The USAmerican ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, wrote a cable on June 19, 9 days before the president of the country, Manuel Zelaya, was arrested by the military on orders of the Supreme Court, reports Le Monde. There had been rumors of a military coup, but on that morning he had breakfast with the head of the military General Romeo Vazquez Velasquez, and the head of the army, General Miguel Garcia Padgett, who both assured him that the military would not depose the president to install a junta. They said it was just a rumor circulated behind closed doors to put pressure on the politicians. The ambassador also reported that they would not act without the knowledge of the US, and concluded that the military “do not have the least intention to attack the legitimate government” (reverse translated from French).
When the president was arrested by the military at dawn on June 28, Llorens – one might guess from his cable communication – did not know that the Supreme Court had issued an arrest warrant for the president. Based on this previous communication, one may therefore suspect that the ambassador felt betrayed, thinking that they had done a coup d’État nine days after promising that they would not do it, not knowing or understanding that in spite of it appearing to be a coup, it was not a coup.
However, there is a problem with this interpretation: A persistent rumor that Llorens knew about the arrest order in advance. From the cables it appears he did not.
There is one way in which these different facts can be reconciled. The generals did not, in Llorens’s words as translated by Le Monde, say that they necessarily would inform him personally. Just his country. There is a US air base in Honduras, and Marines train there. Given the close contacts it is beyond likely that at least some of them would have known. Thus, the generals did not lie to the ambassador.
Furthermore, the military of Honduras never attacked “the legitimate government”, the legitimate government being the Congress and the Supreme Court. Furthermore, they did not “attack” the president, they arrested him on orders of the Supreme Court (and then they set him free abroad rather than hold him). So the generals kept their word quite literally on that point, too.
What should be of concern, though, is the ambassador’s words that Zelaya is not an ideologue, thinking that USA can manipulate him. That is either ignorant, or misleading. Zelaya was bought by South American interests, most likely Hugo Chávez, already in his election campaign. This bribery continued with the so-called ALBA “loans”, in a process that in most every country would have made the president guilty of high treason. Furthermore, he said explicitly that he obeyed Chávez second only to God (“Después de Dios, ¡Chávez!”). If Llorens was ignorant about this, it is not good. If he is protecting Zelaya (or someone else), it is even less good.
Having seen now what Chávez did once his democratic cover was blown, introducing a full-blown dictatorship by similar methods as Hitler once did, I don’t think anybody can argue that the defense of democracy in Honduras was too rash, too determined. It was appropriate. Unfortunately Venezuela is in a different position, the judiciary already having been completely compromised, and the legislative as well, so a repeat is not possible. The best hope for Venezuela is a popular uprising and that the security forces remain passive while the people throw out the dictator quite literally.