Rep. Pence Is Wrong On Honduras

September 29, 2009 3:20 pm ET — Walid Zafar

Writing in Human Events, Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) criticized President Obama's approach towards international diplomacy, noting that "[n]ot since the days of the Carter administration has the United States looked so weak on the international stage and so incapable of leading the international community to address our common challenges."  Going on to say that "peace is secured through strength," Pence criticized the administration's stance on a myriad of international issues, including the crisis in Honduras. 

The Obama Administration has taken an active position in calling for the restoration of deposed President Manuel Zelaya, a choice with which Pence disagrees.  Pence's analysis, however, repeats the false notion that Zelaya's ouster was legitimate and, at the same time, endorses an interim government that recently curtailed constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and shut down press that was critical of the interim government.    

Pence's claim that "President Obama took the side of despots like Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers in denouncing the actions of the duly elected representatives of Honduras" is at best fatuous.  As Media Matters Action Network pointed out yesterday, the ouster of Zelaya was resoundingly condemned throughout the international community.  Not a single government has come out in support of the new Honduran government.

The United Nations, the European Union and the Organization of American States, which handles such disputes in Latin America, have all condemned the interim government and have called for President Manuel Zelaya's restoration.  The Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank have both stopped new loans to the country.  Even the ultra conservative government of Colombia has called for Zelaya's return.

To make matters worse, the whole basis of Pence's opposition to Zelaya rests on flimsy evidence.  Pence claims that Zelaya was "illegally seeking to expand his presidential authority."  Not only is Pence mistaken on this very simple fact, but he is not even consistent in his opposition to those who seek to extend term limits.  Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has not once, but twice, effectively lobbied for his country's legislature to extend term limits.  Pence has yet to condemn Uribe, a favorite of the neoconservative establishment.  What exactly did happen in Honduras?  Maurice Lemoine, writing in the Philadelphia Enquirer, explains:

Doubts had been expressed about Zelaya's legitimacy. Some claimed that he had sought, unconstitutionally, to amend the country's 1982 constitution so he could seek another term of office in the presidential elections coming in November.

But this was not true. The constitution remains in force until further notice, and the head of state cannot stand for reelection. With 400,000 signatures to support him, Zelaya had planned only to organize a voluntary survey on election day to find out whether Hondurans wanted a Constituent National Assembly to be convened at some point.

A peculiar feature of the present constitution is that it contains a number of articles that are effectively set in stone, including Article 4, which prohibits reelection of the president and which cannot be amended under any circumstances - a curious rule to impose on the people, who are supposedly the source of all state powers. Zelaya was ousted not for seeking reelection, but merely for contemplating reform of the basic charter.

Pence is inconsistent in principle and wrong on the facts, and like Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), backs an interim government in Tegucigalpa that has recently curtailed civil liberties.  Pence notes that "[t]hroughout our nation's history, American presidents from across the political divide offered hope to those held captive by tyranny and reminded their captors that America's cause was the cause of freedom."  While Pence asserts that the administration should stand on the side of freedom, he neglects to note that the government he supports and seeks to bring to the U.S. to speak with his Republican colleagues recently announced that it was curtailing constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and shutting down press that was critical of the interim government.  According to Voice of America, "[t]he decree issued Sunday bans unauthorized meetings and allows for arrests without warrants. The interim government also shut down two broadcast outlets (Radio Globo and TV Channel 36) it said were closely tied to Mr. Zelaya."


If Zelaya is the protégé of Chavez and the Castro brothers, as Pence claims him to be, why then did Pence not complain when Zelaya met with President Bush in 2006?