A very traditional coup

Published by MondeDiplo english edition, by Maurice Lemoine, August 2009.

The reaction was unanimous, from the Organisation of American States (OAS) to the UN, from the European Union to President Barack Obama. Everybody condemned, without qualification, the 28 June coup that deposed the Honduran head of state Manuel Zelaya, and removed him by force to Costa Rica. Miguel d’Escoto, president of the UN General Assembly, called for Zelaya to be reinstated without delay in the office and functions to which he had been appointed by the will of the people; no other option would be acceptable to the international community. 

Doubts had been expressed about Zelaya’s legitimacy. It was claimed he had sought, unconstitutionally, to amend the 1982 constitution so he could seek a further term of office in the presidential elections on 29 November (2). But this was not true. The constitution remains in force until further notice and the head of state cannot stand for re-election. With 400,000 signatures to support him, Zelaya had planned to organise a voluntary survey on election day to find out whether or not Hondurans want a Constituent National Assembly to be convened at some point.

A peculiar feature of the present constitution is that it contains a number of articles set in stone, including article 4, which prohibits re-election of the president and which cannot be amended in any circumstances – a curious rule to impose on the people, supposedly the source of all state powers (3). Zelaya was ousted not for seeking re-election but for contemplating reform of the basic charter.

He made three big mistakes: from a base in the centre-right Liberal Party, he severed his ties with the ruling political and economic elite, increased the minimum wage by 60% and joined the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas (ALBA), which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Venezuela and others who advocate breaking with neo-liberalism. The right has just attacked the weak link in that organisation.

President George Bush supported the attempt to overthrow Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in April 2002; President Barack Obama joined the condemnation of the man who led the Honduran putsch, Roberto Micheletti. But while Obama declared that Zelaya alone was president of Honduras, his secretary of state Hillary Clinton suggested that Costa Rica’s president Oscar Arias act as mediator, keeping the left and centre-left OAS out of the picture … (full text).

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