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July 1, 2009

Zelaya has left the building

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Early Sunday morning four units, consisting of 200 soldiers of the military in Honduras, stormed the presidential palace in the capitol, Tegucigalpa, at 6, arrested and bundled-up their pajama-clad president, Manuel Zelaya, and carted him off to the airport and flew him to Costa Rica.


It was the beginning of a long – real bad day for the leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, described in an Associated Press article as a “tall, wealthy rancher with a black mustache and a white Stetson…”


However, in spite what the traditional media in the United States would want you to believe, this was – paradoxically – a good day for the forces of democracy.


Allies of President Zelaya, such as Presidents Chávez and Barack Obama, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, were immediately up in arms.


For many who are not well versed in Honduran politics – or where it is on the map, for that matter – the entire scenario seems to have been taken from a screenplay written by Woody Allen. However, it isn’t funny. It is deadly serious.


“Manuel Zelaya,” according to the same AP article, “spent the last three years turning the political system on its head. At public events, he hurled insults at the rich and powerful, sometimes reinforcing his points by breaking into song….”


Okay, I’ll bite. Why in the world should anyone care? Isn’t it just another day in the world of politics below the Mexican-U. S. border?


Well, maybe. Then again, maybe not. Multiple news accounts report that this is the first unscheduled change in government in Central America in 16 years. Other historians beg to differ.


As an aside; if you will notice, the actions taken by the Honduran military were not referred to as a coup d’etat. Perhaps it is an argument over semantics. One could certainly argue that the Honduran president is no longer in the building and whether it is referred to as a coup or not – or an eventful impeachment – the result is the same. And this is a good thing…


Nevertheless, if the potential destabilization of yet another government is troubling, what is more perplexing is the reaction of the state-run U. S. media and President Obama.


It was not lost on many that President Obama was so quick to defend leftist President Zelaya – in stark contrast with how he seemed to have lost his voice for more than a week in the wake of what many feel was the results of a stolen election in Iran.


Upon closer scrutiny one discovers that the actions taken in Honduras were, if anything, taken to prevent a coup, a coup that was being attempted by the leftist President Zelaya, with the full support of President Chávez.


Lost in all the rhetoric and righteous hand wringing is the fact that the military had an arrest warrant for the president issued by the Honduran Supreme Court with the complicity of the Honduran Congress “for repeated violations to the Constitution.”


Sort of puts a new angle on things, now doesn’t it?


It seems that several months ago, President Zelaya decided he would begin the process of having his one four-year constitutional term limit overturned.


However, according to the Honduran 1982 constitution, only the National Congress may undertake such an initiative; and then only by a two-thirds vote in two consecutive regular scheduled sessions.


Scott Wilson notes in The Washington Post: “The one-term limit is commonplace in Latin America. It is meant as a legal check to ensure that the region's rich tradition of public corruption and political patronage could only last so long in some of these nations.


Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was among the first to challenge the limit…”


Meanwhile, Mr. Wilson calls to our attention that the presidents of Columbia, Ecuador, and Bolivia are in various stages of following President Chávez’s example. With the exception of Columbia, President Chávez is only too happy to help his Latin American allies in overthrowing their respective constitutions.


In Columbia, President Alvaro Uribe had that country’s constitution changed in December 2004, after he had only been in office for two years. Now he wants the constitution changed again so that he may run for a third term.


After a failed attempt in 2007, President Chávez had Venezuela’s constitution changed last February, thereby essentially guaranteeing him the president’s office for life.


In the case of Venezuela, the change to that country’s constitution has worked greatly against the forces of democracy and doomed a once vibrant nation to years of hardship and the loss of freedom.


In Honduras, democratic traditions have also quickly taken hold, and there the courts decided that President Zelaya’s initiative was illegal. Even his own “Liberal Party” opposed the referendum.


Undaunted President Zelaya asked the military to administer the referendum. When it refused, the president removed Gen. Romeo Vásquez, chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, from office.


The Honduran Supreme Court voted 5-0, that he be reinstated. The president refused.


Furthermore, President Zelaya insisted on scheduling the referendum for last Sunday. The court ordered the military to stay out of administering the scheduled referendum. The Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal ordered that the ballots, which were printed in Venezuela, to be confiscated, and the county’s attorney general requested that the National Congress remove the president from office.


It was this series of lawful and constitutional events that led to President Zalaya’s removal from office, thereby upholding the basic tenants of democracy.


And that is why we should care.


Instead of denouncing the lawful actions of the people of Honduras, who saved their country’s democracy from a wannabe populist dictator with a black mustache and a white Stetson; we should be applauding.


So, now the question is why President Obama is so quick to ally himself with leftist dictators at the expense of freedom-loving democracies. I’m just asking. Think about it.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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