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!