In recent days, Chile and Mexico became the latest Latin American countries to reestablish formal diplomatic relations with Honduras, which (unfairly) became a pariah after the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya last summer. The holdouts, not surprisingly, include Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua – four countries governed by radical, anti-U.S. populists. Another holdout is Brazil, whose outgoing president, center-left democrat Lula da Silva, has embraced a series of foreign-policy positions that are at odds with Washington.
Both Chile and Mexico decided to recognize the new Honduran government after the release of an Organization of American States (OAS) report on July 29. The OAS noted that the administration of President Porfirio Lobo (who was elected in November and took office in January) has been cooperating with the post-Zelaya reconciliation process. Indeed, Lobo has shown a “favorable disposition . . . to convene a national dialogue among all the political sectors, to discuss issues of interest to all parties.”
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said back in June, when she was urging the OAS to readmit Honduras, “President Lobo has done everything he said he would do. He was elected through a free and fair, legitimate election. He provided political amnesty. He set up a truth commission. He has been very committed to pursuing a policy of reintegration.”
Unfortunately, Hugo Chávez and his allies continue to treat the Lobo administration as an illegitimate “coup” regime. Even many regional officials who support renewing diplomatic ties with Tegucigalpa maintain that Zelaya’s June 2009 removal from the presidency was illegal. A Law Library of Congress study concluded otherwise: “The judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.”
Honduras represents the triumph of democracy and the defeat of Chávez-style authoritarianism. Its new government deserves the respect and recognition of democrats everywhere. Hopefully, Lula’s successor will understand that.
Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.