Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wire: Obama Suspends Military Relations with Honduras

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2009 -- Newswire services today reported that the White House said Wednesday that it has suspended joint military operations with Honduras to protest what President Barack Obama has labeled a "coup" that removed President Manuel Zelaya from power.

On orders of the Honduran Supreme Court, the Honduran military removed President Manuel Zelaya from power on June 28 for violating the country's constitution, according to reports.

The Honduran Congress has since named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti.

The Organization of American States, meeting in Washington on Wednesday, gave Honduran leaders three days to restore Zelaya to power -- under threat of suspending Honduras's OAS membership. Afterward, several officials said the administration is still reviewing the possibility of cutting off U.S. aid.

The decision to suspend U.S. military activities in Honduras was announced by Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, who said, "We've postponed any activities in Honduras right now as we assess that situation."

Whitman would not be specific, but the suspension could have broad implications because the United States runs a large Central American security and counter-narcotics operation from a jointly run air base in Honduras. Whitman said only operations affecting Honduras itself are on hold.

However, Honduran foreign minister, Enrique Ortez, told CNN en Espanol the deposed president allowed tons of cocaine to be flown into the Central American country on its way to the United States.

"We have proof of all of this. Neighboring governments have it. The DEA has it," he added.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne in Washington said he could neither confirm nor deny a DEA investigation, according to an Associated Press report.

Honduras' interim leaders dug in for a fight on Thursday.

"We have established a democratic government and we will not cede to pressure from anyone. We are a sovereign country," said Micheletti.

The interim government says it took a legal course in ousting Zelaya -- the Supreme Court said it instructed the army to remove him and Congress voted in the acting president until elections to be held in November.

Opponents of Zelaya believe he was pushing the limits of democracy with his drive to extend the single four-year term of presidents to allow re-election. He faces arrest on a raft of criminal charges if he returns to Honduras.

Several Latin American presidents, including Hugo Chavez and his allies in Ecuador and Bolivia, have extended term limits and shattered safeguards that were often written into constitutions after decades of dictatorship in the region.

The Obama administration is showing support for Zelaya's restoration in opposition to the actions taken by Honduran officials to preserve constitutional democracy in the country.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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