UPDATE: 07.31.09 - Several people were wounded and more than 100 were arrested Thursday during clashes between the police and supporters of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, in at least four locations. The most intense violence occurred on the northern edge of Tegucigalpa, the capital, where one person was shot in the head. Leaders of the demonstrations accused the police of firing tear gas and live ammunition on "peaceful protesters". [ OH -and uh... Television footage showed some protesters armed with long sticks and pickaxes.] - Lifted from the NY Times.
Much ado over a non-coup
Manuel Zelaya violated the Honduran constitution, so it was legal for the military to remove him from office.
By WILLIAM RATLIFF
Special to the Los Angeles Times
We have heard a lot about Honduras lately, but there is much more at issue than the nighttime removal of President Manuel Zelaya on June 28 and its aftermath. The far bigger story is the disgrace of the world's major international political and economic organizations.
The Organization of American States and its ambitious leader, José Miguel Insulza, took the lead in dealing with the crisis.
The OAS gave the new de facto Honduran government three days to restore Zelaya or suffer suspension from the organization. Honduras responded by quitting first.
SHOOTING INTO THE DARK
But the OAS, the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank and others were all shooting from the hip into the dark. These leaders had nothing to inform their decisions but fuzzy idealism, ideological prejudices, assorted self-interests and profound ignorance of realities on the ground in Honduras.
But that was good enough for them. Insulza rejected conversations among contending parties in favor of macho confrontation, ultimatums and polarization, to the cheers of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and other Chávistas. To their great shame, every OAS member-nation went along with Insulza. The OAS is indeed the Organization of American Sheep.
The Obama administration kept a low profile while setting up talks between the two sides, mediated by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The talks themselves -- as well as the U.S. focus on mediation rather than just confrontation -- brought howls of rage from Chávez.
ZELAYA WAS WRONG
The OAS declaimed its eternal rejection of the ``anti-democratic, anti-constitutional military coup'' by the new government. But it was Zelaya who was in the wrong.
The OAS diplomats can't have it both ways -- professing their unshakable dedication to national constitutions and the rule of law even as they militantly make a hero of a country's No. 1 lawbreaker.
What didn't the OAS, the U.N. and other leaders know before ordering Hondurans around? As Honduran lawyer Octavio Sanchez pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor, when Zelaya issued a decree ordering a referendum on changing presidential terms, he ``triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office.'' (Google the Honduran Constitution and read it for yourself -- Article 239.) Zelaya had ousted himself, so impeachment was unnecessary.
So it was quite legal for the military to remove Zelaya, although the nighttime act gave an impression of a military coup to outsiders.
It is Zelaya, Insulza, Chávez, the U.N. and all the OAS member-states who are playing at banana republic politics, not the government in Tegucigalpa.
Ratliff is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and the Independent Institute.
Further proof that Honduras acted in accordance with their constitution:
It cannot be right to call this a "coup." Micheletti was lawfully made president by the country's elected Congress. The president is a civilian. The Honduran Congress and courts continue to function as before. The armed forces are under civilian control. The elections scheduled for November are still scheduled for November. Indeed, after reviewing the Constitution and consulting with the Supreme Court, the Congress and the electoral tribunal, respected Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga recently stated that the only possible conclusion is that Zelaya had lawfully been ousted under Article 239 before he was arrested, and that democracy in Honduras continues fully to operate in accordance with law. All Honduran bishops joined Rodriguez in this pronouncement.
True, Zelaya should not have been arbitrarily exiled from his homeland. That, however, does not mean he must be reinstalled as president of Honduras. It merely makes him an indicted private citizen with a meritorious immigration beef against his country.
- Miguel A. Estrada
Miguel A. Estrada is a partner at the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. A native of Honduras, he was a member of the official U.S. delegation to President Zelaya's 2006 inauguration.