By Bridget Johnson - 08/13/09 01:03 PM EDT
Venezuela has taken umbrage with President Barack Obama's Monday statements about "hypocrisy" by Latin American critics who want his administration to get tougher on Honduras.
"The same critics who say that the United States has not intervened enough in Honduras are the same people who say that we're always intervening and the Yankees need to get out of Latin America," Obama said in a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "You can't have it both ways.
In a statement the next day to Agence France-Presse, Roy Chaderton, Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States, called Obama's "interpretation" of the situation "arbitrary and mischievous."
The Venezuelan representative also continued to lean on the administration to take harsher measures against the de facto government in Tegucigalpa.
"Member states are expected to participate, to the extent of their respective possibilities, in reestablishment of the democratic system," Chaderton said. "Requesting further sanctions for the reestablishment of the democratic government of Honduras cannot be labeled as hypocrisy.
"Such an interpretation could not be more arbitrary and mischievous, because the unanimous, collective desire of the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Americas is at stake," Chaderton said.
Seventeen members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus recently sent a letter to Obama asking that the administration take harsher measures against Honduras to reinstate President Manuel Zelaya, who was removed from office on June 28 and sent into exile.
The ouster followed Zelaya's push of a referendum that would have extended presidential terms, a move ruled illegal and unconstitutional by Honduras's supreme court.
The U.S. has since suspended military aid to the de facto government in Honduras and revoked the diplomatic visas of officials including the supreme court judge who signed the order to arrest Zelaya.
"We urge you to take further measures against the de facto government," states the letter, led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). "The State Department should fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place and follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law. Even more importantly, we ask that you instruct the Treasury Department to freeze the bank accounts and assets of individuals involved in the coup, and deny them entry into the United States."
Not all members are in agreement, including Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.).
"Congressman Mack does not support Congressman Grijalva’s call to punish the people of Honduras by enacting crippling economic sanctions, continuing to withhold U.S. aid, and revoking the visas of several Honduran officials," said his press secretary, Stephanie DuBois.
"Congressman Mack believes that at this critical time, the United States should stand with the Honduran people who seek freedom and democratic principles – not punish them for merely following their constitution and the rule of law."
Mack released a report this week based on the trip that he and Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) took to Honduras at the end of July.
Mack's report states that the U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, held a lunch for the visiting congressmen, but would not accompany Bilbray and Mack on their visits with Honduran officials because the Obama administration does not recognize the de facto government.
"During the meeting, the Ambassador’s staff recounted how aggressive Mr. Zelaya’s actions had been in the past and how he had broken several laws before his removal on June 28, 2009," states the report. "In response, Ranking Member Mack stressed that although Mr. Zelaya was a difficult man, the focus should not be on his personality but instead on maintaining the rule of law."
The report also states that Honduran officials questioned the Obama administration's policy.
The CODEL also met with American and Honduran business leaders.
"The message from the American business leaders focused on how the Obama Administration’s actions were damaging small business leaders in Honduras. They also handed Ranking Member Mack over 150 letters from American business leaders asking that the Obama Administration recognize President Micheletti and the government of Honduras.
"The American business leaders also indicated that the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa was not being responsive to meeting requests and concerns by American citizens," the report stated. "The Honduran business leaders were concerned that the Honduran economy was being damaged due to the Obama Administration’s actions."
Neither the State Department nor the White House took any questions on Honduras in Wednesday's press briefing.