There has been an explosion of punditry over the first cable, all reaching whatever conclusion they had already reached, in which perhaps the most interesting thing from our perspective is the repudiation of the analysis by conservative congress members and their continued insistence that there was "no coup": Connie Mack and colleagues are more insistent on this point now than any Hondurans, with the possible exception of Roberto Micheletti. Otherwise, the Honduran perspective has been that yeah, it was a coup, but (in the notorious phrase) a "good coup".¶13. (C) WHA Honduras - Honduran military forces arrested
President Manuel Zelaya June 28 according to orders issued by
the National Congress and the Supreme Court of Honduras.
Zelaya was taken to a local air force base and flown to Costa
Rica. Emergency Action Committee (EAC) Tegucigalpa
subsequently met to discuss the ramifications of the seizure
of the president by host-cost country military forces. The
RSO noted the general climate in the capital was calm;
however, a standfast order was issued, and additional
security measures were implemented. The Embassy released a
Warden Message regarding the actions against Zelaya and urged
AmCits to remain in the residences or hotels for the day.
¶14. (C) Later in the day, Congress officially named Roberto
Micheletti interim president. The U.S. Ambassador gave a
press conference outside the Embassy; he insisted that
President Zelaya was the only democratically elected
president of the country and urged that freedom of expression
and circulation be restored. He also demanded the release of
those government officials said to be in military custody.
The EAC reconvened to assess the situation. Protest activity
has centered around the presidential palace, some roads in
the capital were blocked, and there were some troops on the
street. However, traffic flow was reported normal in most of
the city. Authorized Departure for family members was
discussed, but not warranted at this time. Embassy personnel
were advised to remain in their homes for the rest of the day
and to limit their movements today, June 29. All Peace Corps
volunteers have been accounted for and are on standfast. Post
will be open today for emergency services only. The EAC will
continue monitoring events in-country and provide updated
information as available. (Tegucigalpa Spot Report; telcon;
Warden Message; Appendix sources 8-10)
We would agree that the cables are unlikely to change minds, and we doubt there are any true smoking guns to find. The smoking guns were all out in the open in US policy on Honduras: dithering about whether it was a "military" coup; Thomas Shannon assuring the Honduran and US right wing that whether or not the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord was implemented properly, the US would recognize whoever came out on top in the presidential election; and the outright failure of scholarship embodied in the Library of Congress producing a report that validated the coup through an analysis repudiated by leading scholars of the Honduran constitution, through relying on the personal communications of an advocate of the coup.
But from the perspective of researchers on history, and on the production and circulation of meanings, seeing the precise way things unfolded does matter.
It matters that on the day after the coup, the US Embassy, despite the ambassador speaking out against the coup, reported that President Zelaya had been "arrested" (when he had not been); that this was on "orders of the National Congress and the Supreme Court" (when it was not); and that he "was taken to a local air base" (without mentioning the stop at Soto Cano/Palmerola).
And it matters that the cable says "Congress officially named Roberto Micheletti interim president". Not only does that mistakenly imply that congress had the authority to act ("officially": why not say "illegally", or "extra-officially"-- especially as the special session held violated the rules of order for Congress, people who voted reportedly included members without authority, and the reported number of votes has always be questioned).
Worse: it gives Micheletti a status that even the Honduran Congress did not try to give him. Their claim was that he was now "President". By inventing an office of "interim president", the US early on chose to treat Micheletti as a legitimate actor, insisting that he and the real elected president negotiate.
The US, in other words, never quite got the point about what constituted the rule of law in Honduras. In this they joined many Honduran political actors; and yes, I hear you all already telling me that's how politics works.
But some situations present us with a moment of choice: do we follow principle, or abandon it? The US never even seems to have contemplated the issues-- despite having an ambassador who clearly understood them in place in the country.