The coup government that took over the Honduran presidency on Sunday, June 28 via a military coup, is defiantly refusing to step down, despite major international pressure from the world community. Roberto Micheletti, former head of Congress before being sworn in as the coup president, has said he will not resign from the presidency, claiming his rise to power was a "constitutional act" and the "will of the people". Today in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, Micheletti held a rally with his supporters, mainly middle and upper class Hondurans, who filled the streets surrounding his podium. He was accompanied by previously deposed high military command General Romeo Vasquez, a School of the Americas graduate who led the coup efforts. Constitutional President Manuel Zelaya had ordered him to step down last Wednesday, after the General refused to obey orders from the president to distribute electoral material throughout the country to enable a non-binding consultation on the possibility of future constitutional reform that would have occurred Sunday had the coup not taken place.
Today, the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, ousted in the coup on Sunday, received widespread support from the 192 member nations of the United Nations, who all signed onto a resolution unanimously calling for Zelaya's unconditional reinstatement, condemning the coup d'etat underway in Honduras and strongly suggesting members cease relations with the coup-installed government until President Zelaya is returned to his elected office.
The Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., also received President Zelaya in a special session, and confirmed the commitment to resolve the political crisis in Honduras, as well as threatening to suspend Honduras' membership in the regional multilateral body until Zelaya is returned to power and the coup government steps down. Zelaya allegedly met with Sub-Secretary of State Thomas Shannon during his stay in Washington.
While the international pressure is heating up on the coup government to step down, Roberto Micheletti continues to enjoy the full support of Honduras' armed forces. Micheletti himself is a former soldier, adding to his close ties in the high military command. However, what is clear is that the Honduran armed forces would not act without the approval of the Pentagon, and particularly the approximately 600 US troops stationed on the Soto Cano base, a military presence that has been in Honduras actively since the early 1980s. In fact, Colonel Oliver North used the Soto Cano base in Honduras as a launching pad for the operations of the paramilitary death squads known as the "contra", trained and funded by the CIA, that were used to stifle leftist movements in Central America during the Reagan Administration, particularly in Nicaragua against the Sandinista government.
An interesting note that could provide clues regarding US support for the coup against Zelaya, is the fact that the Soto Cano base, while heavily funded and occupied by US military troops and personnel, and equipment, is actually not technically or legally a US military base. Honduran law forbids foreign military presence in the country. To get around the law, the US made a "handshake agreement" with the Honduran government decades ago, to allow the US military presence in exchange for economic and military aid. The US provides millions of dollars annually (between $60-$100 million/year) to Honduras in military and development aid.
Curiously, President Zelaya had issued a decree about a year ago, in early 2008, announcing the Soto Cano base, approximately 50 miles from the capital, would be used for commercial aircraft and international flights. A fund from the ALBA countries (the regional trade agreement between Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominique, St. Vicent, Antigua & Barbados) was dedicated to building a civilian terminal on the base. Such an effort could have led to a further expulsion of US military presence on the base, as the ALBA countries, staunchly anti-imperialist, could have supplemented the funding Honduras was dependent on from Washington. According to the terms of the "handshake agreement" regarding US military presence and occupation of Soto Cano, it could be terminated unilaterally by the Honduran government with little notice.