Honduras Redux *UPDATE*
My previous post highlighting the official US position, as articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on the situation in Honduras generated a bit of a controversy in the comment section. This of course is certainly not a bad thing, particularly given quite a few of the people who commented are currently in Honduras and have a birds-eye view of what is taking place there, and of course I respect their perspective.
Today, over at the website, Foreign Policy, I saw an opinion-piece that struck me as being quite to-the-point and which acknowledged both the a) concern about the methods the Honduran government used in removing President Zelaya; and b) the sketchy, disingenuous actions of President Zelaya as he tried to pull a Hugo Chavez in an effort to make an end-run around the constitution so as to not be barred from another term in office due to the country’s term limits.
The article can be found here. An excerpt:
“Zelaya’s fatal mistake was in organizing a de facto referendum to test the idea of allowing him a second term. Honduras’s Constitution explicitly forbids holding referendums — let alone an unsanctioned “popular consultation” — to amend it and, more specifically, to modify the presidential term. Unsurprisingly, the president’s idea met with resistance from Congress, nearly all political parties (including his own), the press, the business community, electoral authorities, and, crucially, the Supreme Court, which deemed the whole endeavor illegal.
Last week, when Zelaya ordered the armed forces to distribute the electoral material to carry out what he called an “opinion poll,” the military commander refused to comply and was summarily dismissed (he was later reinstated by the Supreme Court). The president then cited the troubling history of military intervention in Honduran politics, a past that the country — under more prudent governments — had made great strides in leaving behind in the past two decades. He neglected to mention that the order he had issued was illegal.
Now the Honduran military has responded in kind: An illegal referendum has met an illegal military intervention, with the avowed intention of protecting the Constitution. Zelaya’s civilian opponents, meanwhile, are celebrating. For the past week, the Honduran Congress has waxed lyrical about the armed forces as the guarantors of the Constitution, a disturbing notion for Latin Americans. At the very least, we are witnessing in Honduras the return of the unfortunate role of the military as the ultimate referee in political conflicts among civilian leaders, a huge step back in the region’s consolidation of democracy.
That’s why Zelaya, though he bears by far the greater responsibility for this crisis, must be reinstated in his position as the legitimate president of Honduras. The Organization of American States, the neighboring countries, and the U.S. government (which is still enormously influential in Honduras) should demand no less. They should also call upon all political actors in Honduras to take a deep breath and do what mature democracies do: allow the law to deal with those who try to step outside it. If Zelaya must be prosecuted for his harebrained attempt to subvert the Honduran Constitution, then let the courts proceed as rigorously as possible. And the same applies to the coup perpetrators. If Honduras is to have a decent future, its politicians and soldiers, in equal measure, must learn that the road to democracy and development runs through the rule of law.”
UPDATE: Conservative media and pundits in the US try to cast the situation in Honduras as a political left vs. right issue by throwing in Hugo Chavez as a straw man.
UPDATE II: State Dept. spokesman, Ian Kelly, indicated that President Zelaya would be meeting with an unnamed State Dept. official sometime today but gave no specifics. He stated Secretary of State Clinton would not be meeting with Zelaya as she was not in the office. It’s all a bit cloak-and-dagger at this point.