Foreign Executions: The Death of Diplomacy?

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Putting people to death can be a tricky business, especially when the condemned in question happen to be foreigners. For the second time in eight days, a U.S. state caused a diplomatic incident by executing a Latin American national in spite of the protests of his home country. Jose Roberto Villafuerte of Honduras was put to death in Phoenix Wednesday morning for the 1983 murder of his Arizona girlfriend.

This came despite clemency pleas from the Honduran president and the pope, plus a red-faced State Department admission that Arizona had trampled on Villafuerte's rights under international treaty -- just as Virginia did with last week's execution of Paraguayan Angel Francisco Breard. This time, however, there was no appeal from Madeleine Albright. The only action U.S. officials took was to beef up security at the American embassy in Honduras, which suffered the inevitable anti-gringo protests. In their rush to execute inmates, governors have created another not-so-innocent victim: America's standing abroad.