The United States should support Honduras against Manuel Zelaya

by Kurt Schulzke on July 15, 2009

Some have asked for my views on the Honduran so-called “coup” in which the former Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, was removed from office upon the order of the Honduran Supreme Court.   Having read the relevant documents in the original Spanish, I agree with Miguel Estrada that the removal was both legal and necessary.

For reasons set forth in more detail in Estrada’s Los Angeles Times op-ed (July 10), in the Corte’s Comunicado Especial (linked to the picture below), and in the documents supporting it, those who are full informed have every reason to applaud la Corte Suprema de Justicia Hondureña for legally and properly sending a would-be Hugo Chavez packing.

Corte Suprema

Like me (and unlike Barack Obama) Estrada speaks Spanish, actually works as an attorney and has read the Honduran Constitution and other official documents by which the Honduran Supreme Court legally ordered the removal of then-President Zelaya.  Americans (and Europeans) who think they know que pasa in Honduras would do well to read what Estrada has to say.

The basic story line is that the Honduran Supreme Court and legislature acted entirely within the bounds of the Honduran Constitution in removing Zelaya.  Zelaya had repeatedly defied the law of Honduras, acting as a sort of “community organizer,” by attempting to stage a “popular” override Honduras’ constitutional prohibition against its presidents calling for constitutional amendments by plebiscite.  He thumbed his nose at legal Supreme Court orders that he stand down and even personally led a mob that broke into an army facility to steal ballots that were legally controlled by the Honduran army.  If there was a coup in the offing in Honduras, it was Zelaya’s.

Mr. Obama’s efforts to see Manuel Zelaya return to power are 180-degrees against the interests of the Honduran people and of the United States.  We should be supporting Honduras against Zelaya and his mentor, Hugo Chavez.  That the Obama administration is supporting Zelaya makes sense only if Obama also supports Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

Key excerpts from Estrada’s article follow:

Something clearly has gone awry with the rule of law in Honduras — but it is not necessarily what you think. Begin with Zelaya’s arrest. The Supreme Court of Honduras, as it turns out, had ordered the military to arrest Zelaya two days earlier. A second order (issued on the same day) authorized the military to enter Zelaya’s home to execute the arrest. These orders were issued at the urgent request of the country’s attorney general. All the relevant legal documents* can be accessed (in Spanish) on the Supreme Court’s website. They make for interesting reading.

What you’ll learn is that the Honduran Constitution may be amended in any way except three. No amendment can ever change (1) the country’s borders, (2) the rules that limit a president to a single four-year term and (3) the requirement that presidential administrations must “succeed one another” in a “republican form of government.”

In addition, Article 239 specifically states that any president who so much as proposes the permissibility of reelection “shall cease forthwith” in his duties, and Article 4 provides that any “infraction” of the succession rules constitutes treason. The rules are so tight because these are terribly serious issues for Honduras, which lived under decades of military rule.

As detailed in the attorney general’s complaint, Zelaya is the type of leader who could cause a country to wish for a Richard Nixon. . .

Indeed.  The Honduran Supreme Court and legislature are patriots, in my view.  Barack Obama may feel threatened by them because Obama, like Zelaya and his model Hugo Chavez, seeks more power than his country’s Constitution provides an executive.   As between Hondurans and Americans, the Hondurans are doing much better at following their own constitution than are the Americans.

Read Estrada’s full article at the LA Times.

*Los que hablan español pueden leer aqui los documentos relevantes en el website de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Republica de Honduras.  Pueden comenzar con El Comunicado Especial lo cual explica en forme breve las razones por las cuales remover al Sr. Zelaya fue no tan solo necesario pero también legal y correcto.  En la vista mia, la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Honduras ha hecho lo correcto al remover Sr. Zelaya.  Viva Honduras!