The Blog

Foreign Policy and Good Intentions

Is the Obama administration prepared to accept the consequences of returning an undemocratic, corrupt, and anti-American strongman to power in Honduras?

11:00 AM, Jul 29, 2009 • By OTTO J. REICH
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The current crisis mediator, President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, has basically offered Zelaya a free ride home: reinstatement to the presidency and full amnesty for political crimes. Perhaps the Honduran government should counter: amnesty for political but not for common crimes such as embezzlement of public funds or use of police and military forces for personal gain. If Zelaya is found innocent, he can serve out the remainder of his presidential term. If he believes he is innocent, he will accept that bargain.

Is the Obama administration prepared to accept the consequences of returning an undemocratic, corrupt, and anti-American, even if elected, strongman to power in Honduras? That would put the United States clearly in the same camp as Cuba's Castro brothers, Venezuela's Chavez, and other regional delinquents.

Just this week the U.S. Congress' investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, declared Chavez's Venezuela a major source of narcotics traffic to the United States. According to Honduran press reports, since Zelaya's departure illegal narcotics flights from Venezuela to Honduras have practically ended. It is no accident that Castro and Chavez are Zelaya's main international supporters.

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Growing up, I didn't quite understand what that phrase meant. By 1979 it was clear: Terrible results can come from good intentions if we are blind to the consequences of our actions. It is not too late for President Obama to avoid imitating the Carter foreign policy.

Otto J. Reich was Ambassador to Venezuela, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, and held other senior appointments under three U.S. presidents.