A partial history of the 2009 Honduras coup in cartoon form.
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In 1823, when President James Monroe proclaimed the doctrine that bears his name (although it was actually written by his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams), he did so ostensibly to protect countries in the Americas from further colonization by European powers — with the tacit connivance and enforcement of Great Britain, then the strongest nation of Europe — but the real effect of the doctrine has been to assure that the US retained the sole right to intervene in the affairs of Latin America. From 1831 to about 1903, the doctrine was invoked as a casus belli for US interventions in Argentina, the then-independent Republic of Texas, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Venezuela. With its “Big Sister” policy, formulated in the 1880s, the US simultaneously strove to open Latin American markets to US business.
President Theodore Roosevelt, in 1904, extended the doctrine by adding his eponymous corollary. This declared the US’ right to intervene in Latin America not only against European domination, but whenever a nation in the region failed to “keep order and pay its obligations”; since many of those nations were deeply indebted at the time, this formed a ready-made excuse to seize control of economies throughout the western hemisphere in the name of restoring economic order. Although this corollary was formally reversed in 1928 by the Clark Memorandum, it has formed the background for numerous US “police actions” since that time. In furtherance of this policy, Roosevelt also signed a secret agreement designating for Japan a similar role in North Asia; this pact would later haunt his successor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as he directed the US’ war effort against Japan in World War II.
To summarize, then: For nearly two centuries, it has been overt US policy that the western hemisphere is its exclusive sphere of influence. In more recent times, the doctrine has been invoked to justify intervention in Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Grenada.
Meanwhile, covert coups led by the CIA and other U.S. or U.S.-backed entities overthrew legally constituted, democratically elected governments in Honduras (in 1954, at the behest of the United Fruit Company [now called Chiquita] and again in 1963, establishing the first of a series of military dictatorships), Guatemala (in 1954, again for the benefit of United Fruit) and Chile (in 1973, to aid ITT Corporation). All of this took place against a backdrop of at least 54 other documented acts of interference by US forces and intelligence services, often timed to coincide with hotly contested elections, although not all of these were successful; failures include an attempt, in 2002, to oust Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. How many other such acts remain to be discovered by later historians we can only guess.
It appears that Hillary Clinton’s State and Dagger Department is rather better at concealing its hand in the putsches of today than were its predecessors. But then, it often takes many years and much hard sleuthing to discover covert actions, so we’d be well advised to watch WikiLeaks and its successors over the years to come.
Conservative apologists for the current coup will offer their usual rationalizations of the unconscionable, saying in this case that Zelaya acted unconstitutionally and that most Hondurans supported his overthrow. Neither statement is true; as this article makes clear, the State Department honestly characterized the coup itself as “illegal and unconstitutional,” while the figure below shows the results of a national poll on the question.
Poll results show Hondurans disapprove of the coup.
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and the 2009 Honduras coup.