Venezuela Proposes United Nations Military Action if Diplomacy Fails in Honduras Coup

On Tuesday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed multi-national military, economic, and legal measures to restore Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to the presidency and bring an end to the military coup d'etat that began last Sunday, if planned diplomatic measures fail
The presidents of Honduras (left), Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Ecuador in Nicaragua (Minci)

Mérida, July 1st 2009 ( — On Tuesday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proposed multi-national military, economic, and legal measures to restore Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to the presidency and bring an end to the military coup d'etat that began last Sunday, if planned diplomatic measures fail.  

Zelaya plans to defy the coup and return to Honduras on Saturday along with a delegation of Latin American leaders, including the presidents of Argentina and Ecuador. The coup leaders have vowed to arrest Zelaya upon his return.

"Aggression against the delegation that goes to Honduras would open another type of door," said Chavez. "Then, we would have to consider, for example, a military intervention by the United Nations."  

Chavez explained his proposal. "I am not a supporter of this measure, but I throw it out there as a hypothesis: A United Nations or OAS resolution, a political and diplomatic force with international military backup, this would have to be considered," he said.  

Chavez also urged the Honduran armed forces to oppose the coup. "We call on the military of Honduras not to attack the people or the president," said Chavez, who himself was kidnapped in a military coup in 2002 and restored to power by a counter-coup led by the pro-Chavez ranks within the military.

Chavez's proposals came as the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), a Latin American fair trade bloc, condemned the coup and called for Zelaya's immediate reinstatement.

Chavez commended these declarations, but said nations who oppose the coup should be prepared to back up their words with actions, and force the coup leaders to turn power over to the legitimate president, Zelaya, "without conditions."

"We have to put an end to public condemnation followed by silence; this is complicity. We should not leave these important meetings just with very important declarations, and then leave Manuel Zelaya as a lost soul," said Chavez.

Chavez also said he will propose cutting off oil supplies to Honduras during an emergency meeting of the Caribbean energy integration bloc Petrocaribe, of which Honduras is a member. Petrocaribe countries receive favorable rates on Venezuelan oil and loans for energy development, in exchange for goods and services.

As a legal measure, Chavez urged the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an autonomous institution of the OAS, to send a commission to assess the situation in Honduras. Likewise, Bolivian President Evo Morales sent a proposal to the OAS for the creation of an ad hoc inter-American tribunal to "file and process complaints, investigate, and sanction those who have committed crimes against democracy in Honduras." 

Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, have already cut off cross-border commerce with Honduras. Also, the European Union suspended talks of an association with Central American nations due to the coup.

Member countries of the ALBA bloc have pulled their ambassadors from Honduras, which joined the bloc last year to the dismay of the right wing opposition. On Tuesday, the de facto coup government passed a resolution to evaluate the "convenience" of Honduras's continued membership in the ALBA.

Meanwhile, coup leaders have violently shut down or taken over most media outlets by breaking down doors, throwing transmittion equipment on the floor, detaining reporters in military vehicles, and threatening to shoot them if they move, according to independent video recordings circulated by internet.

Military personnel also detained several reporters from the Caracas-based Telesur television channel, which had provided detailed coverage of the coup early on. According to Edgardo Castro, a Telesur correspondent in Honduras, "The coup government has obligated the owners of cable companies to cut off Telesur's signal and only permit international signals that support the coup government," such as CNN.

Journalists, activists, and government officials demonstrated in a car parade through Caracas in defense of Telesur on Tuesday.

The remaining independent media in Honduras have released video recordings of thousands of anti-coup protestors singing songs, chanting for Zelaya's return, and blocking off streets by burning tires and throwing rocks at security forces. Military and riot police have reportedly used rubber bullets, tear gas, and other unidentified chemicals to break up the protests outside the presidential palace, causing at least one death and many injuries. The coup government has continued to arrest pro-Zelaya government officials.

The United States government tentatively acknowledged that an "illegal" coup occurred in Honduras, but has not called for Zelaya's reinstatement. On Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Honduras cut off travel and business visas for those involved in the coup. One of the coup leaders, General Romeo Vásquez, was trained in the U.S. School of the Americas between 1976 and 1984, according to School of the Americas Watch.

After Vasquez disobeyed Zelaya's orders to distribute electoral material for a non-binding national poll on whether to hold a referendum to re-write the nation's constitution last week, Zelaya fired Vasquez. The Honduran Supreme court ordered Vasquez's reinstatement, and the Congress declared Zelaya's electoral initiative illegal. On Sunday morning, military personnel kidnapped Zelaya at his home and left him in Costa Rica.