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Marxist Mel's Martyrs By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, July 07, 2009


During the 1970s and 1980s, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), then based in the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, vigorously lobbied for Nicaragua's Sandinista regime, the Cuban-style Marxist regime that shot its way to power in 1979. Today, WOLA pretends it is concerned about the rule of law in Honduras after the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court supported removing the leftist president for defying its constitution. WOLA and Jim Wallis' publication Sojourners have teamed up to spin Honduras' defense of its democracy as another example of a U.S.-supported, imperialist military coup.

The constitutional coup in Honduras was actually precipitated when President Mel Zelaya organized a mob of supporters to storm a military base and seize ballots for a national referendum that the Supreme Court had already ruled illegal. That Zelaya was an aspiring president for life who had aligned with Venezualan demagogue Hugo Chavez and communist Cuba did not disturb WOLA, which insisted after Zelaya's exile that such "affronts to democracy will not be tolerated."

Writing for Sojourners, WOLA staffer Ashley Morse mourned that Zelaya had been "awoken suddenly as masked soldiers burst into his home." She noted that that the "elected head of state" was degradingly still in his pajamas as he was "forced onto a plane and shipped out of the country." It was all a "chilling reminder that the days of military coups in Latin America are not quite over."

WOLA has consistently opposed non-leftist military coups in Latin America. For much of its history, WOLA preferred another form of armed power grab: Marxist guerrillas overthrowing regimes, elected or not, so as to construct police state socialism. It was never disturbed by the uniformed Marxist Sandinista commandantes who despotically ruled Nicaragua in the 1980s, thanks to its alignment with the Soviet bloc. Nor was it disturbed by FMLN Soviet-backed insurgency against El Salvador's fledgling democracy in the 1980s. Neither the Sandinistas nor the FMLN were concerned about the rule of law or the niceties of democratic governance. But groups like WOLA found their brand of revolutionary violence and suppression to be inspiring.

WOLA was founded in 1974 by United Methodist missionary Joe Eldridge with help from senior staffers at the National Council of Churches and the U.S. Catholic Conference, ostensibly to help U.S. churches lobby for human rights in Latin America. Eldridge had been a devotee of Marxist President Salvador Allende during Eldridge's "missionary" days in Chile. WOLA's founders were also mesmerized by the romanticism of Castro's Cuba, where, according to one article in 1976, they saw that the "prayers for the poor and the needy of their society were being answered by Castro's Marxist policies." WOLA then received financial support from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), the National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches, and the Maryknoll Fathers. The GBGM still makes annual grants to WOLA.

In the 1980s, WOLA was unimpressed by El Savador's elections, and questioned Honduran democracy then because both were supported by the United States. Naturally, WOLA condemned the 1983 U.S. military action to restore democracy in Grenada, when a Castroite regime seized power by force. But today, WOLA seems committed to ousted President Zelaya's Chavez style of mob rule "democracy."

Morse's essay for Sojourners nonchalantly mentioned that "many critics" of Zelaya worried that the referendum he sought would ultimately allow him another term, which she called a "reform." But she cited other "analysts" who understood the "urgent need" to update a now dated Honduran constitution. After the Honduran Supreme Court ruled Zelaya's referendum to be illegal and the "military refused to help him administer the vote," Morse wrote that  Zelaya "decided to go forward with the referendum and was poised to do so until the military forcibly removed him the morning on which the vote was scheduled." She omits that Zelaya's idea of going "forward" involved organizing a mob to storm the military base in the hopes of forcibly seizing the ballots to facilitate an illegal plebiscite giving him the reigns of power indefinitely.

Reluctantly, Morse admitted there are "many discussions about whether Zelaya's actions were legal." And Zelaya's popularity was "demonstrably low." But the military was never justified in forcing his removal, she insisted, as a "coup is a coup and [a] breach of legality." She also opined that the Honduran Constitution, despite its "shortcomings," allows for lawful "impeachment" rather than "military ambush." Morse lamented that a "long and unfortunate history" of military coups in Latin America had kept democracy weak.

Morse did not mention that military coups have in fact been mercifully sparse in Latin America since the Cold War's end, and that the latest threat to democracy has been Hugo Chavez-style "democratic" authoritarianism, where lawful liberties are extinguished gradually in the name of the people. The Honduran Supreme Court, Congress and military may or may not have acted precipitously. But their fear of Chavez-style "democracy" was not irrational. And by most accounts, it is Zelaya who precipitated the crisis through his defiance of Honduran law in pursuit of personal rule. 

Along with Morse's analysis, Sojourners carried another piece denouncing Zelaya's removal, pointing out that the Honduran military commander graduated from the U.S. Army's supposedly infamous School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia. "So now the SOA has one more portrait for its Hall of Shame," the screed concluded. Ultimate blame for tumult in Honduras belongs to America, of course.

Faulting America is easier than blaming aspiring dictators such as Zelaya, and his patron, Chavez, whose "democracy" smothers all viable opposition.

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.


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