Fernando Antonio/AP
A demonstrator, with a Honduran flag on his shoulders, stands next to a bonfire near
to the presidential house in Tegucigalpa, Monday, June 29, 2009. 

Coup Calls Attention to Honduran Constitution

June 29, 2009 05:00 PM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
The removal of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya due to a constitutional breach was condemned by most nations around the world, and raised tensions within the country itself.

Honduras Caught in a Power Struggle

On June 28, troops in Honduras rose against their elected president, Manuel Zelaya, in order to protect the observance of their national constitution. Zelaya, democratically elected in 2006, had intended to hold a referendum in order to extend his nonrenewable four-year term. “Both Congress and the courts had opposed Mr Zelaya’s referendum,” the BBC reported.

Zelaya’s original intention was to hold public polls for the referendum early Sunday morning; instead, troops “took him from the presidential palace and flew him out of the country,” transporting him to Costa Rica, according to the BBC. Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti was instated as interim president until Jan. 27, 2010, when Zelaya’s term would have expired. New presidential elections are currently scheduled for Nov. 29.

In order to suppress the atmosphere of chaos and confusion in the country, Micheletti imposed a national curfew for Sunday and Monday, the BBC reported. According to Stephen Gibbs, a BBC correspondent, “Many Hondurans say there is a total lack of information about what has happened to their country and their president.”

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Reactions: Nations around the world join forces in opposition

Honduras’ effort to defend its constitution has been met with worldwide criticism. Many of Honduras’ regional neighbors, such as Cuba, Venezuela and the United States, have set their individual differences aside to join in opposition to the coup. President Barack Obama advised Honduras to “respect the rule of law,” the BBC reported. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accused Honduras of violating “the precepts of the Interamerican Democratic Charter,” wrote Mary Anastasia O’Grady for The Wall Street Journal. The European Union begged for a return to “constitutional normality,” according to the BBC. Similarly, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, called for “the reinstatement of the democratically elected representatives of the country,” the BBC reported.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, presented contradictory opinions. According to The Christian Science Monitor, Chavez stated that if the Venezuelan Embassy was attacked, “that military junta would be entering a defacto state of war. We would have to act militarily.” Still, he was also quick to blame the “Yankee empire,” according to the BBC. Chavez presented the situation as an attempt by the country’s rich elites to put down the poor. “If the oligarchies break the rules of the game as they have done, the people have the right to resistance and combat, and we are with them,” Chavez was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

According to the BBC, popular opinion in Honduras seems to be divided: Although approximately 2,000 of Zelaya’s supporters gathered in the city’s main square to express their opposition to the coup, others “were relieved at Mr Zelaya’s removal,” hoping for a return to normalcy.

Opinion & Analysis: Bloggers weigh in

On the political blog Jumping in Pools, a blogger known as Mr. K supported the Honduran coup, explaining that Zelaya’s intention to change the constitution was illegal and wrong, “against the Constitution, the Republic, and Freedom itself.”

According to Marco Caceres, from the blog Honduras This Week, manipulating the constitution in Honduras “has the potential of ushering in a new era of political instability in Honduras that the country can ill afford, given the unceasing and sizeable social and economic problems that plague Honduran society.”

On the other hand, Caceres asserted that that the Honduran government has “structural” problems and that the government “has to be revamped” in order to deal with them. “There is a nebulous feeling that what Honduras needs is a particularly strong executive with a wide range of powers” to deal with “Honduras' often disfunctional public institutions, laws and customs,” Caceres wrote.

Related Topic: Honduran coup leaders trained in the United States

According to an article in Facing South, an online magazine of the Institute for Southern Studies, at least two of the leaders of the Honduran coup were allegedly trained at the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as School of Americas) in Fort Benning, Ga. The Department of Defense school has a controversial reputation for “producing graduates linked to torture, death squads and other human rights abuses.” More than 60,000 Latin American soldiers have received training at this school, and more than 50 have supposedly been implicated in human rights abuses in Honduras. Every year, the School of Americas Watch, a watchdog group, organizes a massive protest calling to shut down the training site at Fort Benning.

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