September 28, 2009 6:21 pm ET - by Walid Zafar
Last week, The Hill reported that Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) was blocking the nominations of two key diplomatic posts because of the nominees' views on recent events in Honduras. Both Thomas Shannon, President Obama's choice for ambassador to Brazil and Arturo Valenzuela, his choice for the crucial post of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the coup installed 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. Many Republican Senators, including DeMint, however, have sided with the coup plotters on the grounds that President Zelaya is a protégé of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and Cuban Leader Raúl Castro. They neglect to mention, however, that the Obama administration's position mirrors that of the entire international community. Not a single government has come out in support of the new Honduran government, save Honduras itself.
DeMint told The Hill:
"[Shannon and Valenzuela] exemplify this administration's misguided and heavy-handed tactics against the Honduran people and side with those who trample freedom."
But from day one, the interim government of Roberto Micheletti has defiantly ignored international pressure for a settlement to the impasse and has trampled the very freedoms DeMint argues Zelaya was destroying.
Now, Honduras has officially suspended civil liberties and closed down several more media outlets.
"Honduras' coup-installed government silenced two key dissident broadcasters on Monday just hours after it suspended civil liberties to prevent an uprising by backers of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
"The government's suspension of civil liberties limits rights guaranteed in the Honduran Constitution: The decree prohibits unauthorized gatherings and allows police to arrest without a warrant "any person who poses a danger to his own life or those of others." It also allows officials to shut down media outlets for "statements that attack peace and the public order, or which offend the human dignity of public officials, or attack the law."
If Jim DeMint is to be taken seriously on foreign affairs and as a champion of freedom, he would denounce the intransigent and increasingly authoritarian government of Roberto Micheletti and release the holds on Shannon and Valenzuela.
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