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September 22 2009

America Snubs Honduras’ Democracy

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

Ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya is back in his home country after being deposed and exiled to Costa Rica - hiding in the Brazilian embassy.Don't feel too bad for the emperor with no throne, however; he was not thrown from power in a military coup, nor was he run out of the country for defending the rights of Honduran citizens. Rather, he was removed from office for violating the Honduran Constitution in a series of increasingly bold power grabs reminiscent of close political ally Hugo Chavez. The Los Angeles Times ran an excellent article a few weeks ago by Miguel Estrada highlighting some of his actions.

[T]he Honduran Constitution may be amended in any way except three. No amendment can ever change (1) the country's borders, (2) the rules that limit a president to a single four-year term and (3) the requirement that presidential administrations must "succeed one another" in a "republican form of government." ...

Earlier this year, with only a few months left in his term, [Zelaya] ordered a referendum on whether a new constitutional convention should convene to write a wholly new constitution. Because the only conceivable motive for such a convention would be to amend the un-amendable parts of the existing constitution, it was easy to conclude -- as virtually everyone in Honduras did -- that this was nothing but a backdoor effort to change the rules governing presidential succession.

It is also worth noting that only referendums approved by a two-thirds vote of the Honduran Congress may be put to the voters. Far from approving Zelaya's proposal, Congress voted that it was illegal.

The attorney general filed suit and secured a court order halting the referendum. Zelaya then announced that the voting would go forward just the same, but it would be called an "opinion survey." The courts again ruled this illegal. Undeterred, Zelaya directed the head of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vasquez, to proceed with the "survey" -- and "fired" him when he declined. The Supreme Court ruled the firing illegal and ordered Vasquez reinstated.

Zelaya had the ballots printed in Venezuela, but these were impounded by customs when they were brought back to Honduras. On June 25 -- three days before he was ousted -- Zelaya personally gathered a group of "supporters" and led it to seize the ballots, restating his intent to conduct the "survey" on June 28. That was the breaking point for the attorney general, who immediately sought a warrant from the Supreme Court for Zelaya's arrest on charges of treason, abuse of authority and other crimes. In response, the court ordered Zelaya's arrest by the country's army, which under Article 272 must enforce compliance with the Constitution, particularly with respect to presidential succession. The military executed the court's order on the morning of the proposed survey.

Please note that a democratic nation, following the laws set forth under its Constitution, took non-violent steps to remove a despot from power. They peacefully followed rules governing succession, installing Roberto Micheletti, the head of the Honduran congress, to take over until regularly scheduled elections can be held in November.

Unfortunately, the international community - including the United States - has sided with Zelaya. As RedState.com points out, "the Obama administration has led the way in applying pressure to Honduras, invoking economic sanctions and going so far as to revoke the visas of most high Honduran officials in order to block their attendance at this month's United Nations General Assembly. You don't want to know who all *did* make the cut and will attend. OK, yes you do: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Raul Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Muammar Gaddafi."

Acting President Micheletti had a heartbreaking article in today's Washington Post demonstrating that Honduras remains a vibrant, democratic state - complete with freedom of the press, separation of powers, and independent authorities.

The United States' overseas commitments are stretched thin as is, and the situation in Honduras does not necessitate further meddling on behalf of a power-hungry authoritarian. Even if the administration does not like Micheletti, they must respect the process that brought him to power and allow democracy to run its course.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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