Honduras on the brink; Brazil, Reuters do their part to push it over the edge

The small Central American country of Honduras stands at the brink of  a chasm of absolute political chaos. In recent weeks and months, the democratic government has stoically maintained course in the face of international pressure to reinstall a lawfullly deposed leftist authoritarian to the office of the presidency. Now, it faces the most serious challenge yet.

Former president Manuel Zelaya, after at least one failed previous attempt, has secretly entered the country and taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy. Now, as far as I know Zelaya is not Brazilian, so he would have no regular claim for protection within the embassy. And while I am not intimately familiar with international diplomatic norms in a case such as this, it would seem that Brazil is clearly stepping out of its bounds in harboring a known enemy of the government.

Zelaya has made it clear that he will do what he can to retake power, including the orchestration of mob violence.

Ultimately, regardless of whatever protocol may exist (this instance is so unique I doubt there is much of a protocol) Brazil’s protection of this criminal and volatile political actor is an outrageous affront to the people of Honduras and their democratic government. Honduras has every right to demand that the embassy hand Zelaya over, and if they not, to close down the embassy.

A note on the media coverage: The reporting by Reuters in this story is absolutely shameful. They join a number of media outlets in compounding the incorrect notion that Zelaya’s ouster was a military coup – I even heard Fox News Radio use that term this evening. Additionally, Reuters incorrectly identifies the current president, Roberto Micheletti, as a conservative. In fact, the current president is of the same party as Zelaya.

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4 Comments

Filed under Central America, Media Bias

4 responses to “Honduras on the brink; Brazil, Reuters do their part to push it over the edge

  1. Pingback: More commentary on Honduras « Principally Political

  2. Think about it from the perspective of the rule, not the application.

    To work, the protection rule requires us to be indifferent to the desires of the home state, as well as the rectitude of the consular state. If the protection wasn’t permitted when the home state wanted it to cease, the rule would be meaningless — it’s only necessary to thwart the desires of the home state to punish the individual fleeing his country.

    Similarly, if the protection could be defeated when some arbiter — the UN, the International Court of Justice, even you — decided that the consular state was wrong to offer protection, then whether protection can be offered becomes a question of politics rather than sovereignty. Imagine how that might have played out during the Cold War, when a majority of the “international community” was sympathetic to the strong-arm tactics of the Soviet Union.

    I agree with you that Brazil is subjectively wrong to protect Zelaya. But I would rather uphold their right to protect him than lose the next chance for our embassy to protect someone we think is worthy of protection, but no one else agrees.

    Besides, when one considers the scope of the protection, it’s very limited. The guy can’t leave the compound without being subject to Honduran law. Even if Brazil wanted to send a helicopter to get him out, it would need the consent of the Honduran government to pass through its airspace. If Honduras really wants him, they will get him — or he’ll spend the rest of his life in the Brazilian embassy.

    Interesting point to ponder, though – good post.

  3. Brian Johnson

    Good point, Marque. However, is this case not somewhat unique from the ones you mentioned in that this leader, who has sought protection, is one that is actively plotting to re-take power, and thus poses a direct threat to the home state?

  4. Brian, I agree with you about who is right and wrong in the Honduran controversy. I don’t think I can adopt your position on the proper use of embassies, though. The United States has frequently allowed individuals who were considered “enemies of the state” to find refuge in its embassies. During the Cold War, defectors sought protection from their Communist oppressors in American consulates. Elected leaders fleeing true military coups have been saved from certain deaths in U.S. embassies.

    While it’s true that embassies are not truly extraterritorial, the international norms allowing a country to shelter those it views as worthy of its protection while negotiating their status have served American interests in the past. This is not the time to undermine those principles — Zelaya just isn’t worth it.

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