Honduras's ejected president Mel Zelaya saw the Secretary and apparently persuaded her that the outcome of Honduras's next elections must be rejected. On what basis? None was stated, and no logical basis exists. The next elections will be entirely constitutional and held on time; and the term of office of the ousted Zelaya would end naturally and constitutionally when a new president is sworn in, in January. The candidates were selected before the current crisis began, and all the parties--including Zelaya's Liberal Party, one half of Honduras's essentially two party system--are participating. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt that the election can be monitored by international observers (and we could have demanded more of them than usual) and fairly conducted. Honduras's vote for a new president on November 29 was the obvious way for everyone to dig out of the current mess without hurting the Honduran people and without damaging Honduras's democratic institutions.
But it was rejected yesterday by Clinton and the Obama administration. The State Department's spokesman said that "Based on conditions as they currently exist, we cannot recognize the results of this election." The irrationality of the words is striking: based on conditions today, we can't recognize the results of a free election more than two months from now on November 29, even if everyone thinks it's free and even if Zelaya's party participates, and even if his term would constitutionally be over anyway. Remember, it was Zelaya who wanted to screw around with that election, and hold a referendum on that date allowing him to be re-elected in perpetuity--just as his mentor Chavez has done in Venezuela. That's what gave rise to his defenestration. Now Hondurans want to go back to regular elections, but the United States won't allow them to do so?
The argument made around the Organization of American States (which is supporting Zelaya) is that elections conducted under the "de facto regime" cannot be considered fair. Really? Every country in Latin America that made a transition from military to civilian rule held elections with the military still in charge, yet we don't hear the OAS saying all those elections were phony. Just to take one example, in Chile the dictator Augusto Pinochet was not only president when transition elections were held in 1990, he continued on as head of the armed forces for 8 years after that. Such history is forgotten at the OAS when it is convenient, but facts are stubborn things--even in Latin America.
- Elliot Abrams, The Weekly Standard
Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs in the Reagan administration.