Saturday, April 17, 2010

Honduras Flopped. Obama Tries Ecuador.

After failing to threaten, bribe, cajole and trick Honduras into abandoning its constitution and perpetuate a tin-pot dictator, the Obama administration has fared much better in Ecuador. On the left of the picture is US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Arturo Valenzuela. On his right is Hugo Chavez clone, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.

Earlier this week we discussed the systematic elimination of our western-style democratic allies from the president's guest book. Hillary Clinton has yet to inflict the coup de grace to Ecuador, but unlike the case in Honduras, our president's advance men have successfully ensured the permanence of another Latin American socialist president-for-life. Barack Obama seems entirely oblivious to the fact that every time a duly-elected, constitutional democracy falls, he helps to create not another ally, but rather another fair-weather friend who will stab America in the back at the first opportunity. All that's left now is for Obama to give Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa a big hug and smooch, just as he did with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Correa was first elected Ecuador's president in 2007. He ran, among other things, on the desire of the people of Ecuador to create a new constitution more along the lines of the US Constitution, to avoid abrupt changes in government and protect against the accumulation of too much power in any branch of government or any single person. Correa was unfortunately elected by a very conclusive popular majority, and like someone else I can think of, Correa took that to mean that it was time to "fundamentally transform Ecuador." Correa, and his leftist allies in the unicameral Congress (called the National Assembly) held a powerful hand. The nation then conducted a national referendum that created the Constituent Assembly to draft the new constitution.

But Correa and his political allies in Congress determined the makeup and mode of election of the new Constituent Assembly. Once in control of that body, Correa and his friends engineered matters so that the Constituent Assembly was empowered to determine who in the current Congress would be allowed to remain in the legislature. In the event that Congress didn't cooperate with the Constituent Assembly (and by inference, with Correa), the Assembly granted itself the power to dissolve Congress. Though a minority, the Correa opponents still comprised a substantial bloc of the Congressional votes. When they objected to this broad grant of power to the Assembly, Correa did what all banana republic leaders do--he dissolved Congress and with the assistance of his allies, took on extensive "emergency" powers. He used the military and the mob to cow opponents into submission.

But before the new constitution could be approved by the voters, the nation remained under the existing constitution. The Congress had told Correa that it would not grant the Constituent Assembly the power Correa wanted, which resulted in its dissolution. In order to maintain the pretense of a government of law, Correa and the Assembly turned to the court. One small problem. The authentic constitutional court was not under the thumb of Correa, so the Assembly simply created one--the electoral court. That court confirmed the dismissal of the opposition members of Congress. The actual constitutional court stepped in and declared that the dismissed Congressional representatives had to be reinstated and Congress left intact until the new constitution was approved by a vote of the people. Correa simply ignored the decision of the duly-installed constitutional court, and the game was essentially over.

Trusting that this was merely a temporary measure to restore order, and quite possibly believing Correa's propaganda, the people of Ecuador accepted the dissolution of Congress, and voted heavily in favor of the new constitution that Correa's thugs had written. They didn't have much choice in any event, since any serious opposition had now been entirely silenced. The choice they were handed was to vote for the new constitution, or face a government with no constitution at all, since the Constituent Assembly had dissolved Congress and rendered the constitutional court impotent. So they would have gotten the Correa constitution anyway, only in a bit bloodier fashion.

It's a sad commentary on Ecuador, but if the Ecuadorian army had supported the duly-elected Congress, and enforced the order of its constitutional court, Ecuador would have ended up with a true government of laws, much like Honduras. The police who were sworn to protect the Congress and the courts cooperated with mobs that stormed the halls of government in support of Correa.

Correa has followed all the traditional patterns of dictatorial leaders. All opposition newspapers and television stations have effectively been silenced. Former members of Congress who were ousted by the Correa coup are forbidden to speak publicly. Even leftist reporters are not safe from the wrath of Correa and his gang. One of the few publications allowed to continue operation, El Universo, ran a less than complimentary assessment of Correa's rule. When a suspiciously "spontaneous" mob attacked the newspaper's offices, socialist columnist Emilio Palacio objected in print. Correa publicly stated that Palacio should be sued. Conveniently, Palacio was arrested, tried and convicted of criminal libel, and is serving three years in prison.

Back to assistant secretary of state Valenzuela (or is that Venezuela?). Valenzuela's people have been in constant contact with Correa since Barack Obama's election. Many of the career diplomats who surround Valenzuela were working behind the scenes to promote Correa even before Obama's election. In keeping with the public mouthings of the Obama administration, Valenzuela figured his position was so secure with Correa that he could question Ecuador's growing friendship with Iran. Valenzuela quickly found out how well making nice-nice with dictators works out. Correa read him the riot act, and told him that America should mind its own business (see, Hillary? It doesn't work with dictators, either).

Obama's half-baked diplomats not only consort with dictators and wannabe dictators who pretend to support Obama's America, but when dressed down by the likes of a Correa, they further damage American prestige by cowering in a corner. After recovering from the shock of finding out that even socialists in Latin America don't have much use for Obama, instead of asserting American opposition to authoritarian regimes, they promptly go into conciliatory mode. Valenzuela is now promoting another love-fest, much like the earlier hug and kisses meeting between Obama and Chavez.

Obama and Correa, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. For God's sake, Obama, wake up, grow up, listen up, and start acting like a president instead of some amateur self-help guru. Bullies take accommodation as weakness, and they are stopped only by standing up to them. "Can't we all just get along?" is just fine to say for great moral philosophers and statesmen like Rodney King, but it's beneath the leader of the free world. Your weakness and disdain toward our friends and your sneaky support of dictators are not proper American diplomacy.

10 comments:

LL said...

You wrote: "Barack Obama seems entirely oblivious to the fact that every time a duly-elected, constitutional democracy falls, he helps to create not another ally, but rather another fair-weather friend who will stab America in the back at the first opportunity."

Unfortunately I think he thrills to the demise of constitutional democracy in whatever form it takes. It's why he's more comfortable with Hugo Chavez than he is with our traditional allies.

AndrewPrice said...

I think it's interesting that even after Obama kowtowed to the likes of Chavez, he's finding few allies in the region. Chavez rails against him, Brazil's Lulu seems to delight in acting against American interests and in humiliating Obama, Cuba still plays the same games they've played for sixty years, etc. etc.

For all his talk of a fresh start in South America, all he's gotten for his efforts has been trouble.

So much for weakness and collaboration as a policy.

LawHawkSF said...

LL: Obama thinks that rule by the "elite" (meaning himself in the US) is preferable to the restraints of a constitution. His latest nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Goodwin Liu, proves that he wants a compliant court that agrees with him, just like Chavez and Correa. Naturally, he is comfortable with like-minded autocrats.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Feeding the beast so he'll eat you last is not a foreign policy--it's suicide. Although one or two Latin American dictatorships are not a major threat to the US, a coalition of five or six of them, united in their contempt for the US, can be a major problem. It also makes access from our enemies in the Old World much easier. Obama's Latin American policies are the worst since Carter handed over the Panama Canal to Panama, which promptly turned it over to China.

HamiltonsGhost said...

Lawhawk--I think it's interesting how the dictators worm their way into power by using the forms of democracy without ever considering the substance. You need a court to affirm your legitimacy? Create one. You need a malleable legislature? Create one. And Obama just doesn't seem that different from them.

LawHawkSF said...

HamiltonsGhost: Good comment. See my mention to LL in regard to the courts and Goodwin Liu. Fortunately, we have a much longer history of constitutional government and suspicion of overly-powerful politicians than any of the Latin American countries. Obama may not like it, but I think he's going to get mugged by the Constitution in the next two elections, no matter how hard he tries to tilt the playing-field. With the exception of Honduras, he's going to be remembered for creating better socialist governments south of the border than he will for attempts to do so here.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I think the other problem is that these guys keep spreading. It's one thing to have a Chavez and a Castro. It's quite another when every other year or so they spread out to another country. At some point, this becomes very dangerous for us.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: Indeed. Socialist autocracy spreads like cancer. You cut it out or use strong medicine to kill it or it metastasizes.

I didn't mention in the post that Correa made good use of the Colombian FARC rebels as his bully-boys in the provinces. The government of Colombia has so far been successfully standing up to the rebels without any help from Washington, but Correa took the opposite tack and invited them in.

CalFederalist said...

Lawhawk. Any guess on which loon the Obamatrons are going to get behind in L. America next?

LawHawkSF said...

CalFed: I sort of mentioned my guess in my assessment of Correa when I replied to Andrew. The democratic government of Colombia is skating on the thin edge of disaster with its drug lords and communist rebels (the FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). American armed forces supporting the war on drug cartels and revolutionaries at the request of the elected government are the key to saving Colombia from anarchy then a communist/cartel takeover. Don't be surprised if the Obama team is already working with the rebels, or when American support of the government vanishes as soon as Obama can come up with some lame excuse for losing yet another American ally. He has already denied Colombia much of the assistance it needs. Get ready for more.

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