I am utterly in despair over the situation in Honduras. Yesterday I was a little on the fence about it. Maybe the E.U. and the U.S. and the U.N. were right. Maybe the ousting of Zelaya could have been handled a little better, with a little more caution. Maybe their concerns were really legitimate.
But I've been following all the articles about it I can on the MSM, and it is just looking more and more like one person cried foul and governments and media all over the world tripped over each other in the rush to agree.
What distresses me most is the media's failure to clarify, much less emphasize, the difference between a "military-led" and a "military-enforced" coup d'etat. I am afraid that the impression people are getting is that the military woke up one morning and decided they were tired of Zelaya and were going to get rid of him. That's a scary thing, and a real threat to democracy. It's also what distinctly did not happen.
Servicemembers swear many, many times over the course of their careers to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. The Honduran military is not the exception to this rule. They are sworn to defend their Constitution, and this is what their Constitution says:
ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Vicepresidente de la República.
El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos y quedarán inhabilitados por diez (10) años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.
*** Article 239: A citizen who has held Executive Power cannot be President or Vicepresident of the Republic.
Any person who breaks this article or seeks its reform, as well as any person who offers their direct or indirect support [for such an effort], will immediately cease carrying out their respective duties and will be barred for 10 years from holding public office.
ARTICULO 42.- La calidad de ciudadano se pierde:
1. Por prestar servicios en tiempo de guerra a enemigos de Honduras o de sus aliados;
2. Por prestar ayuda en contra del Estado de Honduras, a un extranjero o a un gobierno extranjero en cualquier reclamación diplomática o ante un tribunal internacional;
3. Por desempeñar en el país, sin licencia del Congreso Nacional, empleo de nación extranjera, del ramo militar o de carácter político;
4. Por coartar la libertad de sufragio, adulterar documentos electorales o emplear medios fraudulentos para burlar la voluntad popular;
5. Por incitar, promover o apoyar el continuismo o la reelección del Presidente de la República; y,
6. Por residir los hondureños naturalizados, por más de dos años consecutivos, en el extranjero sin previa autorización del Poder Ejecutivo.
En los casos a que se refieren los numerales 1) y 2), la declaración de la pérdida de la ciudadanía la hará el Congreso Nacional mediante expediente circunstanciado que se forme al efecto. Para los casos de los numerales 3) y 6), dicha declaración la hará el Poder Ejecutivo mediante acuerdo gubernativo; y para los casos de los incisos 4) y 5) también por acuerdo gubernativo, previa sentencia condenatoria dictada por los tribunales competentes.
*** Article 42: Citizenship status may be lost:
1. By lending services in a time of war to enemies of Honduras or their allies;
2. By lending assistance against the State to a foreigner or a foreign government in any diplomatic claim or before an international court;
3. By performing in-country, without license from the National Congress, employment with a foreign nation, the military, or of political nature;
4. By limiting the freedom to vote, doctoring electoral documents or employing fraudulent means to cheat the popular will;
5. By inciting, promoting, or supporting the preservation or reelection of the President of the Republic; and
6. By naturalized Hondurans residing for more than two consecutive years in a foreign country without authorization from the Executive Branch.
In the cases to which numbers 1) and 2) refer, the declaration of loss of citizenship will be made by the National Congress by means of detailed records formed by the circumstance. For cases of numbers 3) and 6), said declaration will be made by the Executive Branch by means of a government accord, and for the case of interjections 4) and 5) also by governmental accord, which condemnatory sentence must be dictated by the appropriate courts.
I have translated this myself; without doubt, an official translation will read somewhat differently. But there is absolutely no way to misunderstand Article 42 section five, which states that citizenship may be lost by inciting or supporting exactly the sort of referendum on term limits that Zelaya intended to hold. There is absolutely no way to misunderstand Article 239, which states that seeking to amend the prohibition of running for multiple terms as President or Vice President is cause enough for immediate removal from public office.
Zelaya tried to create a loophole in Articles 42 and 239 by holding a "nonbinding" referendum on term limits. This loophole does not exist. In the United States, conspiracy to commit a crime will net you nearly the same amount of jailtime as if you were to actually commit the crime. This means that two people who merely agree to smuggle cocaine into the United States, but never actually get around to doing it, can be charged with a federal offense. Well, in Honduras, a President who suggests he be allowed a second term in Office can be removed just as legally as a President who actively tries to hold a second term in Office.
This was not the "arbitrary" act against a "constitutional president," as the O.A.S. stated this morning.
- In accordance with Articles 42 and 239, Zelaya lost the rights to his citizenship and the Presidency the minute he started sniffing around extending term limits.
- The government made several peaceful efforts to stop him:
--- Congress, the attorney general, and the top electoral body all rejected Zelaya's proposed referendum.
--- The Supreme Court ruled it illegal.
--- Zelaya proceeded, asking the Army to distribute ballots (the Army is in charge of electoral security and logistics).
--- The Army chief, General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, refused.
--- Zelaya fired him.
--- The Supreme Court reinstated him.
--- Congress passed a law prohibiting the holding of referenda within 180 days of a general election (the next one being scheduled for 29 November).
- Zelaya proceeded.
Unfortunately, Article 239 did not state any specific procedure for removing an offender who would not leave peacefully. The Supreme Court chose to act as quickly as possible in order to defend the Constitution, and by extension the people. They had no reasonable alternative.
It is beyond horrifying to me that my government is apparently considering calls from Venezuela and Nicaragua to pull aid from Honduras until/unless Zelaya is reinstated. Has Obama forgotten that just three weeks ago, he cut $60 million in aid to Nicaragua because of his concerns for democracy? Ortega was a guerilla leader, Chávez is a battle-crazy maniac (remember when Colombia entered Ecuadoran airspace in a mission against the FARC? Chávez promised military support to Ecuador; he’s promising military support to Zelaya now), and we’re listening to them?
This has got to be some sort of joke. Either that, or we actually were involved. There is no other explanation for this.