LatinaLista — When the news first filtered out that Honduras President Manuel Zelaya had been roused from his bed early Sunday morning and escorted out of the presidential palace, still in his pajamas, by military soldiers pointing their weapons at him, it disappointingly sounded like old-style Latin American politics.
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addresses the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, June 30, 2009. Zelaya was ousted Sunday in a military coup. Behind him is Miguel d’Escoto Brockman, President of the General Assembly and Nicaragua’s ambassador the U.N.
(Source: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In the day, when a Latin American leader ran afoul of a certain group, patience always ran thin and instead of waiting for the next election to oust him from office, or the more civil process of an impeachment, the military was called in with guns drawn to act as the new “presidential guard” as they “escorted” the fallen-from-grace politician into exile.
Such a forceful removal from office is always touted as the opposite of what democracy stands for and in the past, it was never the will of the people as it was the will of a few elites who had aligned themselves with the military to take control of the country.
So, when it was reported that the Honduran military was following the blueprint of past coup takeovers, it sent not only a shiver through South, Central and North America but an instantaneous outcry from every political leader around the world demanding that Zelaya immediately be reinstated.
Yet, in researching the full story, it’s apparent that Zelaya didn’t have preserving the country’s democratic principles on his mind. In fact, if he had been allowed to continue with his intention of holding a referendum that would have changed the constitutional term limits for president, he might have laid the groundwork to not follow in Obama’s example but Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.
And that was exactly the fear of the Honduran people.
That fear was compounded when Zelaya, wanting to hold the referendum to extend his presidential term, just like his friend Hugo Chavez, and denied to do so by the Honduran Congress — in fact, the Congress outlawed it — had his friend Chavez fly in referendum ballots from Venezuela in defiance of the congressional ruling.
That led to a tit-for-tat pitting President Manuel Zelaya against not only the Congress, but also the Supreme Court, the military, and members of his own party.
After Congress declared the Sunday referendum illegal last week, Zelaya found himself in a standoff with the country’s main institutions. Honduras’ Supreme Court and electoral tribunal also declared the referendum illegal and, when the armed forces refused to distribute the ballots, Zelaya ousted armed forces chief General Romeo VÃ¡squez.
Top army officials and the defense minister resigned in protest. The court ordered VÃ¡squez reinstated, Zelaya refused, and the attorney general said Congress should force the president to step down, questioning his mental stability. The Catholic Church in Honduras joined in voicing opposition to the referendum.
On Thursday, Zelaya led supporters to collect referendum ballots from the air force headquarters. Meanwhile, hundreds of members of the armed forces were deployed to maintain order. On Friday Zelaya delivered a two-hour speech during which he said: “Congress cannot investigate me, much less remove me or stage a technical coup against me because I am honest, I’m a free president and nobody scares me.”
It’s clear Zelaya is not scared because he not only has his friends Chavez, Morales and Castro supporting him but newfound friends named Obama and Clinton.
Since being ousted, the world has gathered behind Zelaya in an almost unprecedented show of solidarity to show their support of him. Today, the United Nations passed a resolution condemning the ouster of Zelaya — but why?
Though Zelaya has a few supporters, news and anecdotal reports that Latina Lista has received show that the majority of Hondurans are saying “good riddance” to the guy.
Also, contrary to how military coups played out in the past, the president appointed to replace Zelaya was not someone from the military but rather, the next in legal line to the presidency — the President of the Congress since those who came before him to assume the presidency had quit or were removed by Zelaya.
The Honduran people didn’t like how Zelaya shot the finger at the country’s Constitution and democratic government to attempt to mold the political system to fit his goals.
And so now the people of Honduras are left to face a global condemnation for the very act that we justify declaring war for — preserving and defending democratic ideals.
There’s something wrong with the picture when Hugo Chavez stands side-by-side with President Obama in declaring that an injustice has occurred. Obviously, both men are defining that injustice differently.
The people of Honduras did the right thing and it’s a safe bet that many in Venezuela wish they could turn back the clock when Chavez first started accumulating his power.
A regular Latina Lista contributor from Venezuela recently wrote a post entitled We are in God’s Hands that illustrates just how smart the Honduran people were in thwarting Zelaya’s attempts at gaining greater power.
The real injustice in this affair is that the United States and other political powers are not seeing this ouster for what it is.
It is clearly the will of the people in defense of their democracy and they deserve to be heard — and defended!
Could someone provide me with his recent approval or disapproval rates? There are two sides to every story. I have been doing research and it seems that he has really helped the poor (over 50 percent are in poverty) so I don’t see anybody being against Zelaya unless they are the elite.
as you know I most highly admire and appreciate your work. In this case however, I have to disagree very strongly with you.
First and foremost: there is never a justification for the military of any country interfering in internal politics. The military of a democracy is under the command of the country’s executive branch. If this were not so, the military could impose the will of a minority on the people by force of arms – which is exactly what happened in many Latin American countries over the past 50 years. Among many others was the US-instigated military dictatorship in Honduras.
The executive of a democracy receives its power from the people in elections. The ground rules for this process are laid out in the constitution and in laws, and as we know, there are often disputes about these rules. We experienced one of those disputes with far-reaching consequences in Florida in November of 2000.
I cannot claim to know the details of the dispute about the referendum regarding a repeal of presidential term limits in Honduras. Apparently, President Zelayas was calling for a non-binding referendum, so perhaps it was not as great an offense as critics of Mr. Zelaya claim. However, even if the referendum was an egregious violation of the law, that can be no justification whatsoever for the military deciding who should be president. Legal and political disputes cannot be settled by the military.
Whether we like or dislike President Chavez of Venezuela, the fact is that he received a large majority of that country’s votes. I may not be a fan of his personal style, but there can categorically be no justification ever for an intervention of the military in a country’s government. If someone calls for that, they want to impose the will of a minority on the majority, and they are saying they are willing to see blood flow so their will can be imposed.
Lastly, a very concerning piece of information is that top military leaders involved were trained in the infamous “School of the Americas,” where many Latin American military and police officers were instructed in torture. Specifically, they are the head of the Honduran Joint Chiefs of Staff, Romeo Orlando Vasquez Velasquez, and the head of the Air Force, Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo.
No matter how you spin it, the military taking a leader from his bed and flying him out of the country in his pajamas is not the workings of democracy. Neither is a forged resignation letter.
The constitution stipulates a method for removing a sitting president. It’s good that the congress, supreme court and military are not going to let Zelaya get away with his shenanigans. However, they too should follow the proper legal procedures.
Thank you for your comments and I understand your logic and reasoning. When I was growing up in Florida, many of my friends were “refugees” of Guatemala, Cuba and Nicaragua when unrest was happening in their countries, and some of their family members had either disappeared or were held in prison. Believe me, I do know about the brutalities of the military during coup takeovers. Yet, this case, in my opinion is different. If this was a coup, the military would have held power and they haven’t. It was handed immediately back to the legal successor. I haven’t read that the military is retaining any kind of government control.
Because he was forced out by the military, we have all assumed the worst but in a society fairly new to democracy when faced with a president disregarding the rulings of his own Congress and Supreme Court, it’s not that farfetched to think they wouldn’t revert to the only effective way they’ve historically known to oust a president. Also, unlike past coups, the majority of people, by all media accounts, appear to agree with his ouster.
Wow what took you so long to open your eyes about the Obama admistration?
Our military the US military pledge to support the constitution againt foreign and domestic enemies. Seems the Honduras military has the same pledge. We deserve to have our base kick out of there right now. I just jope this inspires our military to over thorw our tyrants. For the violations of our constitution, 1,2,10,and coming soon the 22nd.
I also disagree with you, Marisa. Regardless of what you think of Zelaya, military coups are indicative that the military will always direct the outcome of politics in Hondura and their interests may not always coincide with the people’s. Given that Zelaya had no military or police faction to carry out his designs against their constitution or against the will of the people, the next course would have been impeachment or barring that, a new election when his term was up. Honduras is a case where civilian rule has a tenuous hold. For the people of Honduras, this is at best a Pyrrhic victory.
Hector Chavana Jr
Love your blog, but I have to say I think that you are off on this post.
Hector Chavana Jr.
I have posted the statement from Union del Barrio on my blog regarding the Right-wing coup.
In a interview with Jorge Ramos on UnivisiÃ³n, “interim president” Roberto Michelitti failed to respond to the question posed to him by what authority President Zalaya was removed from his house in his pajamas and was put on an airplane to Costa Rica. Sounds to me very much like a coup.
bla bla bla my goodness, Zelaya is a krook, he broke many laws, read article 239 of the Honduran constitution, it states that the violation of this article results in aoutomatic expultion from any office for a 10 year period. article 272 states that the army has an obligation to defend the constitution. article 313 gives them the go ahead to arrest any criminal with a majority vote from the congress and supreme court, Zelaya tried to get the head military cheif to go along with his criminal plan and when he refused Zelaya fired him, which was also against the law- articles 279,373,374. he was simply arrested for being a thug krook, it was not a coup! would it have been diferent if it was done by the police? how lame.
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