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Coup in Name Only

11:27 AM, Jun 30, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Yesterday I spoke with Otto Reich, President Bush's Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, about the latest developments in Honduras. Reich, who was in Panama when President Zelaya was ousted, was accused by Venezuela's representative to the OAS of being involved in the coup ("We suffered the First Reich, the Second Reich, and now we are suffering the Third Reich") -- an accusation that Reich categorically denied.

Reich says that when Zelaya was democratically elected four years ago, he was "maybe even right of center." But since then, Zelaya has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Specifically, he brought the country into ALBA, a club of nations led by Hugo Chavez and billed as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

Reich says that over the last four years, Zelaya has alienated "every single organized element of Honduran society" and that the society is now "mobilizing against him." He took petro-dollars from Chavez, but now "he can only buy the mob." Reich says that "everyone of this guy's own party voted against him," but he did fault Zelaya's opponents for acting so clumsily in removing the president. "The democrats made a big mistake," Reich says, "they should have arrested him." However, "it would be equally bad to bring this guy back."

Even though "it may be true he was removed illegally," Reich says (and as President Obama now contends), the U.S. government is acting as though nothing happened. Obama may be calling it a coup, but Reich also points out that U.S. law requires the government to cut off "assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree." And yet the government has made no indication it will cut off aid (and push Honduras into the arms of Chavez just as the country tries to realign itself in our direction). The Obama administration has also made no indication that it will remove U.S. troops from the country.

This incidents provides further evidence that Obama has trouble distinguishing the good guys from the bad guys (think Iran and Georgia before that), but it doesn't look like Obama has the courage of convictions on this, either. Presumably, he won't actually do anything to restore Zelaya.