Honduras defends its democracy
Thank you to all the visitors, commenters, and bloggers linking to my coverage of yesterday’s events in Honduras.
More background information on the events prior to Zelaya’s removal from office:
Here is more information on Mel Zelaya’s move:
- Zelaya couldn’t get the ballots printed in Honduras since the referendum had been pronounced illegal by the country’s Supreme Court AND the electoral board. Therefore, the government couldn’t print them. No private printer was willing to break the law, either. So Zelaya had the ballots printed in Venezuela and flown in.
- The Supreme Court instructed the military (who would be the ones doing the job) NOT to distribute the ballots to the polling stations.
- Zelaya then
led thousands of supporters to recover the material from an air force warehouse before it could be confiscated.
His supporters broke into the military installation where the ballots were kept.
- Zelaya’s supporters started distributing the ballots at 15,000 voting stations across the country. This act placed him in outright defiance of the law, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court.
- When the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, and the defense minister, the head of the army and the air force resigned in protest. The country’s Supreme Court voted unanimously that Vásquez be reinstated.
- Tuesday last week the Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, passed a law preventing the holding of referendums or plebiscites 180 days before or after general elections.
- The Honduran Congress, led by members of his own party, named a commission to investigate Zelaya. The Commission found (my translation: If you quote it, please credit me and link to this post)
Zelaya acted against the mandates of legal and electoral laws, the Public Ministry, the National Congress, the Attorney General, and other institutions of the State, which had declared the poll illegal
- On Thursday (h/t GoV) the Attorney General requested that Congress impeach Zelaya
- The position of the Honduran Congress, the Supreme Court, and the attorney general is that the Constitution is to be strictly adhered to.
This is why Zelaya was removed from power: all branches of government and the country’s institutions recognized that he had broken the law.
Again, the military – by placing him in an airplane to Costa Rica early Sunday morning before he carried through the unlawful poll – acted in compliance with the Supreme Court and the Honduran Congress.
Enforcing the Honduran Constitution:
Mary O’Grady, in today’s Wall Street Journal, writes (emphasis added),
Honduras is fighting back by strictly following the constitution. The Honduran Congress met in emergency session yesterday and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law. It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward. The Supreme Court later said that the military acted on its orders. It also said that when Mr. Zelaya realized that he was going to be prosecuted for his illegal behavior, he agreed to an offer to resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country. Mr. Zelaya denies it.
Many Hondurans are going to be celebrating Mr. Zelaya’s foreign excursion. Street protests against his heavy-handed tactics had already begun last week. On Friday a large number of military reservists took their turn. “We won’t go backwards,” one sign said. “We want to live in peace, freedom and development.”
Besides opposition from the Congress, the Supreme Court, the electoral tribunal and the attorney general, the president had also become persona non grata with the Catholic Church and numerous evangelical church leaders. On Thursday evening his own party in Congress sponsored a resolution to investigate whether he is mentally unfit to remain in office.
Former Argentine Ambassador to the U.N. Emilio Cárdenas told me on Saturday that he was concerned that “the OAS under Insulza has not taken seriously the so-called ‘democratic charter.’ It seems to believe that only military ‘coups’ can challenge democracy. The truth is that democracy can be challenged from within, as the experiences of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and now Honduras, prove.” A less-kind interpretation of Mr. Insulza’s judgment is that he doesn’t mind the Chávez-style coup.
The struggle against chavismo has never been about left-right politics. It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators. This crisis clearly delineates the problem. In failing to come to the aid of checks and balances, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Insulza expose their true colors.
Jason Steck, writing at Real Clear World Blog, explains
what is happening in Honduras may be an example of a coup that is not only legal, but mandatory
because, in Honduras’s case, the military has been endowed with a role in maintaining democratic governance; this time their task was to delivery Zelaya safely out of office and into the airplane to Costa Rica.
International reaction is siding with Zelaya. Simon Romero points out,
governments in the region may reject military ousters much more easily than, say, the civilian demonstrations that forced democratically elected leaders to resign earlier this decade in Argentina and Bolivia
“We are abiding by the Constitution of our country and that’s why we have national support.”
As I blogged yesterday, Hugo Chavez put his troops on alert and pledged to overthrow Roberto Micheletti before Micheletti had even been sworn as president. Chavez is in full bombastic mode, blaming the US for the coup even as the United States considers President Manuel Zelaya to be the only constitutional president of Honduras.
There are reported Venezuelan and Nicaraguan nationals – possibly military – trying to enter Honduras through isolated areas in the countryside.
Honduran daily La Prensa reports that Venezuelan agitators are leading demonstrators in the capital.
I’ll continue following up on this story. Please keep coming back for updates.
The Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean will be up tomorrow.
Stratfor’s Venezuela and the Honduran Coup
is now saying
the U.S. is not demanding that deposed President Manuel Zelaya be restored to office.
She also said the military coup has not triggered an automatic cutoff of U.S. aid to Honduras.
Clinton told reporters at the State Department that a delegation from the Organization of American States will be heading to Honduras as early as Tuesday “to begin working with the parties” on the restoration of constitutional order.
Whatever that means. The fact remains that the Honduran government and the institutions remained intact – only Zelaya was ousted.
Donald Sensing writes on the role of the Honduran military:
…in Honduras, going all the way back to the 1840s, battalion commanders had not only a military-command responsibility, but a civilian law-enforcement responsibility. They were closely equivalent to American sheriffs in many regards. Because of their ordinary roots, battalion commanders, officers and their soldiers were much less “classed” than elsewhere in Latin America. There never formed a significant rift between the people and the military.
Though attenuated nowadays from days of old, the Honduran army has long had a traditional role as keeper, and sometimes guardian, of civil order and has been viewed by the people as such.
What the Honduran army did last week in shoving Zelaya, a would-be puppet of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, out of office was not a coup by even the wildest imagination. It was Zelaya who was trying to mount a coup, by using an unconstitutional referendum (with ballots printed in Venezuela!) to justify remaining in office as long as he wanted. No one in government, including his own party, supported Zelaya.
In fact, the Honduran Supreme Court actually ordered the army to remove him, a perfectly sensible development because of the historical role of Honduras’ military in civil order.
If the Obama administration had stopped to consider Honduran history and culture (or had the State Dept. paused even to consult its own experts, it would not (one supposes) have been so quick on the trigger. But instead, it practiced “ready-fire-aim,” though without the aim, even too late.
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