Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was on the PBS News Hour. Here’s the video:
Mrs Ros-Lehtinen had a near-surreal discussion with Rep. William Delahunt (Dem.), who considers “Honduras and other Central American and Latin American countries” as being “banana republics.” Here’s the transcript:
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: I totally disagree with the way that the Obama administration has been mishandling this situation.
And I find it interesting that one of the statements that the State Department put out, it says that they recognize the complicated set of actions which led to the June 28 coup.
What complicated set of actions? Manuel Zelaya violated the — the Honduran constitution, violated the law that was passed by the Honduran congress, violated the decision, unanimous, 15-0, by the Honduran supreme court, went against every aspect of the rule of law. What’s so complicated about that?
What do you do with a president who wants to maintain himself into power at all costs, no matter if the legislative branch goes against him, if the judicial branch goes against him? And, so, the Honduran government took this action.
And the United States wants to divorce that complicated set of actions as if they didn’t happen. Zelaya was violating the law, violating the constitution. And I think that it’s the wrong-headed approach for the United States to punish the Honduran people and to say that they’re not going to recognize a legitimate election that’s going to take place in late November.
This is a man who won’t take no for an answer, and, yet, we’re supposed to say, let’s restore him to power, nonetheless.
MARGARET WARNER: So, Congressman Delahunt, explain why you think the United States should be supporting Zelaya, who did act certainly extra-legally, or so the supreme court and the congress and Honduras both said?
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: Well, Margaret, I find it somewhat amusing that many of my colleagues on the Republican side must have gone to law school in — in Honduras, because it would appear that they’re constitutional scholars.
But let me be very clear. The — the request or the initiative by Zelaya was not to extend his term. The question that was going to be on the ballot was a nonbinding referendum for the people of Honduras to decide simply this question: Should there be a constituent assembly?
That was it, pure and simple. I think we have to understand the context of Honduran politics. It’s been a country that has been ruled by an economic elite. And, with all due respect to the elections that have been held down there, that economic elite exercises disproportionate influence in that democracy.
In the past — and I dare say at times now — it would be fair to describe Honduras as a banana republic.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Oh, my gosh.
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: We can’t go backward.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: What an insult. What an insult. That is…
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: We — well, you can…
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Shame on you, Bill.
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: Ileana, let me — please, don’t say that.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: A banana republic, that’s just great. What an insult to the Honduran people.
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: Well, you don’t think that — well, let me — let me ask you this, OK? You would not, in the past, describe Honduras and other Central American and Latin American countries as banana republics?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: No, absolutely not. And I think that’s an insult to the people of Honduras.
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: Then I dare say that you don’t — you’re not that familiar with Latin America.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: It’s an insult to everyone in Latin America to…
MARGARET WARNER: All right, let me interrupt.
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: … to — to label any country as a banana republic.
REP. BILL DELAHUNT: Well…
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask you both a question. And I want to begin with the congresswoman.
This is a small, impoverished Latin American country, yet it — this issue has generated quite surprising passion on Capitol Hill. Why? Why is Congress so concerned about this tiny country, Congresswoman?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that this is about the rule of law.
I don’t think that this is about economic distribution of wealth, whether it’s a large country or a small country, whether it’s a poor country or a rich country. This is a country that — that said very clearly, the president has violated the constitution. You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar or a graduate of a Honduran law school to know that the article of the constitution is quite clear.
You can call it a poll. You can call it a survey. You can call it a referendum. You can call it anything you want. But it was a violation of the Honduran constitution. And I’m not the one that says that. The supreme court, by a 15-0 unanimous decision, said this president is violating the law.
Now, what are the people of Honduras supposed to do…
Here’s a roundup of reaction to the US State Department cutting foreign aid to the country, and even more importantly, the statement that the State Department,