Chavez: U.S. and Venezuelan Right Wing Support Coup in Honduras, a Challenge to Obama

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez accused the "extreme right wing" of the United States and Venezuela of being involved in last Sunday's military coup in Honduras, perhaps behind U.S. President Barack Obama's back.
"President Hugo Chavez during his talk show "Hello, President" on Thursday evening" (Prensa Presidencial)

Mérida, July 3rd 2009 ( — Venezuelan
President Hugo Chávez accused the "extreme right wing" of the United States and
Venezuela of being involved in last Sunday's military coup in Honduras, perhaps
behind U.S. President Barack Obama's back.

"It could be that Obama did not know. But I am sure the ambassador of
the United States in Honduras [Hugo Llorens], who is the same as [former U.S.
President George W.] Bush's, knew about the coup," Chavez said on a special
edition of his weekly talk show, "Hello, President."

The "horrendous military, industrial, financial, terrorist, and drug
trafficking complex is supporting the coup leaders and challenging Obama,"
Chavez explained.

Chavez said the Obama administration has so far been "soft-hearted" in
response to the coup, because it has not yet called for the immediate and
unconditional reinstatement of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was
kidnapped by the military on Sunday. "Define yourself, or you are a mollusk,"
Chavez said to Obama, urging the U.S. president to follow the lead of the Latin
American fair trade bloc ALBA and the Organization of American States (OAS) and
take "a firmer stance."

The U.S. government has admitted the military actions in the coup were
a violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and recognized Zelaya as
the legitimate president. However, it has stopped short of putting economic
pressure on the coup leaders, withdrawing its ambassador, threatening to close
its military base in Honduras, and demanding the restoration of Zelaya to power
without conditions.

Also Thursday, Chavez defended the Venezuelan government's response to
the coup against accusations of interventionism by the right wing Venezuelan
opposition. "We are obligated to respect [Honduras's] sovereignty… We are not
an interventionist government but we are in the process together with other
countries and international organizations, of doing everything we can to avoid
a bloodbath," he said.

The Venezuelan government has suspended oil shipments to Honduras until
Zelaya is reinstated, Chavez confirmed. Venezuela has also called for an
investigation of the coup by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and
advocated possible multi-national military intervention if diplomatic means
fail to restore Zelaya to power.

Chavez said those who accuse him of interventionism are the same groups
who accuse him of being a dictator and violating freedom of expression, such as
the conservative Inter-American Press Society (SIP). "Why don't they say
anything with regard to this issue in Honduras?" Chavez asked rhetorically.

Since the coup on Sunday, the coup government led by the former
president of the Congress, Roberto Michelleti, has raided and shut down
television and radio stations, arrested domestic and international journalists,
imposed a nation-wide curfew, and suspended the constitutional rights of
citizens, including the right to due process and protections against illegal
search and seizure.

Meanwhile, the heads of Venezuela's National Electoral Council,
National Assembly, Supreme Court, Attorney General, and Public Defenders Office
released a joint statement condemning the coup and demanding the immediate and
unconditional return of Zelaya to the presidency.

Venezuela's minister for indigenous affairs, Nicia Maldonado, described
the coup as an attack against Latin American integration, a project that the
Chavez government has taken on its shoulders and named "Bolivarian" after the South
American independence fighter Simon Bolivar.

"All the government leaders who express the voice of the people are
going to be attacked," said Maldonado in an interview on the state television
channel VTV. "Chavez is the enemy, they see him as a spectre, because he
carries the flag of Bolivarian ideals against the empire."

On Tuesday, the Organization of American States (OAS) issued a 72-hour
ultimatum for the coup leaders to restore Zelaya to power. On Friday, OAS
General Secretary Jose Miguel Insulza arrived in Honduras to meet with the coup
leaders. "We are not going to Honduras to negotiate. We are going to ask that
what is going on now be stopped, and look for avenues that permit a return to
normality," said Insulza of his visit to Honduras.

According to the New York Times, "OAS officials"
have begun "informal discussions" to negotiate a compromise that could include amnesty
for the coup leaders and Zelaya's abandonment of a constitutional reform
initiative in return for his reinstatement.