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July 24, 2009
High-powered Americans entangled in Honduras crisis

A banner voices opposition to the coup in Honduras.

International politics have never been far from the surface of the presidential crisis in Honduras.

— What was the role of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in supporting ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya?

— Was the mediator in the case Costa Rican President Oscar Arias truly neutral? Or did he have advance warning that Zelaya would be deposed and then sent into exile in his pajamas to Costa Rica?

— And what is the full agenda of U.S. policymakers, who don’t like Chavez, but overtly support Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras?

Zelaya is vowing to march back into the country overland through Nicaragua this weekend. He hopped into an SUV in Managua on Thursday and drove himself north to the border, urging supporters to meet him there. Zelaya and his interim successor, Roberto Micheletti, have not budged on their mutual demands despite the mediation of Arias.

One new wrinkle in the story is the revelation that Lanny Davis, a longtime ally of Bill and Hillary Clinton, was working with Honduran businessmen who opposed Zelaya and promoting his ouster. Davis has been talking up the coup in Congress.

Davis’ role in the Honduran case was described in a report by Roberto Lovato at the online magazine, American Prospect.

Robert White, a former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, now president of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, an independent think-tank in Washington, discussed the case with

“If you want to understand who the real power behind the [Honduran] coup is,” White told Lovato, “you need to find out who’s paying Lanny Davis.”

Davis was White House counsel to President Clinton from 1996-1998, and worked with Hillary Clinton on her unsuccessful presidential bid. He has been making the rounds in Congress, promoting the idea that the Honduran coup was justified and playing down widespread reports of repression and curbs on the news media.

Lovato also interviewed Davis:

“My clients represent the CEAL, the [Honduras Chapter of] Business Council of Latin America,” Davis said when reached at his office last Thursday. “I do not represent the government and do not talk to President [Roberto] Micheletti. My main contacts are Camilo Atala and Jorge Canahuati. I’m proud to represent businessmen who are committed to the rule of law.” Atala, Canahuati, and other families that own the corporate interests represented by Davis and the CEAL are at the top of an economic pyramid in which 62 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.”

White and those who oppose Micheletti and the coup said that the underlying problem is that a small class of businessmen in Honduras don’t recognize or care about that larger context — the vast majority of Hondurans are abjectly poor and have suffered while an oligarchic minority has thrived.

Coups, White told Lovato, “happen because very wealthy people want them and help to make them happen, people who are used to seeing the country as a money machine and suddenly see social legislation on behalf of the poor as a threat to their interests. The average wage of a worker in free trade zones is 77 cents per hour.”

One of Zelaya’s cardinal sins, critics of the coup charge, was that he was a dissident member of the wealthy business class, and converted to social-minded pursuits only after he was elected to office.

Davis and other opponents say that Zelaya had been in the process of creating an official coup, subverting the constitution and attempting to maintain himself in office much the same way as Chavez has seized absolute power in Venezuela.

Again, the bottom line, what does this all mean to the suffering, malnourished Honduran majority? They watch politicians come and go from squalid slums and never see life getting any better at all.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user pablo.cardozo under a Creative Commons license.

July 23, 2009
Tiny territory of Gibraltar has a colorful past and present

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713.

“Spain’s foreign minister,” we are told, “met [in Gibraltar] Tuesday with his British counterpart and with the head of Gibraltar’s local administration in the first visit by a Spanish Cabinet official to the British colony.”

Hardly the top of the news, you say — but it reminds me of how crisis points in the world wax and wane in importance. Gibraltar was a strategic fortress for Britain and the Allies during World War II — and Britain vowed to hold onto it forever, or at least, according to legend, as long as the Barbary apes remain on station.

Gibraltar is an outcropping of rock, a British territory roughly 1,093 miles south of London, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and attached to Spain by a neck of land. It was ceded to Britain in 1713. Spain wants it back, but don’t hold your breath.

News Item 2: “The Rock of Gibraltar is echoing to gunfire for the first time since the Spanish attacked Britain’s Mediterranean toehold nearly 300 years ago.”

British soldiers are training in Gibraltar’s maze of underground caves to seek and destroy al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan, previously believed to be impervious.

Sky News quoted Captain Charles Bonfante, of the British Army’s Royal Gibraltar Regiment, on the subject. “As a training area, this is unique…I did a tour in Afghanistan, around Musa Qala. One of our battles was fought in underground tunnels, just like this.”

Interesting, and Sky News doesn’t have it quite right. Gibraltar has heard gunfire in modern times. It had complex, secret gun emplacements during World War II, ready to fight off any invasion by Hilter, if he decided to speed to the Mediterranean coast. Several years ago, I interviewed Jean-Francois Nothomb, a prominent underground leader who snuck in and out of Gibraltar during World War II. Nothomb was a protagonist in my book, Freedom Line, which detailed the rescue of Allied pilots from Nazi territory.

He recalled going for a stroll one day in Gibraltar on a promontory overlooking the harbor. “What appeared to be a stony mound suddenly gave way to a sliding pedestal and he could hear the sound of gears and motors. Suddenly a two-man gun emplacement rose out of the earth, with two helmeted British gunners at the controls. This was no ordinary field. What had appeared to be a natural landscape was actually a stage set for antiaircraft guns.”

Hilter was diverted from his designs on Gibraltar by his overriding passion to focus on an invasion of Russia to the north instead. German presence in Gibraltar would have created a dominant position at the entrance to the Mediterranean. British and American analysts at the time went as far as to say that Hitler could have won the war if he took Gibraltar.

Fascinating to me that 70 years after playing a strategic role in World War II, Gibraltar is now a training site for soldiers seeking a latter-day enemy, Osama bin Laden.

I wouldn’t argue for or against the notion that this is the time for Britain to give up this last relic of the empire. But it sure has a colorful history. I’ll take the democratic line: Here’s a vote for self-determination of the 30,000 people of Gibraltar.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user cwgoodroe under a Creative Commons license.

July 22, 2009
Racial inequality and violence ignite passions in Brazil

In Brazil, as in the United States, the issue of race raises passions. Photo: United Nations

Questions of race and poverty raise difficult problems and passions in Brazil, a colossal country of 200 million people where the answers are never any more simple than they are in the United States.

A report released today by the Brazilian government and UNICEF studied the violent deaths of adolescents throughout the country, with some chilling findings. Statistical projections show that 33,000 young people in Brazil will have died as a result of violence between 2006 and 2012, and black children are more than twice as likely to be killed than those classified as white.

The fundamental question, of course, is to determine the source of all violence — and the joint report cites drug-dealing, poverty and the availability of guns. But the question about racial differences is sensitive for Brazilians. Their tendency has often been to defensively compare their country to the United States, and conclude that Brazil is fare more egalitarian, and far more racially blended.

The problem, many Brazilians say, involves class and not race, in which poor whites and poor blacks suffer equally for economic reasons, not for reasons of skin color. The argument doesn’t convince.

It is hard in Brazil to say who exactly is African-Brazilian, and which Brazilians identify themselves as having African heritage: there must be a dozen terms for different skin hues used in common discourse. “We all have African roots,” a Brazilian diplomat once told me at the Brazilian foreign ministry in Brasilia. He appeared to be Caucasian, and his last name was the name of a Portuguese count. The only people I saw there in the Palace of Itamaraty who appeared to be black were serving coffee or waiting to drive ministers to their next meeting.

Last year, there was another report about related issues from the United Nations, quoted by a Brazilian news agency, that “infant mortality among white children…is considerably lower than that registered among black children.” The same report said that while 98 percent of Brazilian young people are able to go to school, “of 660,000 students out of school, 450,000 are of African descent.”

That U.N. report said Brazil has made great strides in combating racism, and that more needs to be done.

Much can be said the same for the United States, which now has a president of African descent.

Brazil and the United States both have far to go. One need think no further than the outrageous case this week in Cambridge, Mass., where one of the nation’s most important scholars and teachers, Henry Louis Gates, was arrested on suspicion for breaking into his own house. He is an African-American who happens to live in a well-to-do neighborhood, where few people are black.

– Peter Eisner

July 20, 2009
Meat lovers mourn Argentina’s disappearing beef

A butcher in Argentina.

Rule of thumb: When a government official has to make a statement to the news media that “there is no crisis,” the translation usually is — there’s a crisis.

That sounds like where we are right now with the Argentine beef industry, where it appears that the proud country of the pampas may eventually have to start importing meat.

La Nacion in Buenos Aires, quoting the Argentine Farm Federation, says that cattle supplies are at their lowest in 45 years. “Argentina is on the verge of importing meat to cover internal demand and would lose as much as $1.5 billion in export income” as a result.

As for the government, the response is: Not true at all.

Agriculture Secretary Carlos Cheppi denied the claims by the Farm Federation and other organizations.”There is no crisis…it is a big lie.”

But it feels like a crisis in the nation that consumes more beef and is probably more proud of its carnivorous pursuits than any country on earth.

Say what you will about meat-eaters — for an Argentine, it’s downright embarrassing. It would be like Britain losing the Colonies, GM going bankrupt, or [the old] AT&T being sold to a French communications company.

It’s tough to swallow for Argentinians, whose 41 million people eat about 143 lbs per capita of beef every year, 50 percent more than the second biggest beef-eaters in the world — that would be people in the United States.

But it’s more than just the numbers. Argentinians are proud of their beef, its quality and its availability across social classes. Until recently at least, it was possible to go into a basic downtown diner in Buenos Aires and have an overstuffed steak sandwich, fries, salad and wine for very few dollars.

Now prices are going up, on beef and across the board, and the blame is falling on the increasingly unpopular president, Cristina Kirchner, and her husband and predecessor, Nestor Kirchner.

“Six economy ministers in six years, what more can we expect,” headlines a story in the newspaper La Nacion, written by Roberto Cachanosky. “The Argentine economy is paralyzed, the fiscal situation is critical, unemployment is growing, poverty is increasing, inflation shot up right after [June parlimentary] elections and the struggle for the distribution of income is on the verge of falling apart.”

Argentinians know no depths of pessimism about their economic woes, and distrust of their leaders. But this seems like a new low, said Cachanosky.

“There are things you don’t have to see to know they exist,” he wrote. “For example, I’ve never seen an atom, but I know the atom exists. In the case of the economy, there are things that you don’t have to see to know how they’re going to turn out.”

– Peter Eisner

For more, watch the Worldfocus signature story “Farmers, drought and taxes cripple Argentina” and listen to our online radio show on Argentina’s farming crisis.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user diametrik under a Creative Commons license.

July 14, 2009
U.S. keeps Mexican drug trafficking on the back burner

Police search bags for drugs and weapons in Mexico.

PUERTO LAS OLLAS, Mexico — The Mexican army has carried out forced disappearances, acts of torture and illegal raids in pursuit of drug traffickers, according to documents and interviews with victims, their families, political leaders and human rights monitors.

This was the lead last week in the Washington Post, in a well-reported piece by Steve Fainaru and Bill Booth. Over the last quarter century, it’s been amazing and shocking to see how U.S. policy and world condemnation have always focused elsewhere in dealing with stories about drug trafficking and the impunity with which it takes place.

The first Bush administration invaded Panama (for something like the 14th time in history) in 1989, supposedly to staunch the disease of drug trafficking through that country. The second Bush administration paid billions to Colombia from 2001-2009 to fight a drug war that looked a lot like a license for corruption and human rights abuses among security forces.

And yet, all the while, Mexican drug trafficking has trundled along, with organized crime corrupting generals and privates, police chiefs and mayors — or killing them if they didn’t play ball. Mexican officials have never been able to control the trafficking and the crime surrounding it. But they do launch military campaigns that don’t resolve the long-term problem — and people die in the crossfire. We’re in a long-lasting crescendo now — some U.S. officials have said the Mexican government is in a dire situation akin to the failed state status of Pakistan.

We’re not allowed to say that though — Mexican officials don’t want to hear it, and U.S. officials don’t want to push the issue too far ahead toward the front burner.

The reality and the danger are evident.

Early in her tenure, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that the United States shares responsibility. She said this on a visit this spring to Mexico:

We know very well that the drug traffickers are motivated by the demand for illegal drugs in the United States, that they are armed by the transport of weapons from the United States to Mexico; and therefore, we see this as a responsibility to assist the Mexican government and the Mexican people in defeating an enemy that is committing violence and disruption that is very harmful and which is something that all people of conscience should attempt to defeat.

The State Department is now preparing to issue a report on Mexican efforts to police drug crime, and accountability in meeting accepted norms on human rights. Human rights organizations, such as the Washington Office on Latin America [WOLA], are calling on Congress to recognize the questions surrounding Mexico’s pursuit of the drug war before releasing further funding that supplies aid to the Mexican army and police.

Reacting to the Washington Post story, WOLA said this:

The growing number of military abuses is illustrated by amount of complaints received by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). During the first six months of 2009 the CNDH received over 2,000 complaints against the army, a dramatic increase from the 1,231 registered for all of 2008.

What role will the United States play in recognizing the dire situation — and who will deal credibly with the problems surrounding drug dealing and the accompanying violence?

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Prometeo Lucero under a Creative Commons license.

July 10, 2009
Obama works to undo long legacy of damage in Russia

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara.

One of President Obama’s goals of his travels to Russia and the G-8 meeting in Italy this week was indirectly to undo damage done long ago by Robert Strange McNamara, whose errors in judgment colored world history for more than half of the 20th Century.

Obama met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladmir Putin; the two governments announced they would work toward cutting back nuclear stockpiles. At the G-8 meeting, Obama went further — calling for a major non-proliferation summit next year in Washington in which as many as 30 countries would participate.

How does this relate to McNamara, who died July 6? As Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson years, he earned the dubious distinction of being father of the MIRV — multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles — which revolutionized nuclear brinksmanship and made the world a great deal more dangerous.

McNamara’s role had world-changing results, and well-noted in this Washington Post obituary by Thomas Lippman, published the same day of Obama’s trip. McNamara, late in life recognized his mistakes – and came close to acknowledging them.

McNamara sponsored development of missiles that could carry up to 14 nuclear warheads each, giving the United States the ability to strike more Soviet targets without adding missiles and the capability of launching more warheads than the Soviets could fend off. This, McNamara later acknowledged, was substantially responsible for the nuclear arms race.

“I have no question,” he said in a 1982 interview, “but that the Soviets thought we were trying to achieve a first-strike capability. We were not. We did not have it. We could not attain it. We didn’t have any thought of attaining it. But they probably thought we did.” Their response, he said, provoked a counter-response by the United States, and the cycle became self-perpetuating.

This new president wants to undo that self-perpetuating cycle, although he faces suspicion from some quarters, in part a result of a long-lasting hangover from eight years of the Bush presidency.

Obama calls his presidency a “reset.” After his meeting with Medevedev, Obama said, “The President and I agreed that the relationship between Russia and the United States has suffered from a sense of drift.”

“We resolved to reset U.S.-Russian relations so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest,” he added.

Obama did get some good reviews for his incipient effort. The British newspaper The Independent said:

The U.S.-led initiative could pave the way for the world to warn Iran and North Korea that they would be treated as “pariah states” unless they stop developing nuclear weapons. The burden of proof would be on countries that are not yet members of the nuclear club to show they had not breached the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, raising the prospect of attempts to send weapons inspectors in if they refused to comply.

This all has to do with international cooperation and a pragmatic approach, breaking with years of arrogance and an unwillingness to negotiate. The goal is to defuse the drive to war: If you’re talking, you’re not fighting.

War was what McNamara was about. As early as World War II, he was close by when Gen. Curtis LeMay ordered the firebombing of Tokyo — as he famously said, “He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals.” Late in life, he also saw his own errors in Vietnam and beyond. During the 1962 Cuban Missile crisis, we came closer than ever to what became known as MAD — mutually assured destruction.

McNamara was on the front line, facing down the Soviet Union. Again, quoting the Washington Post obit:

McNamara wrote in a Newsweek essay about the crisis that “as I left President Kennedy’s office to return to the Pentagon, I thought I might never live to see another Saturday night” — so great was the threat of nuclear war.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Wesley Fryer under a Creative Commons license.

July 9, 2009
Impoverished Hondurans caught up in battle of political wills

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Most police around the world will tell you that they’re always wary about getting into the middle of a domestic dispute. It can be a no-win situation, and everybody ends up hating the cops.

Case in point, how to deal with the Honduras crisis — so far, the United States appears to have steered clear of getting stuck. The Obama administration has been listening to both sides and endorsed the entry of a neutral non-U.S. mediator, Oscar Arias, the Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Most important, the two sides in Honduras — Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, and his old friend and former ally, Roberto Micheletti — have agreed to the mediation. This is a complicated domestic matter, seated in rivalries and seething questions about power, influence, economic interest and the long-term welfare of a desperately poor country.

Zelaya and Micheletti hold steadfastly to their positions — the deposed president said his return to office is not negotiable, and Micheletti is equally adamant against him returning to power.

But they will be talking with Arias’ help this week, instead of fighting at the borders.

Ideologues of various stripes — from The National Review to the halls of power in Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez holds forth — are looking in from the outside and bloviating about what is best of Honduras.

Chavez’s government Web site, “Gobierno En Linea,” said that the coup plotters were attempted murders and should be dealt with accordingly:

[…] it was an attack directly against the head of state [Zelaya], by which the coup members and those responsible for the military coup should be taken to court and judged for the crime of attempted murder.

[..] atentó directamente contra la vida del Jefe de Estado, motivo por el que los golpistas y responsables del golpe militar deben ser llevados a una corte y juzgados por el delito de homicidio frustrado.

Most governments and publications in the hemisphere and beyond were saying more mildly that the coup was illegal and Zelaya had to be returned to power. However, the National Review, the voice of conservatives in the United States, defended the coup on grounds that Zelaya would have turned Honduras into “a satellite” of Chavez’s Venezuelan revolution:

It was an affirmation of democracy and the rule of law, both of which the president had flouted. If anything, it was a counter-coup, the real coup having been attempted by Zelaya.

The resolution has to lie somewhere in between the extremes, and here’s hoping that one group — the millions of desperately poor people in Honduras — will somehow benefit in the end.

Those were the sentiments of Arias as he went into the round of mediation:

Those of us who seek to protect democracies in this hemisphere have no time to waste. I urge all leaders in the Americas to see the Honduran crisis for what it is: an urgent call for the profound social and institutional changes our region has delayed for far too long.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user living water international under a Creative Commons license.

July 3, 2009
Swine flu makes economic, political waves in Argentina

Lines to vote in Argentina, with masks to protect against H1N1.

I once asked a doctor how to avoid catching a cold. He said to wash my hands and keep three feet away from everyone. Problem is — that’s no fun. Matters of politics, human relations and cultural mores operate at closer quarters.

Argentina is in the grip of what seems to be a full-blown swine flu epidemic, call it what you will — H1N1 or influenza A. The country’s health minister has announced 44 deaths as a result of the epidemic.

All the heightened awareness has been publicized in the week after President Cristina Kirchner and her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, saw their governing Peronist Party lose badly in national elections, deemed a referendum on the Kirchners’ hold to power.

Some people wondered whether the elections should have been delayed as the flu epidemic started taking hold. The Buenos Aires newspaper, La Nacion, reports that the government cited 1,587 flu cases days before the Sunday elections, and may have been undercounting.

Suddenly, this week the count of infections is running much higher — perhaps as many as 100,000 cases so far. All along, one theory was that the Kirchners, facing low polling numbers, were trying to rush the election no matter what before their popularity got even worse.

Just after the election results, the health minister resigned. Her replacement, Dr. Juan Manzur, announced a series of measures to keep down the number of flu infections.

School trips were delayed, federal and state courts sessions were in recess, and sports and cultural events are postponed around Buenos Aires and the provinces. People have taken to wearing masks, pregnant women and the infirm can take time off from work and people with symptoms are encouraged to stay out of crowds. And officials say the national drink, yerba mate, may be a healthy choice — but avoid sharing and passing it around as is usually done, in ornate gourds with silver straws.

The economic fallout has been significant. Newspapers report fewer shoppers on the streets, restaurants are less crowded and tourists, particularly those from Brazil, are staying away.

The only good word about the worldwide flu epidemic is that pharmaceutical manufacturers are preparing supplies of vaccines that should be ready in two months. Until then, vote by absentee ballot and stay three feet away from everyone — or, at least, postpone any thoughts of visiting your soulmate in Argentina until the disease runs its course a bit.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user blmurch under a Creative Commons license.

July 1, 2009
Poverty, corruption play into power struggle in Honduras

A woman holds a copy of the Honduran constitution and flag at a protest.

While governments around the hemisphere (including Cuba and the United States) support the return of Honduras’ ousted president, José Manuel Zelaya, we have an opportunity to focus on a country rarely mentioned in the news.

In the 1980s, the United States was deeply involved in Honduran military and political affairs — the Reagan administration saw the country as the frontline in fighting a supposed communist march through Central America that would end up at the Texas border.

While the United States mounted counterinsurgencies against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and looked the other way when death squads marauded in El Salvador, Honduras was an American base camp.

There are those who mistakenly claim that the United States — billions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of deaths later — somehow helped “win” the Central American wars. In fact, the nations settled their differences themselves after the United States backed off.

The United States backed far off in fact, and Honduras was left poor as ever — one of the poorest of the poor in Latin America. A majority of the country’s seven million people live on far less than $100 a month; illiteracy, hunger and disease are endemic. A report by the World Bank in 2006 said that despite economic growth, a majority of Hondurans received no benefit.

My then-colleague at the Washington Post, Marcela Sanchez, reported two years ago that corruption was a major factor:

According to a U.S.-funded public opinion poll, the percentage of Hondurans who believe the government is combating corruption declined from 40 percent in 2004 to 26.6 percent in 2006.
Juan Ferrera, coordinator for Honduras’ National Anti-Corruption Council, said in an interview from Tegucigalpa that corruption is creating such public disenchantment that Hondurans may even “put aside democratic options.”

In a cauldron like that, are elections enough? A Honduran friend of mine said this week that left-wing or right-wing, it hasn’t seemed to matter. “They kind of just keep themselves in power and steal some more!”

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user giggey under a Creative Commons license.

June 29, 2009
Honduran coup tests U.S. take on democracy

Ousted Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya.

What’s your take on democracy? Time to think about it a bit after reading this front-page headline in the New York Times today:

Honduran Army Ousts President Allied to Chavez

The elected president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya, was deposed on Sunday by that country’s armed forces, one of the first military coups in Latin America in more than a decade.

Part of the answer lies in our own prejudices and subliminal responses to the words. If Zelaya is an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, should we be happy, unhappy or neutral? And in terms of democratic principles, should the United States be supporting the deposed president or pleased that his absolutist policies have been derailed?

Zelaya won the Honduran presidency in a tight — but fair — election more than three years ago, and, like Chavez, was trying to tinker with rules that bar presidents from serving more than one term. Chavez, who was also elected by a popular majority, has progressively gathered up power, weakening his country’s legislative and judicial branches. Using various populist techniques and the bully pulpit of the presidents, Chavez has won approval for his actions through national referendums.

For his part, Zelaya was trundled off to the airport on Sunday, and declared from Costa Rica, still in his pajamas, that his ouster was illegal: “I am the president of Honduras.”

The United States, governments throughout the hemisphere and Europe have condemned the coup and say they support Zelaya’s return to office. That hasn’t stopped Chavez from decrying “oligarchs” who should be opposed by force.

One last question: Has U.S. policy been steadfast in supporting election results? Answer: No. Consider the case of Guatemala in 1954, when the CIA engineered the overthrow of a democratically-elected government deemed to be leaning the wrong direction; Chile in 1973, when the United States applied economic sanctions, and U.S. officials supported and aided a coup against the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, a Socialist. Or further afield, but more recently, when Hamas won democratic elections in Palestine in 2006, the United States sided with Israel and imposed economic sanctions.

Are there limits to supporting the will of the people? Or is the pragmatic solution in dealing with foreign policy questions more complicated than a knee-jerk ideological response? Consider this, then, a vote for critical thinking.

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Presidencia de la República del Ecuador under a Creative Commons license.

Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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