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Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 - Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARTINEZ. Mr. President, let me begin by thanking my dear friend from the State of Arizona for once again reminding us of this egregious practice of earmark spending that continues to not only grow but continues to be a dark mark on our record as Members of the Congress.

I think, as he rightly pointed out, at a time of serious economic distress in places such as Arizona--and I certainly could say as well in Florida--it is a bit out of sync for us to continue the spending as usual just for the mere fact that there is a member of the Appropriations Committee who can, in fact, command something be done only because it would benefit a narrow interest in their State, within their district, and which, in fact, may not be requested and which may not be needed.


Mr. MARTINEZ. Mr. President, I rise, though, to speak about the events in Honduras. The events that are taking place in Honduras right now are the unfortunate result of the silence of both the United States and the inter-American community to the assault on Honduras' democratic institutions.

It is difficult for Hondurans and other democrats within the region to understand the full significance of President Zelaya's expulsion from Honduras. Up until this point, there has not been any significant voice in the opposition to the dismantling of democratic institutions and free societies in Venezuela, Bolivia--and as Honduras was going down the path, you might also add Nicaragua to that, to name only a few of the most visible cases.

It is also hard to explain why there was this silence in the face of President Zelaya's earlier unconstitutional actions, especially the event that appeared to precipitate his ousting: the storming of a military base to seize and distribute ballots for a referendum that previously had been declared unconstitutional by the Honduran Supreme Court.

A fundamental tenet of democracy is the separation of powers. You have a President in the executive branch and then you have the judicial branch of government, a coequal and separate branch, and that branch told the President the referendum he was seeking to have to extend his rule beyond the constitutional term was illegal, it should not be done. He was undeterred and he was completely unrepentant as he sought to continue his plan to have a referendum, even though the Congress, even though the judiciary had already told him that was in contravention of the Constitution of their country.

Where was the region's outrage over Hugo Chavez's support for Mr. Zelaya's unconstitutional actions in Honduras? Mr. Chavez supported Mr. Zelaya because they are kindred spirits, because Mr. Chavez had already been able to usurp every institution of democracy within his country of Venezuela and now rules as an autocrat. He wanted to have the same playbook applied in Honduras as he coached and shepherded to do some of the same things in Bolivia and to some degree in Nicaragua as well--and Nicaragua coming along.

The Honduran people decided this was not going to happen in their country, and the people in the Honduran Congress and in the Honduran Supreme Court decided it was not going to happen on their watch. But the region's silence toward the assault on democracy in Honduras followed a pattern of acquiescence of Chavez's dismantling of democratic institutions and civil liberties in Venezuela.

For instance, the OAS has said absolutely nothing about Chavez's closing of independent media, his manipulation of elections, his erosion of independent branches of government, and his usurping of the authority of local elected officials. Leaders like Chavez, Ortega, and Zelaya have cloaked themselves in the language of democracy when it was convenient for them. Yet their actions ignored it when it did not further their personal ambitions.

This situation was compounded by the actions of the United States, including work behind the scenes to keep the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court from using the clearly legal means of Presidential impeachment. Some of us have wondered why wasn't he impeached? Why didn't the Congress go ahead and impeach President Zelaya? Our Embassy in Tegucigalpa counseled that the Hondurans should not use the tools of impeachment.

Having stood on sidelines while Mr. Zelaya overstepped his nation's Constitution, the United States and the inter-American community only speak now. Protecting a sitting President, regardless of his illegal acts, sets a dangerous precedent. Instead, U.S. policy should be focused on only supporting efforts that uphold the integrity of constitutional order and democratic institutions.

In fairness to the Obama administration, this distorted policy is not new. Through advice from the State Department, former President George W. Bush was talked out of having the United States stand visibly with democratic advocates in Latin America. The advice was based on the belief that by not making the United States an issue, this would allow the region to stand up for democratic activists. Unfortunately, no country or leader did so, and most significant of all, the leader of the OAS has sat idly by, year after year, as democracy after democracy was dismantled, one piece at a time, one election at a time, one institution at a time, saying absolutely nothing.

The OAS has a responsibility to condemn and sanction Presidential abuses, not just abuses against Presidents. Because of the OAS failure to uphold the checks and balances within democracies, it has become an enabler of authoritarian leaders throughout the region. The result of this has been a signal of acceptance to antidemocratic actions and abandonment of those fighting for democracy in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and elsewhere.

This silence was compounded by the recent repudiation of the application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to the Cuban dictatorship. Ironically, it was in Honduras, with Mr. Zelaya taking a leading role, where the OAS General Assembly decided against any clear democratic standards for Cuba retaking its seat in that organization.

So here is what occurred: The OAS, filled with a desire to reincorporate Cuba into the family of nations, completely ignored that for 50 years Cuba has been a military dictatorship without even the vestiges of a free and fair election, and they invited Cuba to be readmitted without setting up a standard by which they would have to live.

President Zelaya, with his partner Hugo Chavez, was leading the charge in saying Cuba should be welcomed back and there should be no conditions, no conditions of democratic rule like the ones he is now relying upon to try to get his Presidency back.

It is Mr. Zelaya now seeking the very protection of the Democratic Charter of the OAS which he thinks applies to him but which he felt was unimportant to apply the rights and opportunities to the Cuban people to try to claim the democratic future for themselves.

The crisis in Honduras stems from the failure of its leaders to live within constitutional boundaries and from the earlier silence of the United States and the international community regarding the abuse of power by the Honduran executive. Tragically, the United States and the OAS have put Honduras and the region in a position where democracy is the loser once again.

The return of Mr. Zelaya will signal the approval of his unconstitutional acts. If he is not allowed to return, then the unacceptable behavior of forcibly exiling a leader elected by the people would be given tacit approval. This is what happens when principles are sacrificed for a policy that can only be described as the appeasement of authoritarians.

In the current crisis, neither the United States nor other countries in the region or the international community should be taking sides in a constitutional dispute but, rather, encouraging a resolution through dialog among Hondurans. To this end, efforts should be focused on helping Hondurans form a reconciliation government that would include representatives not associated with either the Zelaya administration or the current interim government.

The objective should be to keep Hondurans on track to hold currently scheduled Presidential elections in November, with the inauguration of a new President in January as mandated in the Honduran Constitution. The newly elected President, with an electoral mandate, then can decide whether and how to deal with Mr. Zelaya and those involved in his ouster.

As the Senate takes up President Obama's nominees for key State Department positions in Latin America, it is time to question the acceptance by the United States and the inter-American community of the sustained dismantling of democratic institutions in free societies by Presidents seeking to consolidate personal power at any cost. This is the larger challenge in Latin America, and Honduras is only the latest symptom. The United States must no longer remain silent when democratic institutions are undermined. Any disruption of the constitutional order is unacceptable, regardless of who commits it.

It would be well for us to remember that as we look forward to what may come next, the Presidential succession ought to be honored, however, institutions of democracy ought to also be equally honored.

Secretary of State Clinton met today at 1 o'clock with deposed President Zelaya. It appears she is seeking to align the United States with the mediation that is about to be undertaken by President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Prize-winning, well-regarded man from Costa Rica, and that President Arias might take this opportunity to see how we can bring this process back together again.

It seems to me that the elections in Honduras ought to take place as scheduled and a new democratically elected government ought to go forward. The real question is, Will Mr. Zelaya be allowed to return to the office of President? It seems to be fairly unanimous that all Honduran institutions oppose such an outcome. They do not want Mr. Zelaya back. They have seen the dark movie of what life can be like in a Cuba-type situation. They have seen the dark movie of what life can be like in a Cuba-type situation. They have seen the erosion of democracy with the complete erosion of freedoms, so much made a dear part of what we in this country believe in that has taken place in Venezuela. They have seen the continued erosion of democratic values in Nicaragua and they do not want to see it happen in their country, and one cannot blame them. It would only be fitting that they should find comfort by those of us in this country who not only value democracy for us but believe it should be shared by others around the world no matter their circumstances.

It isn't good enough to be elected democratically but then rule as a dictator and in the process of being an elected President, then move to erode all of the institutions of democracy--the courts, the congresses, even the military as an institution; they ought to be respected. Their independence ought to be valued. The playbook of Mr. Chavez, which is to dismantle the military leadership and bring in cronies of his, the efforts to then discredit the courts and bring in judges that he would also approve--this has been the playbook by which Chavez has operated and one that Mr. Zelaya was attempting to put into play.

So let's hope President Arias from Costa Rica will be able to lead a mediation effort that will bring together all of the disparate groups so that there can be a free and fair election and there can be a resolution to this crisis of democracy. But let this also be a wake-up call to the rest of us who have sat silently by as this erosion of democracy takes place one country at a time in Latin America. We ought to say: Enough is enough. Let's stand for the rule of law, let's stand for democracy, not only on election day but each and every day thereafter as we seek leaders who not only are elected democratically but govern democratically.

I yield the floor.


Mr. MARTINEZ. I thank the Senator from Arizona for his kind comments. But it also brings up one more point. Honduras has been by our side. There is no more important country, in terms of military relations in Central America, than Honduras, where we have a presence of our military, where we work together in partnership to try to stem the flow of drugs and narcotics into our country, and where we conduct not only training missions but other important training missions with the Honduran military, where we are very involved in providing aid and assistance.

I think it would be well for us to hold back any declaration that a coup has taken place that would then trigger other events. This is not your traditional military coup where a military group decides to set up a junta. These are military people who, while maybe they acted a little too strongly, the fact is, they did not seek power for themselves but they established a congressional order. So it is important.


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