See 4:45PM update below
I have not seen the ballots printed in Venezuela that were to be used in last Sunday’s referendum that Mel Zelaya had contrived, however, Honduran daily La Prensa reports the referendum question,
¿Está de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de 2009 se instale una cuarta urna en la cual el pueblo decida la convocatoria a una asamblea nacional constituyente? = Sí…….ó………..No.
(my translation: If you quote it, please credit me and link to this post)
Do you agree that a fourth ballot box be installed through which the people will decide to convene a constitutional assembly? Yes…….or………..No.
This is in direct violation of the country’s Constitution, which forbids the President from calling for changes to the Constitution. Articles 373 and 374 of the Honduran Constitution specifically state that ammendments to the Constitution be approved by 2/3 of the votes in Congress AND specifically forbid any President of the country from extending term limits. The Constitution also says these two articles can not be ammended.
The same article at La Prensa states that Zelaya prepared a decree ordering all institutions of the State to bring about the project, which Zelaya deemed “an official activity of the Government of the Republic”. This means that the notion that Zelaya’s referendum was non-binding is false. Zelaya clearly meant to make his Sunday referendum official and binding. La Prensa says the decree, dated June 26, was published Saturday June 27.
Many reports in the media make it sound like Zelaya came up with this project with short notice, and was removed with even shorter notice. La Prensa has a lengthy article (in Spanish) itemizing the timeline of Zelaya’s process of trying to bring about the Sunday referendum. Mel Zelaya first brought up “the fourth ballot box” idea on February 17th this year during a parade showcasing several tractors gifted by Hugo Chávez, two days after Chávez’s own referendum extending indefinitely his term in Venezuela.
The article is very interesting and has a great deal of information. For instance, in June, while the Tribunal Superior de Cuentas, TSC (Superior Tribunal for Accounts) was being asked to investigate where Zelaya was getting money for the “fourth urn”, Zelaya was denounced at the Public Ministry for not submitting a General Budget to Congress. The Congress vice-president accused Zelaya of diverting 5.5 billion lempiras to finance the fourth urn campaign. Bureaucrats who participated in a demonstration favoring the referendum admitted that they had received 300-500 lempiras for attending. By April the country’s institutions had warned Zelaya that what he was attempting to do was not only unlawful but also would be considered a coup d’etat.
Latest news as of 1:30PM Eastern
Roberto Micheletti was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal:
He promised the country would hold presidential elections as scheduled in November, and that he would step down in January, when Mr. Zelaya’s term was due to end.
Mr. Micheletti called for “understanding” from other nations, especially the U.S. “If [the U.S.] does not recognize us, it would be condemning to failure the aspirations of Hondurans,” he said. Comparing Mr. Zelaya to former U.S. President Richard Nixon, he added, “At least Mr. Nixon had the courage to resign after breaking the law.”
The Journal has a brief video of demonstrations,
Honduran authorities detained and later released seven AP and TeleSur reporters. Here’s video (in Spanish) from Chavista TeleSur,
CNN en Español showed another demonstration, supporting new president Roberto Micheletti.
Zelaya is now in New York City, where he will address the UN. He says he’s going back to Honduras on Thursday with OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Argentinian president Cristina Fernández.
I have no idea why Fernández wants to inject herself into this. Her party was resoundedly defeated in last Sunday’s congressional elections.
Micheletti and the Honduran Congress have stated that Zelaya will be arrested upon arrival.
Investor’s Business Daily:
There was a coup all right, but it wasn’t committed by the U.S. or the Honduran court. It was committed by Zelaya himself. He brazenly defied the law, and Hondurans overwhelmingly supported his removal (a pro-Zelaya rally Monday drew a mere 200 acolytes).
Yet the U.S. administration stood with Chavez and Castro, calling Zelaya’s lawful removal “a coup.” Obama called the action a “terrible precedent,” and said Zelaya remains president.
In doing this, the U.S. condemned democrats who stood up to save their democracy, a move that should have been hailed as a historic turning of the tide against the false democracies of the region.
The U.S. response has been disgraceful. “We recognize Zelaya as the duly elected and constitutional president of Honduras. We see no other,” a State Department official told reporters.
Worse, the U.S. now contemplates sanctions on the tiny drug-plagued, dirt-poor country of 7 million, threatening to halt its $200 million in U.S. aid, immigration accords and a free-trade treaty if it doesn’t put the criminal Zelaya back into office.
Not even Nicaragua, a country the State Department said committed a truly fraudulent election, got that. Nor has murderous Iran gotten such punishment, even as it slaughters Iranian democrats in the streets. But tiny Honduras must be made to pay.
We understand why the White House is so quick to call this a “coup” and to jump to the side of Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan despot has made political hay against the U.S. over its premature recognition of the Venezuelan coup leaders who tried to overthrow Chavez in 2002. Obama wants to avoid that this time.
The White House also wants to mollify the morally corrupted Organization of American States, which, by admitting Cuba, is no longer an organization of democracies and now, through its radical membership, tries to dictate how other countries run themselves.
Such a response says that democracy effectively ends with elections. It says rule of law is irrelevant and that rulers have rights, not responsibilities. But if leaders can’t be held accountable, they should be removed, as happened in Honduras.
If the U.S. does hit Honduras with sanctions, it will earn ill will in the country lasting for years. It will further erode U.S. moral authority and cost us influence in the region — becoming an embarrassing footnote in the history of U.S.-Latin American relations.
Somehow, though, when the Honduran Congress, with the support of the Supreme Court, moves against the president, the continent’s foreign affairs ministries fly into deep crisis mode.
This underscores a harsh reality for Latin American believers in liberal constitutionalism. Deep down, only Presidential Power is considered real power in Latin America, which is why only moves against the president are considered actual coups. Our constitutions generally define all branches of government as equal, but it seems some are more equal than others.
It’s precisely because such attitudes are so widespread in the region that Honduras’s political class panicked when faced with a president determined to make his power permanent. And while it’s true that, in their reaction, the generals stepped beyond constitutional boundries, the hard line the Obama administration has taken against the Honduran coupsters needs to be balanced with a realistic assessment of where the deeper threat to Latin democracy comes from these days.
Under Fidel Castro’s iconic shadow and Hugo Chávez’s day-to-day leadership, a new generation of authoritarian leftists has mounted a concerted campaign against the kinds of constitutional checks and balances that make liberal democracy viable. Honduras’s political class grasped clearly that to allow Zelaya’s charisma to trump the nation’s explicit constitutional ban on presidential continuismo would be to open the door to the kind of institutional involution that Venezuela and Bolivia have experienced, with a hyperempowered executive gradually eating away at the other branch’s prerogatives until nothing of the Republic is left.
Don’t miss also Michael Goldfarb conversation with Ambassador Otto Reich.
Chicago Boyz speculates on outcome:
The best that can be said about our president’s involvement in this issue is that it risks transforming a difficult situation into a disaster. Absent US pressure (never mind US support) the Honduran political scene would likely return to something like normal, with popular and media focus shifting from the deposed Zelaya to the coming elections. By getting involved in support of Zelaya we probably make a drawn-out crisis inevitable, and we green light further subversion of Honduran democracy by Chavez and Ortega. In the worst case a military insurgency or civil war supported by the dictators is conceivable. That would be a catastrophe.
Go read the rest.
Miguel Octavio wants to know Why is Zelaya’s Constitutional coup attempt ignored by the world?