Dueling resolutions in Congress about Honduras

While every day dramatic scenes are acted out on the streets of Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and other cities in Honduras, pro- and anti-coup forces are also active in the United States, and especially on Capitol Hill.

A group of Democrats from headed by congressmen from Massachusetts, Bill Delahunt and Jim McGovern, have introduced a resolution, HR 630, denouncing the June 28 coup in Honduras and calling for the return to power of legally elected President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown and forcibly exiled by the military coup last month.

The full text of the resolution can be read online at http://www.thomas.loc.gov.

In addition to denouncing the coup and calling for Zelaya’s immediate return to power, the resolution calls for the Obama administration to continue to recognize Zelaya as the legitimate president, and, in the resolution’s wording “urges the Obama administration to suspend non-humanitarian assistance to the de facto Micheletti government as required by United States law...”

The United State is the major trade partner of Honduras, and is scheduled to provide Honduras with several hundred millions of dollars in economic aid this year.

Some U.S. aid is part of a Millennium Challenge Grant, while other aid is for “democracy building” and has been channeled through such agencies as the National Republican Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Zelaya supporters in Honduras and the U.S. complain that the latter kind of aid, and especially U.S. aid to the Honduran military (including the ongoing training of Honduran officers at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia) is going directly to people and institutions who planned and carried out the coup, and are keeping it going, and thus constitutes a lifeline to the coup government.

The resolution also calls for international observers for the November 2009 election in Honduras.

It states “once president Zelaya is returned to office to ensure that his successor is elected fairly, freely and transparently.' Plus it expresses support for the mediation efforts of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, which are due to resume this weekend.

At writing, there were 21 co-sponsors of this resolution, mostly progressive Democrats and members of the Hispanic, Black and Progressive caucuses of the House of Representatives. Well known names on the cosponsors list include Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., John Conyers, D-Mich., Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and others.

To date no parallel resolution has been introduced in the Senate.

Progressive human rights organizations including the faith-based Latin American Working Group, the Alliance for Global Justice and School of the Americas Watch are sending out statements electronically asking their members and friends to contact their congresspersons to ask them to co-sponsor and support the resolution by calling the Capitol switchboard, 202-224-3121, and asking to speak to the foreign policy aide of their congressperson to urge him or her to sign onto and support H Res 630.

Meanwhile, the anti-Zelaya, pro-coup factions in U.S. politics have not been idle. Republicans, under the leadership of Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., and a few conservative Democrats have met with various politicians from the pro-coup faction who traveled up to Washington D.C.

The pro-coup faction in Congress, based on the Cuban exile groups of South Florida and the Republican right, have launched their own resolution, essentially parroting the 'defacto government's' rational for the military coup and demanding U.S. recognition of the coup government.

At writing, the two resolutions are running almost neck and neck, with 20 cosponsors for the anti-coup resolution, and 19 for the pro-coup one.

Observers of the situation stress the urgency of pushing the resolution and other actions in support of the restoration of Zelaya to the presidency, especially as the coup leader Micheletti is threatening to move up the date of the presidential election, which, especially if the current suspension of civil liberties and imposition of martial law curfews in Honduras are continued, would make it impossible for pro-Zelaya candidates to campaign.