, EFE, and Reuters, Chávez has, however, nothing at all to do with Honduras. TeleSur I don’t even count as news, it is simply propaganda, just like “FOX News,” albeit on the opposite end of the new cold war; a media and propaganda war that has Venezuela – Iran – Russia as one axis, and the traditional allied USA – UK as the other pole.

Some articles and bloggers ridicule the notion that Chávez was behind the crisis. Be very wary against any media that ridicules that, since it is easy to show that it is factually correct. There can only be two reasons to ridicule it: Either a high level of ignorance, or willful propaganda. In either case it should raise a red flag for that media outlet in the reader’s mind.

Let me just give you some examples out of the literally hundreds. Chávez threatened war against Honduras in response to something that is clearly a Honduran domestic matter, something that did not threaten international peace and security. If in doubt, consider this: The UN Security Council never took up the issue of Honduras. Nobody reported Honduras to the Security Council, and although Honduras reported Venezuela’s war threats, they didn’t take it up for the sole reason that the UN did not recognize the Micheletti government.

The days before Zelaya was deposed, many tried to talk him out of pursuing his plans for holding a so-called poll which the Supreme Court had ordered that nobody was allowed to partake in (there was an injunction against it; later they tried the case and found it illegal). To one of these persons, who tried to convince him to listen to the Hondurans, Zelaya replied “After God, Chávez!”. In other words, he cared less for what those who elected him said than what Chávez said.

When Zelaya made the infamous attempt to return in an airplane belonging to Venezuela, Chávez has been exposed as having planned the event with the purpose of creating martyrs. I recently got hold of a video from another perspective that day, and could conclude by analyzing the sound (spectrum and echo) that at least one of the demonstrators was firing a gun. It has previously been shown how TeleSur in cohorts with armed demonstrators tried to make it appear as the military was firing on the demonstrators, the second time that Zelaya staged an “attempt” to return (he could have returned any time he wanted, the issue was just that he didn’t want to get arrested, that’s why he stayed away).

There is evidence of several kinds that many demonstrators on the red side were paid. There is photo evidence that Rafael Alegria, a leader of the self-denominated “resistance,” handed out dollars to them. There is a notebook with sums in it that appears to indicate who got what to hand out; Alegria got $5,000 according to it. There is evidence from the banks that significant sums of dollars were introduced into circulation on the days of major red demonstrations (in the tens of thousands of dollars).

Manuel Zelaya did not have that kind of money; I have heard from several sources, in his campaign and in banks, that he received large campaign contributions from South America. He tried to pay back after winning the election, but the money was not accepted. They wanted his services, not the money. In fact, he led a rather modest lifestyle before he became president. The extravagance that we have seen lately, and that the Dominicans are now paying for, was financed with money intended for the poor in Honduras. That is why several countries cut their aid to Honduras when Zelaya was president.

There is essentially one person who had both motive and opportunity to spend that kind of money on those demonstrations: Hugo Chávez. There could be a second interest in the drug cartels, of course, since by binding the police and military resources in controlling demonstrations, they get the countryside free for smuggling cocaine. In Zelaya’s home region of Olancho the drug smuggling has increased a lot the last few months, since the drug czar was murdered. It is reported that about half a dozen planes a day leave their cargo on clandestine fields. The general wisdom in Honduras is that they fly from Venezuela. However, it seems that Chávez is pretty close to the Colombian narco-guerilla FARC, who may well be behind this, so even with this alternative explanation the compass needle swings back to point at Chávez in the end.

It is not hard to see why Hondurans – as most Latin Americans – consider Chávez the driving force in Zelaya’s attempt at overthrowing Honduras’s Constitution. His open support of Zelaya with words and money cannot be dismissed (this support was only terminated when they realized that it created a PR problem for Zelaya, since Chávez’s own approval rating internationally fell drastically when it turned out that Chávez’s generals had given Swedish RPGs to FARC, a group that the EU classifies as terrorists).

Honduras was another one of Chávez’s projects for spreading his so-called “Bolivarian Revolution” to all of Latin America. All his previous attempts have succeeded (e.g., Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia), but in Honduras he met his first defeat. Of course, nobody is expecting that he will give up so easily – Honduras is prepared for new assaults on its Constitution and democracy. However, there may be a new front opening in this cold war: Venezuela.

Chávez’s increasing tyranny, with media closures, expropriations of companies, expropriation of hundreds upon hundreds of family-owned farms without due process and without compensation (so he can give the land to the thugs that he uses to enforce his policies), and abolition of the institutional liberal democracy, undermines whatever popular support that once brought him to power in democratic elections.

The opposition in Venezuela has taken a lesson from the opposition in Iran, and is using Twitter, much to Chávez’s chagrin. Unfortunately for the Venezuelans, they allowed the dismantling of the constitutional democracy to go too far. It is now an uphill battle to restore it.

Although Honduras was the first country in this wave of spreading authoritarian rule that successfully halted the threat to democracy, there are more countries in line. Nicaragua is the one in most imminent danger now.

One can only hope that the lesson they take from Honduras is that it is possible to stop the assault on democracy, and that it is worth the price. Also, chances are that the next time some country is forced to depose of a president to save democracy, they will have at least one ally to argue their case before the international community, namely Honduras. They have been there, done that.

Of course, it would be better to revise the mechanisms of diplomacy so that not just the head of state has a voice, but that also the checks and balances of each country (typically the Supreme Court and or Congress) are recognized by the United Nation, so that they can come to the General Assembly and make their case, in situations when the head of state has been deposed. That would be a simple adjustment to make, I would presume.