(TIME) – As he ends his first year in office, Obama seems to have ceded Latin America strategy to right-wing Cold Warriors whose thinking — including the idea that coups are still an acceptable means of regime change — is no more equipped to help bring the region into the 21st century than the ideology of left-wing Marxists is.
That’s been most apparent in Honduras, where the country’s congress this week refused to reinstate democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, a leftist who was ousted in a June 28 military coup. The Obama Administration condemned Zelaya’s overthrow as an affront to Latin America’s fledgling democracies. But conservatives led by GOP South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint — who blocked Valenzuela’s confirmation to protest Obama’s stance — and Bush Administration holdovers such as the U.S.’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Lewis Amselem (who was finally replaced this week), pushed Obama into brokering a deal in which the U.S. effectively condoned yet another armed putsch in the region. In an about-face, Obama recognized last Sunday’s presidential election in Honduras, even though almost every other government in the world didn’t because they consider the current regime there illegitimate. (The incoming Honduran president will be Porfirio Lobo, a wealthy cattle rancher)
By not consulting the continent’s leaders about U.S. plans to use Colombian military bases not just for drug interdiction but also counter-insurgency work, which could theoretically spill over Colombia’s borders, he needlessly revived deep-seated fears of yanqui military interventionism south of the border and raised the hackles of U.S. allies like Brazil and Chile. It was the kind of dismissive display that Bush was best known for in Latin America — and a gift to the anti-U.S. Latin left.