In a nutshell, Zelaya wanted another term as president so he decided to hold a popular referendum on whether he should be eligible. Minor problem: The Honduran constitution can’t be amended by popular referendum so the country’s supreme court ordered the vote canceled. Zelaya tried to go ahead with it anyway. Literally every other arm of the Honduran government — judiciary, legislature, military — was against him, to the point where the troops who arrested him this morning were evidently acting on a court order. Why such strong, unified opposition? According to one retired Honduran general cited by Fausta, it’s because Zelaya’s a Chavez stooge and him staying on would mean “Chavez would eventually be running Honduras by proxy.”Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that the removal of Zelaya had the backing of the Honduran supreme court and congress, Obama has insisted that the coup is illegal. During a press conference, the language became especially harsh:
QUESTION: . . . earlier this week, Secretary Clinton gave us to understand that you were holding off on a determination on whether it was indeed a military coup. . . . Is that still your stance, even though I know that . . . the Legal Adviser’s Office has begun the process of determining whether it was a military coup and, therefore, whether the aid cutoff is triggered? . . .This is strong language, the kind that we would have expected coming out of the White House when the Iranian government falsified the results of the election--and then commenced to arrest protesters, and then to kill them.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: . . . [B]oth the President and the Secretary have described events in Honduras as a coup, which they certainly were once the current claimant to the presidency swore - was sworn in before the congress after the forcible removal of the legal and constitutional president, Mel Zelaya. . . .
In regard to the illegal detention and expulsion of President Zelaya, this was an act which was unconstitutional and illegal and cannot be tolerated. . . .
Apparently, the Obama administration feels a bit cautious when protesters are killed by a totalitarian regime intent on retaining power, but has no problem criticizing a country that legally removes a leader who uses illegal means to stay in power.
Some in Iran have apparently notices that coups get more attention from the White House than protests for democracy--and have acted accordingly:
Maybe using the C-word will get Obama's attention.
Iran’s former president has joined ranks with the country’s embattled reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, and accused the Iranian government of failing its people in the recent election and condemning the subsequent crackdown on protesters.
In a bold, lengthy statement Wednesday on his Web site, Mousavi said he considered Iran’s cleric-led government illegitimate and demanded political prisoners be released, while saying Iran’s government needs to institute electoral reforms and ensure press freedoms.
Former President Mohammad Khatami, meanwhile, lashed out at what he termed “a poisonous security situation” in the wake of violent street protests.
Khatami accused Iran’s leadership of a “velvet coup against the people and democracy,” and Mousavi said the government’s crackdown on demonstrators was “tantamount to a coup.”
It's a long shot, Mr. Khatami.
UPDATED: James Kirchick puts Obama's reaction to Honduras in context:
If your goal in crafting American foreign policy is to become more popular among the world’s bad actors, (believing that by doing so they will behave less badly), then, yes, Obama has been thus far successful in his policy on the Honduran crisis. Such pusillanimity has been characteristic of this administration, from the President’s Cairo speech that flattered the Arab narrative of 1948, to its very public attacks on Israeli “natural growth,” to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s pushing the “reset” button with Putin’s Russia. As for Honduras? Congratulations America, you are now on the same side as Chavez, the Castro brothers and other anti-American regional thugs. Meanwhile, we’re undermining the forces of democracy in that tiny country, particularly its courts and Congress, which both moved against President Manuel Zelaya’s attempts to subvert the constitution.If the Arab world had come out in condemnation of Iran, you can be sure that Obama would have joined the choir.
[Hat tip: Rick Richman]