Political Confusion in Honduras

June 30th, 2009

The situation in Honduras is confused.  The elected president, Mel Zelaya, has been removed from office and exiled to Costa Rica.  President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton see this as a straightforward military coup and demand that Zelaya be restored to office.  Others look at the details of what happened and see a popular democratic movement.  Not surprisingly, there’s a left-right divide in American views on the subject.

Zelaya, elected in 2005, originally appeared to be right-of-center.  Then he fell under the sway of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and began to change.  Recently he attempted to emulate Chavez by changing the constitution of Honduras to permit himself to serve more than one four-year term as president.  However, the process he undertook was judged to be unconstitutional by the Honduran attorney general, Congress, and Supreme Court, which ordered the military not to facilitate the referendum Zelaya sought.  With the assistance and support of Chavez, Zelaya then attempted to carry out the referendum on his own.  Finally, the military arrested Zelaya and removed him from office.

On one side, Zelaya, with the support and possibly the encouragement of Chavez, tried to change the constitution to his benefit.  On the other side, the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court, attorney general, and military leadership — not to mention significant numbers of the people — said he was wrong and should stop.  He refused; they fired him in the only way available to them.

Obama and Clinton side with Zelaya (and Chavez) against the rest of the Honduran government and the people.  That bothers me.  This wasn’t a typical, old-time “banana republic” military coup, and our government should know the difference.  What also bothers me is the gratuitous line in the Reuters report below that the reaction of Obama and Clinton “pleased Latin American countries bitter about the long history of U.S. intervention in the region.”  I wonder how many Latin American countries other than those controlled by Chavez, Castro, and their ilk are pleased by American support of Zelaya, considering that his country acted on its own to remove him?

Following are excepts from the Reuters report on the Obama and Clinton reactions, a Washington Post editorial that supports restoration of Zelaya but recognizes the reality of the situation, and a Wall Street Journal article that presents a detailed review of the facts.    


U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday the coup that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was illegal and would set a “terrible precedent” of transition by military force unless it was reversed.

“We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there,” Obama told reporters after an Oval Office meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Zelaya, in office since 2006, was overthrown in a dawn coup on Sunday after he angered the judiciary, Congress and the army by seeking constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election beyond a four-year term. …

He said the administration had worked in recent days to try to prevent the coup from happening, and “our goal now is on restoring democratic order in Honduras.”

Analysts said quick criticism of the coup by Obama and Clinton on Sunday pleased Latin American countries bitter about the long history of U.S. intervention in the region.

The Washington Post:

Though it might look similar, this was not a 1960s-style Latin American coup in which an authoritarian military toppled popular democrats. Until Sunday, it was Mr. Zelaya who was attempting to undermine democratic institutions, including Congress and the Supreme Court. Elected in 2005 on a right-of-center platform, the Honduran president had lately fallen under the spell of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In an attempt to follow Mr. Chavez’s example, he was trying to summon an assembly to rewrite the constitution and overcome the term limits that would have forced him to leave office at the end of this year.

The Wall Street Journal:

That Mr. Zelaya acted as if he were above the law, there is no doubt. While Honduran law allows for a constitutional rewrite, the power to open that door does not lie with the president. A constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.

But Mr. Zelaya declared the vote on his own and had Mr. Chavez ship him the necessary ballots from Venezuela. The Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.

The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, told the president that he would have to comply. Mr. Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.

Calculating that some critical mass of Hondurans would take his side, the president decided he would run the referendum himself. So on Thursday he led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court’s order.

The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he further announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out. Yesterday, Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and is now in exile in Costa Rica.

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2 Responses to “Political Confusion in Honduras”

  1. Posts about Barack Obama as of June 30, 2009 » The Daily Parr |

    […] OH Repubs shorten early voting period Obama’s silent on the long catastrophe of Reaganomics Political Confusion in Honduras – opinion-forum.com 06/30/2009 The situation in Honduras is confused.  The elected president, Mel […]

  2. Harvey |

    I wonder why Obama is so insistent about “meddling” in Latin America when he vowed not to meddle in the Middle-East.

    Its bothersome to many when our president takes the side of dictators — as he is doing more and more often.

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