By Octavio Sánchez – Thu Jul 2, 5:00 am ET
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Sometimes, the whole world prefers a lie to the truth. The White House, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and much of the media have condemned the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya this past weekend as a coup d'état.
That is nonsense.
In fact, what happened here is nothing short of the triumph of the rule of law.
To understand recent events, you have to know a bit about Honduras's constitutional history. In 1982, my country adopted a new Constitution that enabled our orderly return to democracy after years of military rule. After more than a dozen previous constitutions, the current Constitution, at 27 years old, has endured the longest.
It has endured because it responds and adapts to changing political conditions: Of its original 379 articles, seven have been completely or partially repealed, 18 have been interpreted, and 121 have been reformed.
It also includes seven articles that cannot be repealed or amended because they address issues that are critical for us. Those unchangeable articles include the form of government; the extent of our borders; the number of years of the presidential term; two prohibitions – one with respect to reelection of presidents, the other concerning eligibility for the presidency; and one article that penalizes the abrogation of the Constitution.
During these 27 years, Honduras has dealt with its problems within the rule of law. Every successful democratic country has lived through similar periods of trial and error until they were able to forge legal frameworks that adapt to their reality. France crafted more than a dozen constitutions between 1789 and the adoption of the current one in 1958. The US Constitution has been amended 27 times since 1789. And the British – pragmatic as they are – in 900 years have made so many changes that they have never bothered to compile their Constitution into a single body of law.
Under our Constitution, what happened in Honduras this past Sunday? Soldiers arrested and sent out of the country a Honduran citizen who, the day before, through his own actions had stripped himself of the presidency.
These are the facts: On June 26, President Zelaya issued a decree ordering all government employees to take part in the "Public Opinion Poll to convene a National Constitutional Assembly." In doing so, Zelaya triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office.
Constitutional assemblies are convened to write new constitutions. When Zelaya published that decree to initiate an "opinion poll" about the possibility of convening a national assembly, he contravened the unchangeable articles of the Constitution that deal with the prohibition of reelecting a president and of extending his term. His actions showed intent.
Our Constitution takes such intent seriously. According to Article 239: "No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years."
Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says "immediately" – as in "instant," as in "no trial required," as in "no impeachment needed."
Continuismo – the tendency of heads of state to extend their rule indefinitely – has been the lifeblood of Latin America's authoritarian tradition. The Constitution's provision of instant sanction might sound draconian, but every Latin American democrat knows how much of a threat to our fragile democracies continuismo presents. In Latin America, chiefs of state have often been above the law. The instant sanction of the supreme law has successfully prevented the possibility of a new Honduran continuismo.
The Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya's arrest for disobeying several court orders compelling him to obey the Constitution. He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day.
Don't believe the coup myth. The Honduran military acted entirely within the bounds of the Constitution. The military gained nothing but the respect of the nation by its actions.
I am extremely proud of my compatriots. Finally, we have decided to stand up and become a country of laws, not men. From now on, here in Honduras, no one will be above the law.
Octavio Sánchez, a lawyer, is a former presidential adviser (2002-05) and minister of culture (2005-06) of the Republic of Honduras.
Hmmmm, a constitution that prosecutes intent. Sounds a lot like the neo con philosophy of preventative war.
Kicking a citizen who holds political office out of the country for attempting to find out what other citizens opinions are by means of a national poll is hardly what anyone would call democratic.
It should be very obvious to any reasonable person what is really going on here. Just follow the money, as usual.Look at the players. The wealthy land owners support the coup. The majority , the poor working class, support Zeleya. Once again, elitism wins the day. Is it any wonder people turn to their machetes and guns out of frustration? The same thing was attempted with Castro and Chavez.
The constitution of Honduras is specific about not placing power in the hands of any one individual for more than one term, period. This shows the wisdom accumulated from having lived under dictators. Saying the referendum Zelaya wished to carry out as an opinion poll is obfuscating his grab for power. The opinion expressed by “James” is inaccurate in that Zelaya was not a popular president garnering only a 23% approval rate, so the majority of citizens do not support him. If one wishes to see repression and abuse of power look no further than Chavez and what he is doing to opposition officials presently in Venezuela.
A majority elected him.
There are so many things wrong with this picture.
Their constitution does not prohibit referendums and opinion polls which is all Zeleya proposed. If it did, it would be condemning free speech and holding the population to stagnation. Nothing could kill democracy faster and this seems to be the intent of the coup.
From Political Affairs.net:
It appears that U.S. citizens and organizations based in the U.S. did play a major role in the coup. We also know that the government and the military had advance knowledge that a coup could or would take place. This was acknowledged by the administration right after the coup took place, but the administration said it refused to take an active roll. However it also failed to inform President Zelaya that a coup was imminent; by this failure it cast itself into the shadow of being a de-facto partner. Once again we have a democratically elected government overthrown by the right with the help of right wing Americans and their organizations as well as members of the U.S. government and military. If this coup is allowed to succeed it will open the door for even more daring action against left and left center democracies in the region.
Remember that Aristide was never returned to his office in Haiti.
I’m still going to go with my contacts in Honduras. They are the experts as far as I’m concerned, and all the talking heads and “reporting” (which is always slanted) are just wanting something to say. The rest of us are just fringe onlookers with just enough information to be dangerous.
I don’t care if they have a left or a right government. I only care about my government and it needs to stop sticking its big fact nose in places it does not belong.
The U.S. is not a democracy, thank goodness. It’s a republic and for good reason. A democracy is simply the tyranny of the majority. Two wolves and a lamb deciding what’s for lunch. Boo hiss to that.
The US is not even a republic, it is a corporate autocracy and the nature of such beasts is to make empire and that involves sticking a much more significant appendage than its nose into other countries’ affairs.
If your Honduran contacts are supporting the coup, then you know on which side of the brewing class war they sit. If you are comfortable sitting with them from afar,then I assume you are also comfortable with the politics of right wing elitism which has toppled so many democratic governments in latin america.
From a friend in Honduras regarding reports that internet and TV were interrupted and there was much confusion, etc in the streets:
“I am in San Pedro Sula this morning, and was in Tegucigalpa yesterday, (I was in Punta Leona Monday) and my internet is working fine and I don’t see much problem getting newspapers or watching television either. There were a few more military in front of gov’t buildings in the capitol and at the airports, but not really exaggerated. They lifted the curfew for a few days, but with Mel’s newest threats will put them back in place tonight from midnight to 5 am.
I need to head to Pto Cortez today, and Mel’s group is threatening more road blocks etc for today and tomorrow, but most people around here do not seem concerned. Micheletti offered to resign last night if that will help things go forward, with the caveat that Mel does not return.
From taxi drivers to newspaper salesmen and hotel staff etc., the folks I come into contact with are very much in favor with the change. Mel’s support seems to be from groups outside of any circles I come into contact with.”
My experience with vendors is that they will go along with customers’ opinions usually. The Ticos do this.
Also, it may be difficult to find out their true opinions when a little fear is in the air. If your friend is gringo or is obviously middle to upper class, it may be that he/she is hearing what those vendors think he/she wants to hear.
“Mel’s support seems to be from groups outside of any circles I come into contact with.”
That statement is probably very true and supports my point. Zeleya is leftist. Your friend is very probably NOT. This is not exaclty the most unbiased source of information. You are correct in that most of us who are not there are at a huge disadvantage in understanding the situation.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t recognoze an old and tried pattern of events and deduce
where this coup came from and where it is going. It has happened so many times in the past in that very place.
While the military may have acted constitutionally, under the direction of the Supreme Court, to remove him from office – and the constitution does allow them to do so; where they stepped over the line was not just removing him from office, but from the country. Their claim that they did it simply to prevent his supporters from causing problems is nonsense – especially if, as claimed above, he doesn’t have a lot of support, and, how would that stop those who did support him from acting on his behalf? No, they threw him out, and prevent him from returning, because it’s easier to take the flack for that than to have to proceed by the rule of law to let him defend himself in the Supreme Court for his actions – where if he did have popular support (perhaps they’re worried he has more than they claim), he might win. The “see, we did the first part legally, so just ignore the rest of it” is just as bad as what he was trying to do.
By definition it’s not a complete coup but never the less the fear of not acting was evident in the actions of the Honduran Gov.
I am happy and glad that Zelaya is no longer in power.
But if we are truly hold the Rule of Law through thick and thin, Zelaya should have been tried in a court of law.
The Constitution of Honduras I am sure doesn’t say that a President should be whisked away in the middle of the night and sent to Costa Rica. He is not a citizen of Costa Rica nor he break any of Costa Rica’s laws. He should have been tried and convicted in Honduras. Obviously it is easier to toss the hot potato some where else.
I understand the fear of the Gov. but it doesn’t justify its actions.
Now as far what James posted about again having a democratically elected government overthrown by the right with the help of right wing Americans and their organizations as well as members of the U.S. government and military.
This is non-sense.
By the way if the left loses ground not to the so called right but to a true Gov. for the people by the people under a Republic, I am all for it.
Republicans in the US no longer are a party of core values and principles.
Libertarians today are one of the few that represent the closest ideology to that of the founding fathers.
Democrats and Republicans today “are defenders of the progressive democratic socialist movement from the school of Totalitarian Government!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
The so called left and right have both shredded the US Constitution.
Freedom is not a product of historical destiny, divine intervention or happy accident. It’s an intellectual achievement that depends on the vital concept of individual rights. Freedom in America has diminished and power has become more and more concentrated in the hands of government at the expense of the individual because people have lost hold of the concept of individual rights.
Our founding fathers understood the dangers in Big Gov. They created a Gov. with limited powers to protect the PEOPLE. Our bill of rights amendment 10 clearly reads that the powers not delegated to the US by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.
Our Country became great NOT because of what Gov did but because of what Gov. was prevented from doing.
Our constitution is designed to prevent Gov. from over extending its powers. (We need an INTELLECTUAL Revolution.)
Sadly, today we have distanced our Country from those principles. The driving force behind the success of the USA can be attributed to our Founding Fathers consciously designing a government dedicated to protecting the individual’s RIGHTS TO LIFE, LIBERTY, PROPERTY AND THE PURSUIE OF HAPPINESS.
They never intended to have Gov. fund people’s needs and wants. They gave us freedom and the right to become who ever we dreamed to be. Simply work hard and strive to be the best. Be responsible.
The Federal Reserve, IMF, World Bank, UN, Transnationals and Progressives are the evils behind the disastrous ideological and social problems of today.
Vampires of the system.
Here, here, Alex.
Re taking him out of the country, that wasn’t in the constitution: they should have jailed him. But I’ve stopped reading about Honduras. I’m all wrapped up in my country up north.
“they should have jailed him.”
Really? That is what any self respecting right wing, elitist, reactionary coup would have done. And, of course, had they done that, it would have been illegal by Honduran law and by international law. What they did was illegal anyway. Due process is still a respected principle in the civilized world. I don’t consider right wing coup governments to be members of the civilized world and neither do most other countries in this case. No country is recognizing the coup government.
Zeleya had NOT been proven to have broken any law and he was not accused of breaking any law. He was accused of intent to begin a process to change the constitution by popular referendum.
The wealthy elite tend to disdain democracy and popular vote with good reason. Wealth is obtained and concentrated in a few hands at the expense of the populace. That can only be done when power is also concentrated in those few hands and not broadly spread amongst the entire population.
It is hypocracy to claim to be sympathetic towards fair treatment of and respect for working people and yet side up with the wealthy elitist right wing when they once again turn to guns to impose their system of beliefs on a democratically elected government.
Well, James, I don’t know what to tell you. It seems to me you are laying your belief systems on a third world country’s constitution, judging them based on what you believe a “civilized” nation would have done. Our opinions about their constitution means nothing. Nor should it.
By the same token, international law does not apply. Honduras is a sovereign nation and its constitution rules, end of story. Everything the leaders did there was legal except shipping Zelaya out of the country and I just don’t know about that.
Zelaya did attempt, in a very real provable way, to subvert their constitution and he was removed the way their government is set up to remove someone who does this. It was no surprise, he was warned this would happen. When he persisted, he was removed. It was perfectly legal and constitutional.
The new leader has offered to allow Zelaya to return and defend himself in their court as long as he does not expect or try to resume power. He only wants to return as President and he may not under their Constitution, the very one he presumably pledged to defend when he was elected president.
Whether or not you or anyone else considers Honduras’ government to be “members of the civilized world” is of zero consequence. Other country’s governments are none of our business.
Wow James. I just don’t see that happening from our far left Lear Jet liberal government here in the US. Obama and his cronies are taking more and more of our freedoms everyday, which is what I saw Zelaya doing. Obama is definatly in favor of returning Zelaya to power. He’s just to afraid one of his poll numbers might drop one point to come out and try to demand it, what is what he would like to do.
I am looking at the situation from Minnesota, so I can’t see or feel what Hondurans actually want. I’m at the mercy of our liberal media. I only know that I would want to have the freedom of electing my countrie’s officials.
I had lunch today with a girlfriend who’s family lives in Honduras, she was raised there. She – who is not political at all and certainly not a conspiracy theorist like myself – told me some interesting things:
– the pro-Zelaya protesters are not Hondurans, but rather Chavez payees;
– the reason Zelaya was not put in jail was because he has immunity from prosecution – the only option was to literally oust him.