U.S. Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, made the following opening statement today at a hearing entitled "Holding Honduras Hostage: Revoked Visas and U.S. Policy:"
"The real coup that this Administration has failed to address is the coup attempted by former President Zelaya with the support of Hugo Chavez. Zelaya attempted to change the Honduran constitution by all means possible, including use of the military.
"On May 2009, President Zelaya, working with his friend Hugo Chavez, ordered a referendum to take place on November 29, 2009, that would have removed presidential term limits. The Honduran Constitution specifically prohibits this, and thus Zelaya violated Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution.
"The ALBA playbook, led by Hugo Chavez was followed closely, we have seen it in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador but the courageous Honduran people stood firmly behind their constitution.
"The intent of Zelaya, under Chavez' guidance was to become President for life.
"Next, on May 29, 2009, the Attorney General recommended that the Honduran courts uphold that Zelaya's referendum was illegal and unconstitutional. Then, in late June, the Supreme Court ordered the Honduran forces not to provide support for the referendum.
"Zelaya continued to utilize the resources of his friend Chavez who printed the ballots and flew them to a military base in Honduras. On June 27, in opposition to the Supreme Court order, Zelaya led a violent mob to seize and distribute the ballots for the referendum; and on June 28, the Supreme Court issued an arrest order for Zelaya and removed him as president.
"The brave Honduran military was also placed in a difficult position, forced to stand up to their President in order to support the constitution. On June 28, the Honduran Military, acting on a warrant from the Honduran Supreme Court, removed Zelaya from power. He was later put on a plane out of the country for his own protection, as well as other security reasons.
"This was followed by President Obama's statement on June 28 calling the removal of Zelaya illegal and a coup.
"Later, the Honduran Congress, pursuant to the Honduran Constitution, voted Roberto Micheletti in as president. (Micheletti was constitutionally next in line for succession and assumed the presidency on an interim basis.) The Military was never in control of Honduras! President Micheletti never interfered with the ongoing presidential campaign nor interfered with the previously planned November 29th presidential election.
"On November 29, 2009 Hondurans voted in the presidential election. Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo won with 56 percent of the vote. On December 2, in accordance with the San Jose/Tegucigalpa Accord, the Honduran Congress voted 111-14 to not reinstate ousted President Zelaya. The Supreme Court and Attorney General also recommended this outcome.
"Finally, on January 27, President Micheletti stepped down from power, in accordance with the Constitution, and handed over power peacefully to democratically-elected President-elect Pepe Lobo.
"What was the U.S. response to these actions?
"After rashly labeling the situation a coup, the State Department cut funding to Honduran military and law enforcement programs. Since then, the homicide rate in Honduras has become one of the highest in the world.
"Now, where are we today?
"Zelaya is back in the country, we capitulated to Chavez' demands when accepting Honduras back into the OAS- a flawed and ineffective institution that has failed to uphold its own democratic charter, and brave Hondurans heroes are still being punished by this Administration.
"In a hearing before this Subcommittee on February 15, 2011, Assistant Secretary Valenzuela said that the State Department was, and I quote: "looking into how the visas that were taken away will be restored." It's been four months since this statement, fifteen months since the U.S. Government recognized the new President of Honduras, and almost two years since the first visas were revoked.
"As Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, Ambassador Llorens, and the Obama Administration continue a policy of meddling in Honduran affairs, it is time we hear from the Hondurans themselves. It is important that everyone understands the degree to which U.S. policies have negatively impacted the country of Honduras and the region.
"It is time for the U.S. Administration to move on; in particular Ambassador Llorens who, through abuse of power, has manipulated and intimidated the Honduran people. This is not the role of the U.S. diplomatic community. Honduras deserves to move forward without the counterproductive interference from this State Department. It deserves to have every one of the revoked visas reinstated, to have a second MCC compact, and an Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department who believes in providing the same kind of assistance the United States provides other free countries.
"In a Hemisphere dangerously influenced by anti-democratic forces, Honduras deserves to have the kind of ally that will allow it to determine its own secure and prosperous future.
"I want to conclude by saying this: I was in Panama a couple weeks ago where I met with President Martinelli. During the meeting, completely unprovoked, the President of Panama requested our help in getting the good Honduran people their visas back.
"This is a serious issue, this is a regional issue, and this is an issue that must be solved without further delay.
"I look forward to hearing the witnesses' testimony."