The United States has supposedly ended military cooperation with Honduras because of the June 28 coup. So why has it invited the coup regime to take part in military exercises that start today?
The US Southern Command invited the Armed Forces of the de facto government of Honduras to take part in the PANAMAX 2009 maneuvers, despite the fact that Washington had announced a month ago its intention to suspend all military cooperation with the Central American country.
The participation of Honduras, together with 21 other countries*, was recorded in a list distributed hours ago in the Panamanian capital by the US Department of Defense which will coordinate the military exercises between September 11 and 12.
The invitation to the de facto regime appears to contradict the official position of the White House which proclaims that it rejects the coup that deposed Manuel Zelaya and advocates the isolation of the coup regime.
The coup regime in Honduras says it will not accept the invitation.
According to the Mexican news agency Notimex, the exercises will take place in waters off Panama and the coast of Honduras.
So, which is it? Is the US cutting off military ties with Honduras or not? For the last ten weeks, the US response to the military removal of Zelaya has been contradictory, repeatedly referring to it a coup, but refusing to officially classify it as one. It has cut off some of its aid to Honduras, but always stopped short of doing anything that would convince the regime that it must reinstate the constitutional president. Instead, Micheletti and his allies have been allowed to believe they can simply wait it out.
This ambivalence existed even before the coup took place. The US embassy in Honduras knew about the plan to overthrow Zelaya and says it advised against it. But if it had been serious in its opposition it should have been able to prevent the coup by threatening decisive action. It clearly didn’t do that.
Then there was the strange landing at the joint US-Honduran air base, Palmerola, of the plane carrying Zelaya out of the country, supposedly for refueling. The US admits that this took place, but denies having had any involvement or having known that Zelaya was on board. There is no proof that Americans were involved or that they did know. But there is still the question of why a plane would have to stop for refueling during a 40-minute flight. (Incidentally, back in July, Nikolas Kosloff pointed out that the Palmerola air base may itself have been one of the reasons for the coup.)
*This should be 20, not 21. The countries on the list are Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay and the United States, with Mexico and France observing.
UPDATE: According to Bloggings by Boz:
Honduras was among the countries invited “about a year ago” to participate in these exercises, which are planned well in advance. The plan for this year’s exercises also originally involved the use of Honduras’ Soto Cano air force base, where the US maintains a military presence. Following the coup, “about a month ago,” the US canceled the involvement of Soto Cano from the exercises. At that point, the Honduran military withdrew from the exercises due to the ongoing political differences between the de facto government and the other governments involved.