In researching the events taking place in Honduras, I see President Obama immediately cited the outster of President Manuel Zeyala as “not legal.” Another “gird your loins” moment for the American President. The question is: was this a coup d’etat or a constitutional succession? See updates below.
Why did the Supreme Court rule that ousted President Manuel Zelaya was subverting the rule of law in Honduras? Why did Congress rule the same?
Zelaya’s term of office ends in 2010. He called for a “controversial referendum” to take place on June 28th. The referendum, if approved, would have made changes to the Honduran Constitution to allow Zelaya to run for office for another term, an action the Supreme Court says is not lawful.
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. Chávez 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.
After the Supreme Court declared the referendum not lawful, Zelaya vowed to hold a vote on the referendum anyway. Zelaya dismissed “the military chief,” Romeo Vasquez, who opposed Zelaya’s position on the referendum. The Supreme Court asked that Vazquez be reinstated. Zelaya refused.
So on Thursday he [Zelaya] 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.
The Supreme Court voted to remove Zelaya “to defend the rule of law.”
The Honduran Congress later swore in its leader, Roberto Micheletti, as the new head of state after voting to remove Mr. Zelaya for “manifest irreuglar conduct” and “putting in present danger the state of the law.”
Micheletti said that the orders carried out as issued by the Supreme Court and the Congress “was not a coup d’etat, but a constitutional succession.”
The new government’s foreign minister, Enrique Otez Colindres said the new government looks forward to meeting with OAS officials:
…so they can realize that this is a government that respects all laws and the only thing it did was to remove a president for systematically violating the constitution.
Manuel Zelaya was elected as a conservative. He has progressively moved away from that position and cemented relationships with Cuba’s Castros, Venezuela’s Chavez and Bolivia’s Morales. As Wall Street Journal writer, O’Grady said, it is not “about left-right politics.”
It is about defending the independence of institutions that keep presidents from becoming dictators.
So how do the Honduran people feel about the ouster? The Latin Business Chronicle says that Honduran business support the Supreme Court and Micheletti’s new government:
It is extremely popular,” says Jacqueline Foglia Sandoval, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Honduras. “I don’t know of any one who isn’t celebrating.”
[The attempted referendum] followed three years of Zelaya policies that were seen as arbitrary and often hurting business, Foglia Sandoval says.
Over the last three years, our ex president had created political and social chaos,” she says. “He [was] very unpredictable and many times [imposed] arbitrary actions that …affected the business climate.
The Latin Business Chronical reports that wage hikes smacked of socialism and resulted in the loss of 150,000 jobs.
[Zeyala] in December to raise the minimum wage by 60 percent despite that unions had demanded 20 to 30 percent and employers had countered with zero to 10 percent.
Not only did he exceed the union demands, but also imposed the new laws as companies already had their 2009 budgets ready, Foglia Sandoval points out. As a results some 150,000 jobs were lost during the past six months, she says.
Another concern was his talk about implementing socialism of the 21st century, modeled on
. “People associate socialism with ration cards, with lines, with the things we do not want,” Foglia Sandoval says. “It’s a poor country, but we don’t have rationing, or lack of mobility, or have to ask permission for moving.” Further issues raised by the business community is the lack of security, which Sandoval said Zelaya completely ignored. Drug trafficking is growing and people fear for their personal safety. Foreign investment has diminished, and Zelaya’s treatment of foreign oil companies was considered “hostile.” Venezuela
In January 2007, Zelaya announced plans to temporarily assume control of oil terminals and restrict imports of oil to one company in an effort to reduce fuel prices. However, after the US Embassy in
warned that the takeover would have serious consequences, the government reversed its position on the terminals. Honduras
Fogliz Sandoval said relations with the U.S. were “worsening.”
The people of Honduras are standing to protect their Constitution. This is a hallelujah moment for Democracy.
President Obama has said that the ouster of Manuel Zelaya was “not legal.” Obama has said the U.S. will “stand on the side of democracy.” He has said nothing about the legality of Zelaya subverting the Honduran Constitution. That is the issue. If a democratic election is held, and then the one democratically elected attempts to take over the government illegally – then why are we not talking about that?
Rudi Stettner at Rant Rave looked at the differences in Obama’s handling of the Iranian election and the Honduran succession and summed it up this way:
One thing that was established in the Honduran coup. When there is a “progressive” consensus, Obama will quickly find his voice. Since Islamic radicals are the fascists that liberals love, a blind eye will be turned to their sins.
Update 6-30-09 4:10 p.m. CDT:
Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich in The Hill “blasted” Obama for opposing the “coup,” or as I prefer, the Constitutional succession in Honduras.
Having castro call for defending democracy should convince any reasonable person that honduras was on the edge of a leftist dictatorship
Read an article written by Juan Diego Zelaya – another Zelaya, who is general counsel to the mayor of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. He is an advisor to the National Party, the opposition party to former President Manuel Zelaya. Juan Diego Zelaya: Very Constitutional Coup. Thanks to Bloviating Zeppelin for finding the “other” Zelaya article.