On the occasion of president Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo’s statement yesterday that they are planning a coup d’état against him, I have decided that it may be useful to write a little manual for Honduran presidents. This is a temporary manual awaiting the report from the Truth Commission, due in January 2011, since that report should give instructions on how to avoid another epic fail: getting de-recognized by the whole world after the democratic institutions deposed the president. So hear goes.
Rule 1: You know that piece of paper they call the constitution? Read it! I know it is long, but it is actually important. The courts base their decisions on it, you know. And the prosecutor bases his prosecutions on it, too.
Rule 2: Don’t ever tell the courts, or the prosecutor, what they should or should not do. Whatever they do, just say “it is a separate branch of government and as president I cannot comment on their actions.” Don’t even ask them for information about ongoing cases. That violates the separation of powers.
Rule 3: If the court tells you to do something, do it. If they tell you not to do something, do not do it. It’s rather simple, actually.
Rule 4: If you are told that someone is planning a coup d’état against you, then shut up; do not say a word in public about it. Let the investigative arm of government investigate, and if they find foul play, let the prosecutor prosecute, and let the courts rule. But as president you should stay out of it, and not comment on it while things are ongoing. After the verdict has been passed and the sentence is firm, then you can comment, but not before.
Rule 5: If rule 4 does not apply since it is the prosecutor and courts that are planning a coup d’état against you, apply rule 4 and shut up. You see, there is one legal way to depose of you, and that is if the prosecutor prosecutes you and the court separates you from the office of the presidency. So if they are planning a coup d’état against you, it is no coup d’état. Suck it up, and repeat rule 1.
Rule 6: You can not get around the constitution by overthrowing the constitution. Holding a constituting constitutional assembly to write a new constitution from scratch is not a working strategy, since it violates the existing constitution. Only Congress can change the constitution, and nobody can overthrow it. In fact, if someone was to hold a constituting constitutional assembly and declare the old constitution no longer in force, then the last article of the existing constitution permits every institution and person in Honduras to use basically whatever force is necessary to assure that the existing constitution remains in force. That includes arresting the president. So if the president tries to overthrow the constitution, he is essentially an “outlaw” in the original sense of the word: Totally outside of, and unprotected by, the law.
Rule 7: You were elected to run the country and to improve conditions for the people of Honduras. If you stick to that mission, and refrain from violating the laws in the process, you have a good chance of finishing your term and be allowed to continue living in your country as a free man (or woman, as the case one day may be).
Rule 8: The most important thing for prosperity is investments. The most important thing for investors is risk reduction. Keep this in mind, and try to always act such that you instill confidence in your country among investors, foreign and domestic. This is the most important rule after rule 1.
Rule 9: Honduras can be among the 40 richest countries within 40 years, and if you don’t believe that, then you probably shouldn’t be president.