The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Panamá City, Panamá, Wednesday, July 22, 2009

For decades Latin America has been becoming more and more democratic. It has been a difficult path and the roots of democracy are not yet deep in some places. From Ronald Reagan onwards, U.S. administrations have generally been more supportive of the forces of darkness than the forces of light. Democratization in Latin America went apace nevertheless, though by no means smoothly, i.e., without much U.S. support and frequently with active U.S. opposition. Hondurans and Nicaragua are cases in point. Will the military putsch in Honduras now turn the clock back?

For a generation now Latin America foreign policy has been dictated by Cuban-exiles and their supporters from the vote-sensitive state of Florida. Obama was careful not to alienate them when he addressed them during the presidential campaign. On the other hand, addressing Latino leaders he promised a new era of relations with Latin America, a return in essence to the Good neighbour policy of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The Honduran coup initiators are highly dependent on the U.S.A. and the Obama Administration has so far been wishy-washy in its comments about the event. Every other country in Latin America condemned it outright. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says nothing, which is tantamount to silent approval. Her Latin America advisors are anyway very close to the Honduran military. There is obviously some lack of agreement between State and The White House. This is not of itself tragic. But the two opinion centres represent bad and worse.

In addition to barring the democratically-elected President Zelaya from returning to the country, the military government in Honduras has been shooting people, denying them any expression of political opinion and closing down critical newspapers and television stations. There is no way the military can in fact stay in power without repression. Washington needs to condemn it strongly if Honduras is not to encourage similar repressive actors around the Hemisphere. Hugo Chávez has done nothing like it and he still gets only either half-hearted, nose-holding handshakes or outright name-calling from Washington.

The democracies in Latin America need the U.S.A. to deny recognition to the military coupists, freeze their bank accounts in the U.S.A. and generally take a hard line against such unacceptable political actions. And do it now!


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