Honduras has been the centre of what most world governments and the media are calling a “military coup” on June 28. The international community wants to reinstate Manuel Zelaya as president. They either do not know or are ignoring the facts of June 28, as it was not a military-led “coup d’état.” I was in Honduras visiting my family before and after that date. This is what happened.
Zelaya has been constantly criticized for his policies. His recent actions are what caused his removal: September 2008 failed to present national budget; allegations of corruption against him; joined leftist organization ALBA headed by President Chavez of Venezuela; ignored H1N1 outbreak; ignored damage caused by flooding and last earthquakes; ignored increased gang related crime; and others.
Many Hondurans, National Congress, Supreme Court and even Zelaya’s own political party questioned his decisions while in office.
In the last six months, his focus was on changing the constitution (through a referendum) so he can stay in power. The crisis exploded when Zelaya ignored a Supreme Court order to not stage that referendum. Hondurans were to be asked to add an extra ballot box during presidential elections. They would be asked to open the constitution and amend the presidential term limit. The Honduras Constitution states: “a president is limited to a single four-year term, this cannot be amended.” Article 239 specifically states a president who so much as proposes the permissibility of re-election “shall cease forthwith” in his duties; and Article 4 provides any “infraction” of the succession rules constitutes treason.
Zelaya said, “I just want to survey the people of Honduras” but he knew he was committing a crime.
In desperation, Zelaya ordered the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Vasquez, to deliver the ballots for the referendum. Zelaya fired Vasquez for disobeying his order because the Supreme Court already declared the referendum illegal. Zelaya, with a crowd of followers, entered the air force base to recover the referendum’s material, which were confiscated by the attorney general. Just days before the date of the referendum, Zelaya changed and published the wording of Decree PCM-20-2009, by which the citizens would not vote on if they wanted an extra ballot box but, instead, would vote directly to change the constitution.
The Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant. Zelaya now faces 18 charges, including treason and abuse of power. After his arrest, in less than 24 hours Honduras had an interim president as per the succession rules of the constitution and all government institutions were intact, as they are now.
The military chiefs acted at the direction of the Supreme Court! The chiefs chose to remove Zelaya from Honduras instead of putting him in jail, to avoid violence. The military admits this was a mistake. Zelaya should have gone to jail and now Honduras faces international pressure to reinstate him as its president.
Zelaya violated the constitution and ignored the rule of law. He deserves to return to his homeland to face justice, not to return to power, especially when a huge majority of Hondurans do not want him back.
The insistence of the U.S., UN and OAS to reinstate Zelaya, while ignoring that he was attempting to illegally change the Honduran Constitution, is wrong.
Dorcas Mendez is a Honduran sociologist with a master’s degree in social anthropology. She moved to Red Deer three years ago.