Some claim that the succession of president in Honduras on June 28th 2009 was a military coup. In fact, 192 countries out of 192 in the United Nation’s General Assembly decided so under the chairmanship of D’Escoto, a Sandinista revolutionary.
However, as I outlined in my open letter to the foreign minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt, the legal case for calling it a coup just isn’t there. Last Friday I called the foreign department to ask them what they base their position that it was a coup on, and they could not give me a single reference to a legal analysis supporting their position.
Today through e-mail I got a link to an article on the Internet claiming to provide such an analysis. Let me thus examine it.
The author agrees that §239 of Honduras’ constitution would get Zelaya fired if he tried to change the terms of the presidency. Zelaya and his supporters just claim he didn’t–and that is true literally, since he explicitly denied it. His acts speak otherwise, though. This is the conclusion every lawyer that I know who has examined the case has come to, and I would come to the same conclusion if I was in a jury.
However, it is not for you and me to judge, it is for the Supreme Court of Justice in Honduras to judge. They indeed judged that he violated that provision of the Constitution. This fact the author of the article rejects with the words “The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice… falsely accused Manuel Zelaya of attempting a referendum to extend his term in office.” Sooo, exactly who has the last word in legal matters, if not the supreme court? The mob on the street, perhaps? A ruler that has the mob on the street as his power base against the institutions is not unheard of. Such a ruler even has a name. It is “tyrant”. Look it up!
By claiming that the Supreme Court “accused” him of anything, the author has already lost the case. A court does not accuse, a court rules. But, just for the heck of it, let’s see what else he writes.
The author goes on to assert that it does not violate the constitution to establish an Assemblea Nacional Constituyente, a Constituting National Assembly for writing an entirely new constitution. Again, it is not for the mob to decide but for the court, and they did, issuing a cease and desist order on May 27 that covers everyone, and every modification to the plan. It is clear why they did so to me, but that is actually irrelevant; the only thing that matters is that the Court has the final word in a land ruled by law, as opposed to by the mob.
What the author conveniently fails to mention is the final straw that broke the camel’s back. On June 25, president Zelaya issued, in La Gaceta, decree PCM-019-2009 which revoked the unpublished decree PCM-05-2009 of March 23 (the referendum having received a cease and desist order on May 27), plus decree PCM-020-2009, in which it is ordered that a “national opinion poll” is held on June 28, with the question if a fourth ballot box shall be installed in the general elections on November 29, for holding a referendum on whether to create a national constituting assembly. This was a flagrant violation of the court ruling of May 27.
Furthermore, he fails to mention that Zelaya in the head of a mob broke into and took the ballots and ballot boxes that a court had ordered locked up to prevent violations of the injunction. Again, to rely on a mob while violating the law and the other branches of government is a hallmark of a classical tyrant.
Throughout history many have managed to make themselves tyrants due to the meekness of those who defend democracy. In fresh memory we have Adolf Hitler, and in this century we have Hugo Chávez, but history is full of more or less bad apples. Many tyrants have been liked initially by the people, but the destruction of the rule of law eventually tends to undercut the opinion poll numbers of every tyrant.
What makes Honduras so remarkable is that this little insignificant country, the 3rd poorest in the Americas, one of the 10 most dangerous countries of the world in terms of criminality, managed to defend democracy against a very determined and well-funded attempt to create tyranny. If Honduras can, we should be able to as well!