Constitutional Crisis in Honduras
I really hate the word "coup"
. Usually it implies a military takeover, sometimes foreign backed, such as the one that took place in Guatamala in 1954
, or the one that toppled Honduras's government in 1963.
What appears to have just happened in Honduras
- the ouster of highly disliked (25% approval rating) president Manuel Zelaya
- by order of the Supreme Court, Congress, AND the military - does not look very similar to that (at least from first appearances)
For starters, he was replaced by the legal line of succession, Roberto Micheletti, the head of congress
, and also a member of Zelaya's own party.
But, the word "coup" rules the day, and the rhetoric, and the debate inside wikipedia is astounding
The rhetoric is being spewed by a peculiar alliance of just about every other politician in the world - left, right, it doesn't matter. It seems to boil down to: just about everybody holding power can agree on one thing: Arresting (and deporting) a president who clearly is attempting to violate his country's constitution, is wrong
The irony of that observation
is what is compelling me to write today - I confess to being amused by watching each ideology put their individual spin on things:Xinhua (China)
, The New York Times (USA)
(?) Finding Dulcinea
, and Latin America
.... (sorry, I will update these links to make more sense when I have time) AP
Not to mention the irony of USA President Obama coming to the aid of a world leader that called for the legalization of drugs
in order to eliminate the narco-trafficing trade... while he hangs out with the Colombian President
, whose country is the source of much of that trade.
The best and most detailed reporting as to the depth of the crisis seems to be taking place in the Wikipedia article on the 2009 Honduran Political Crisis
, which starts off by quoting the Constitution of Honduras
Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, which forbids any former chief executive from being re-elected President, states that any citizen who proposes reforming this law, and any others who support such a person directly or indirectly, are to immediately "cease carrying out" any public office. The Constitution, however, establishes no process for impeaching or removing a president. Furthermore Article 42, Section 5 of the Constitution states that citizenship is lost for "inciting, promoting or supporting the continuation or the reelection of the President of the Republic." According to the same article, revoking citizenship for this reason requires a court sentence and then a government order ("acuerdo gubernativo").
The intended referendum was rejected by Congress, the attorney general, and the top electoral body, and ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, provoking a serious political crisis in the country. The National Congress passed a law forbidding holding referenda less than 180 days before the next general election; as the next elections are set for 29 November 2009, this invalidates the referendum bid. In addition, the Honduran Constitution expressly forbids amendments or reforms altering presidential terms or allowing re-election.
Congress had begun discussing how to impeach Zelaya but lacked a clear constitutional process to do so. Congress, including most of Zelaya's own party, had voted for an urgent investigation of whether Zelaya had violated the constitution and even whether he was "mentally incapable" to hold office.
(I note that the wikipedia article - several hours after I wrote this - bears little resemblance to the article I first linked to. I wish I'd taken a full snapshot of it then. Among other things, it used to have a translation of the referendum in it.The debate inside wikipedia is also very informative
The government refused to print Zelaya's referendum, so he got the ballots done in Venezuela
His chairman of the joint chiefs refused last week to distribute that referendum. (I guess, after decades of dictators for life, you get a little touchy on the subject of term limits...)
Zelaya fired him.
The Supreme court ruled that an illegal act. So did the Honduran congress. The supreme court ordered Zelaya's arrest... and... he was arrested!
You have an angry and divided country, what are you going to do with a president under arrest?Lock him in a penthouse suite, like Bernie Madoff
? Throw him in a common jail with a roomate named Bubba? Kill him? Have him get pardoned immediately by the likes of a Gerald Ford?
Arrest, deportation, and same day release in a neutral country, like Costa Rica, I don't
know if that was legal or not, by Honduras law. I've been trying to figure out the proper procedure for arresting a president for decades now... but they didn't have a procedure in place for impeachment, much less arrest.
Deportation (and the resultant freedom of movement, ability to organise, and mouth off to the press) seems like a pretty sane alternative to those options, however one with far less than ideal characteristics if you didn't believe that the truth was on your side.
Recent polls show support for Zelaya in Honduras has dropped to around 30 percent in recent months.
What country takes their constitution so seriously as to actually throw out a scoundrel? One accused of trying to import another constitution entirely
Why, if more countries took their constitutions seriously, the populace might get ideas about their governments actually respecting them. No wonder the world condemnation!
From this outdated American analysis
of the Honduras constitution:
"Honduran constitutions are generally held to have little bearing on Honduran political reality because they are considered aspirations or ideals rather than legal instruments of a working government. The constitution essentially provides for the separation of powers among the three branches of government, but in practice the executive branch generally dominates both the legislative and judicial branches of government".
Not this time, apparently, although an analyst says
the action taken against Mr. Zelaya harkens back to a dark period in the region's history, when military coups were common... today, coups are not seen as acceptable under any circumstance and that international pressure likely will prevail.
What I enjoy most, as usual, is the commentary on the news articles, from ordinary people... In this case, running overwhelmingly in favor of the action
:"I am a Honduran citizen who feels extremely proud of the measures take by National Congress, The Supreme Court of Justice and our military forces. Mr. Zelaya had been warned many times that his actions were breaking laws of the constitution. There has been no "coup" in Honduras. Military Forces were simply following orders from the Supreme Court of Justice because Mr. Zelaya refused to back down from his plans. The poll is an illegal act benefiting only Zelaya and no one else. Good riddance!""I'm a Honduran resident, we are ok, it's true the situation in my country is not the best, but most of the people support the position here, we DON'T WANT Manuel Zelaya as a president again, during his period he has only been manipulating people, blackmailing ppl, threatening to dismiss state employees if they not support him, and many things that just people that we live in Honduras know...please take a look at the real situation not the lies that he says to the world.""We're relieved that Zelaya was removed from the presidency. We´ve lived weeks of anguish watching how the ex president of Honduras acting as he was above the law, wondering what would happen to our democracy and to our country. If the President of Honduras thinks that he is above the Constitution, then what happens to the rest of the leaders? Are they above the law as well? Democracy has won, and the intl. community has to listen to the will of the people of Honduras. Don’t victimize Zelaya!"
How this plays out is going to be very interesting.Update 8AM, Jun 30
I am not going to change the text of what I wrote last night, although I may go back and clean up a few phrases and find more cites today, in addition to commenting further on this page. I find history changing under my fingers, as what happened in wikipedia in the last 24 hours, somewhat disturbing. The process by which wikipedia goes about that is transparent, open, and fascinating... and like wikipedia, I believe that "when the facts change, so does my opinion", but, in part, my blog is my journal of what I thought, when. Editing what I already wrote does not fit the wikipedia model in that respect.
Although I make it clear in the article and links above that I'm not particularly fond of Zelaya, or the CIA, or coups, or the ideological press, or the treatment of Madoff, and quite a few other things, I would like to re-iterate my main points were, 1) The multiple ironies involved and 2) the role of spin, and (indirectly) meme shifts, which I wrote about extensively
in the last American election.
A comment (by a Honduran college student) on the wikipedia talk page put it best:
There should had been a lawful process to kick Zelaya. Without it, we lost the favour of EVERYONE in the world that doesn't live in Honduras. That means we are open to the invasion of nondemocratic countries that have close ties with Zelaya (understand Venezuela). BUT! With the help of every other country. So, democratic people (USA, Mexico, France, etc) will be fighting a democratic war against people that wanted to maintain democracy, and will reinstitute a anti-democratic leader.
Final statement: The problem is that it is easy to recognize armed assaults on the Rule of Law. But, when this Rule of Law is attacked without arms? When it's attacked with corruption, with helding of budget, corruption at the ballots (I know first hand, just, if I said something, they would kill me), and continuism? Why doesn't anybody recognize that, although the FORM of the coup was completely wrong, the REASON of the coup was completely right? Why would they support a unlawful president?"
2) The role of the media, and "spin"
Two competing memes are in play. 1) "coup" - and 2) "the referendum was about allowing the president to be re-elected"
Most newspapers reports have converged on these two memes as shorthand.
The Honduran government disputes the first, as do some bloggers inside the country
(even if no-one else outside the country does, 24 hours later), and the second was not the text of the referendum. From that always helpful wikipedia talk page...
“¿Está usted de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de noviembre de 2009 se instale una cuarta urna para decidir sobre la convocatoria a una Asamblea Nacional Constituyente que apruebe una nueva constitución política?”
Translated: "Do you agree for a Fourth Urn to be installed on the November 2009 general elections in order to decide whether to call or not for a National Constitutional Convention to approve a new Political Constitution?" -- so the question is not: Do you want the current president to be re-elected?
It is interesting to compare DailyKos's (A progressive-liberal) views of Honduras
- and Iran
. This article
, although not representative of dailykos's views as a whole, was interesting, as were the comments.
More on this in a bit, I need a few more cites from more varying perspectives.Update: Jun 30, 5:00 PM
I haven't had power all day, a major storm hit this morning.....Update: Midnight
A lot has happened today, everything from the UN voting unaminously to endorse Zelaya's continued presidency to multiple protests on both sides, to me losing contact with the one friend I have in Honduras for the last 24 hours, entirely.
Probably the most elequent person inside Tegucigalpa, in her own way, was Figgylicious yelling back at the TV
. I keep wondering when or if the MSM will try and follow up on the thousands of blog writers and commenters I've seen typing their hearts out.
Labels: citizen revolt, honduras, meme shift, msm