Marking the end of an over 4 month long political crisis, during which the international community has refused to recognize the interim president appointed by the Honduran congress, replacing the one deposed for crimes against the form of government, the democratic institutions of the country have now won.
After failed negotiation attempts by the Costarrican president Oscar Arias, who put as a condition in the so-called San José Accord that Zelaya be re-instated, the talks moved to Honduran soil when the exiled president returned to Tegucigalpa and took refuge in the Brazilian embassy on September 21. This “Guaymuras Dialog” rapidly revealed a rift on the Zelaya side, in that the so-called resistance movement that has backed up Zelaya on the streets, with acts that too often turned violent, refused to give up the demand that the constitution of the country be overthrown. Only after they were removed from the talks could progress be made.
The democratic institutions of Honduras, represented by the interim president in the talks, have had two non-negotiable demands:
- That the constitution lives on and the unchangeable paragraphs are kept as such
- That the general elections be held according to the constitution
Since also the other side has claimed to be concerned about the constitution – except for the resistance movement that is – there was a common ground on which to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
The settlement says that both parties, the deposed president and the interim president, defer back to the democratic institutions to settle the matter. The real victor here is thus the National Congress of Honduras, the people’s democratic representatives. In other words, the winner is the people of Honduras and the democracy as such.
The little country that could
In many states throughout history a strong man has tried to consolidate power in his hand, at the expense of the parliament. Honduras is one of those rare but inspiring cases in which the democratic institutions held their own, and stopped the wannabe dictator.
This is the first major setback for Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and his pseudo-democratic “Bolivarian Revolution”. After Venezuela similar power grabs have been carried out in Ecuador, Bolivia, and right now a constitutional coup attempt is under way in Nicaragua.
The victory of Honduras’ democratic institutions in defending the constitutional democracy apparently scared the living daylight out of Chávez, who is now spewing sulfur over Obama in his speeches – partly for the bases in Colombia, partly for his role in getting the Guaymuras Accord finalized.
The final concession was from Micheletti, who agreed that Congress, not the Supreme Court, should have the final word on whether Zelaya should be reinstated or not. From what I gather the lure brought by undersecretary Thomas Shannon was a carrot, not a stick, because as soon as the ink was dry on the paper the U.S. promised to immediately start normalizing the relations.
Thus, the U.S. is normalizing the relations based not on the reinstatement of Zelaya, but on the parties acknowledging that the ultimate decision rests with the Congress. This is the important take-away for Latin American democracy. The president is not supreme; he is just serving the people, and he has to follow the constitution and respect the other branches of government.
A new page just opened in the development of democracy in Latin America, and it was turned by Honduras, a most unlikely champion for democracy given its history of military coups.
Background: President Manuel Zelaya issued a decree on holding a poll regarding a constitutional matter on June 25th, 2009, in direct violation of a Supreme Court cease and desist order, which led to an arrest order being issued for him by the Supreme Court, executed by the military on June 28th, after which the National Congress appointed Roberto Micheletti as interim president to serve until January 27th, 2010.