Our Puzzling Honduras Policy
Wednesday - September 23, 2009
In 1982, when the people of Honduras drafted their current constitution - the 16th since their independence from Spain - they were especially mindful of the political history of Central America. Either governments didn’t last very long (coup d’etas were common) or governments lasted too long due to strongman takeovers followed by years of dictatorship.
So Hondurans drafted their constitution to ensure that neither would be likely - no duly elected president may serve a second four-year term, ever. Nor could a sitting president attempt to change the constitution to allow it. Think about it: If voters err and pick a bad apple, they know a new election will be forthcoming, so it’s easier to have patience with their democratic process rather than mount a coup.
Enter Manuel Zelaya, who really liked being president - a lot! Elected in 2006, his natural leftist leanings were encouraged by the example of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela on the southern border of Honduras. Chavez’s dictatorial aspirations have been evident from the outset of his presidency. Currently scheduled to meet his term limits in 2012, he is seeking to change the law that limits his terms: “It should not really be seen as a threat, many Asian and European countries have limitless terms.”
The Honduran people have paid attention to Chavez’s maneuvering south of their border, and most of them want nothing to do with “limitless terms.” When Zelaya began moving to change the constitution with a future referendum, he violated it. Many in the opposition party - who had actually supported Zelaya in his campaign for the presidency- began to take his Chavez tendencies seriously. They followed their constitutional process, through their Supreme Court, which ruled he was in violation of the constitution and ordered the Honduran army to remove him from office and deport him, as it turned out in his pajamas.
Again in accordance with the constitution, the president of the unicameral legislature, Roberto Micheletti, was appointed interim president until the next scheduled election in 2010. According to him, he has no intention of running for the presidency at that time.
In the meantime since his ouster in June, not surprisingly Zelaya has been hanging out with his hero Chavez and has tried to cross the border from Venezuela back into Honduras, but has been repeatedly rejected.
The United States President, Secretary of State and State Department, instead of congratulating the Honduran people on the success of their own constitutional process, have instead condemned the ousting of Zelaya as an Army coup, refused to recognize the duly appointed interim government, canceled $30 million in economic aid, canceled the visas of Micheletti and other principals in the interim government, and will continue to recognize Zelaya - the Hugo Chavez wannabe - as the Honduran president at an upcoming U.N. session.
Either the State Department acted in knee-jerk fashion at the unscheduled change in leadership in a Central American country as an “illegal coup” just because that’s how it always used to be, and cannot now change it’s position without the embarrassment of a really dumb mistake, or President Obama and Secretary Clinton must think it would be a good idea to have a second Chavez-like dictator next door to Venezuela and for the Honduran people to be a step closer to the repression of that dictator.
In a TV interview, Micheletti pointed out the specific section and wording of their constitution, which their Congress, Supreme Court, and Army followed impeccably.
He came across as a very sincere and decent man, the kind of Central American leader we should want on our side, especially as a neighbor of Chavez’s Venezuela. He concluded the interview with “Thank you, God bless America, God bless Honduras, and God bless you (the interviewer).”
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