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Powerful Military + Fragile Democracy = Recipe for a Coup in Honduras

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     “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.”

This is how Costa Rican President Oscar Arias closed his strongly worded op-ed, which was published in the Washington Post on Thursday, July 9th. As President Arias prepared to mediate a solution in Honduras between President Zelaya and the Micheletti regime, he decided to let the world know what changes must be made in Latin America in order to ensure that crises like this will not keeping happening.

     “This coup d'état demonstrates, once more, that the combination of powerful militaries and fragile democracies creates a terrible risk. It demonstrates, once more, that until we improve this balance, we will always leave open the door to those who would obtain power through force — whether a little or a great deal, approved by the majority or only by a few.”

President Arias argues that throughout Latin America’s history, the common choice to invest in militaries –rather than social welfare and strong infrastructure– has been the source of many episodes of violence and instability across the region. The situation today in Honduras is only a continuation of that legacy:

     “The recent coup d'état in Honduras, which has embroiled that country in a constitutional crisis, has provided a sad reminder that despite the progress our region has made, the errors of our past are still all too close.”

The president suggests that the only way to avoid future problems is for Latin American governments, and the countries that provide them with aid, to decrease military spending and to focus on projects that work to strengthen the political process and give citizens the resources that they lack in their daily lives. Latin Americans now “need an army of doctors and teachers, of engineers and scientists.”

As the global community watches the situation in Honduras unravel, we must listen to President Arias’ message.

We have already seen the Obama administration suspend U.S. military aid to Honduras. But the temporary hold on U.S. funding is not enough to resolve the crisis in Honduras or bring change to the region. Rather, the coup must “serve as a wake-up call for the hemisphere” to reexamine the best way to strengthen a nation –through its civilian institutions, and its people.

To read our summary of the events in Honduras click here.