U.S. Blasts Exiled Honduran Leader. Too Little, Too Late?

Conservatives say Obama did not lend the interim government sufficient support

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Exiled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, beloved by no one in Washington but particularly reviled by conservatives, has has stirred up trouble by returning to the Honduras. US officials had called for him to remain safely in exile until a political settlement could be reached. On Monday, a high-ranking diplomat slammed Zelaya's return as "irresponsible and foolish." Meanwhile, the interim government in Honduras has threatened to close the Brazilian embassy where Zelaya has taken refuge.

Conservatives have long pressured Obama to take a tougher stand on Zelaya, and are now blaming Obama for lending the interim government insufficient support and not taking a harder line against Zelaya. As Honduras's November election approaches, their calls are sure to rise. Below, the latest reactions:

  • Interim Pres Could Become Worse than Zelaya  Michael C. Moynihan noted that Honduras's interim government, bereft of support, has used the episode as an excuse to clamp down on civil liberties. "The interim president of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti, has received rough treatment from the Obama administration, European Union, and the American media," he wrote. "But now Micheletti, who will not run in the forthcoming election and seemed to be sticking to his limited role as caretaker president, has decided that it is time to suspend democracy and start acting like the wannabe caudillo he replaced."
  • White House Stuck in its Own Mess  Ed Morrissey scoffed at the US reversal on Zelaya. "But if Zelaya is a bad actor, then the US has to take some of the blame for being a poor producer as well," he wrote. "After all, they encouraged Zelaya to become ever more aggressive, hailing him as the legitimate leader of Honduras even after it became plain that his removal was legal, even if his exile was not. That gave Zelaya all of the nudge he needed to issue ultimata that undermined the negotiations in Costa Rica and to re-enter Honduras and call for an uprising."
  • US Should Disown Zelaya  Former Bush administration official Otto J. Reich wrote in the National Review, "Zelaya, a corrupt and feckless autocrat who was allied with Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and other self-professed enemies of the United States, was lawfully removed from office by a unanimous decision of the Honduran supreme court. The U.S. had nothing to do with Zelaya’s removal, and it should do nothing to force his return. Rather, we should rejoice that one of the self-proclaimed '21st-century socialist' allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen."
  • Reevaluate All Honduras Policy  The Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady lambasted American policy on Honduras. "Washington decreed once again that a president who tried to trash the constitution must be reinstated or it will not recognize the November presidential election," she wrote. "The Obama administration's position on the Honduran election is embarrassing. Can anyone imagine that if Fidel Castro declared tomorrow that he would hold free elections and invite the whole world to come as observers, the U.S. would reject the idea because Cuba is a military dictatorship? It would be absurd."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.