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Comparative democratic fruits: Honduras v. Iran

June 29, 2009

Somewhere between Michael Jackon’s death nearly bringing the interwebs to a crawl and the Confederation Cup’s Brazilian winners pulling out their ‘I Love Jesus’ t-shirts, Latin America experienced its first military coup since 1993 Guatemala (if one discounts the repeated military and political interferences in Venezuelan affairs).

President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by masked soldiers who ‘burst into his home before dawn, firing warning shots, shouting and pointing a gun at his chest.’ There is widely available information that Gen. Romeo Vasquez, head of the armed forces, and Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, head of the air force (which kidnapped Zelaya and dumped him in Costa Rica) are graduates of the School of the Americas (see Narcosphere for more about the role of the air force during the Honduran crisis).

Today independent media, state television and ordinary citizens had their power cut (‘Honduras’ privately owned Channel 12 and Channel 11 are showing classic soccer clips‘). The ambassadors of at least three neighboring nations have been detained and beaten by hooded soldiers. Cell phones are not working. Honduran citizens are confronting the military–already deployed to the streets in just 24 hours–with the clothes on their backs. It has been reported that at least one leftist legislator was killed during arrest.

When violent coups take place below the Mexican border, all eyes typically (and justifiably) look North. In a five-line White House statement (that is, in less space than might be used to describe the White House dog) Obama said: ‘I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Despite the U.S.’s evasive insistence of no involvement in the coup, Alliance for Global Justice’s Chuck Kaufman says: ‘The coup has not yet been reversed. The US needs to do more than issue a statement. They need to cut off all military aid until Zelaya is safely returned to Honduras. They need to support bringing the coup plotters to justice. They need to replace the US ambassador who obviously knew what was going on. How fast they do that will indicate whether he told them about it in advance or not.’

Taking account of the murky neoliberal laboratory in which the coup leaders schemed, Jeremy Scahill notes, ‘The coup plotters/supporters in the Honduran Congress are supporters of the “free trade agreements” Washington has imposed on the region. The coup leaders view their actions, in part, as a rejection of Hugo Chavez’s influence in Honduras and with Zelaya and an embrace of the United States and Washington’s “vision” for the region. Obama and the US military could likely have halted this coup with a simple series of phone calls.’

You have to really comb through CNN’s morning headlines to find their reporting of the coup aftermath in Tegucigalpa, which they call ‘mostly peaceful’ and ‘calm.’ They interview unelected/appointed provisional ‘president’ Roberto Micheletti who freely admits to imposing ‘an “indefinite” curfew.’

No outraged asides, editorial lambastes or tearful newscasters follow, though they did for Iran, which never dumped an elected arch enemy into Syria, deployed the military, or imposed curfew. Within a single day grassroots and union organizers in Honduras called for strikes, while a general strike was missing amid Tehran’s green fabric. You would think by following the State Department and the U.S. media that tweets brought the whole of Mother Persia to a gridlock.

On the part of the dominant news, the placid silence is a fascinating reaction for anyone following media coverage of Iran since the 12 June election, which both mainstream and alternative sources emphatically called a ‘revolution.’ Where an actual election took place in Iran, whether or not one ‘bought’ the result, in Honduras, the president still had six months to serve in office before yesterday’s coup, and was (legally) gauging popular reaction to a proposed constitutional referendum when the votes were forcefully stopped from being counted. But CNN and its cohorts are at pains to show images of protest that do not involve the well-to-do or the well-dressed cosmopolitan indigène.

By way of closure, kindly note the McDonald’s arches behind the democratic and peaceful tanks in the second photo above,and please fax it to Thomas Friedman. (Photos by Miguel Yuste/El Pais via S.O.A. Watch.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kaveri Rajaraman permalink
    July 8, 2009 22:31

    Saw a similar article to this recently, comparing Honduras and Iran in terms of democracy and press coverage.
    I really really like your blog! And I hope you are having fun in Brazil.

  2. Kaveri Rajaraman permalink
    July 8, 2009 22:32

    is the article I was referring to, sorry for leaving it out of the previous email

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