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Honduras suffers a violent coup d’etat: A step backwards for institutionality

zelayahonduras1Within a democracy, one cannot give any type of legitimacy to a coup d’etat. For Latin America, this coup in Honduras serves as proof of the extent at which it troubles this region to accept that democracy can only work within boundaries and through laws.

(Santiago de Chile) MANUEL ZELAYA, PRESIDENT OF HONDURAS, was exiled to its neighbouring country of Costa Rica. The first question that comes to mind is how to qualify this event. The answer: a coup d’etat.

But more importantly, what made this occur? Thus we encounter a two sided argument here. This is to say, we have to take into account the previous political scandal led by Zelaya, where he attempted in completely non-legal ways to reform the Constitution in his favor. What Zelaya tried to achieve was a type of national consult to worm his way into a reelction strictly prohibited by the Constitution. The plan failed when he did not manage to gain support from Congress or the Electoral Supreme Court who rightly denounced the previous acts as ilegal. The Supreme Court itself gave the order of reinstating the chief of staff, who had been previously denounced by Zelaya for lack of support for the president’s legal plan.

“The government which is now in place is completely ilegitimate simply because it only came into being through a coup d’etat and the use of force.”

THE RISE TO POWER

Nonetheless, we cannot use any of the above mentioned actions to justify the coup d’etat. Furthermore, what has happened here is clearly a violation of the most basic human rights which exist around the world: the fact that a citizen can be removed from his/her own country by force. No matter the social status (in this case the president), the correct thing to do is when a crime is committed is take the guilty and charge them under a court of law within their own country.

Thus this did not occur. Roberto Micheletti was presented by Congress as the new President, and he himself announced his position as “transitional” until the next elections, that is to say in this coming November, and until the end of Zelaya’s mandate in January of 2010. The government which is now in place is completely ilegitimate simply because it only came into being through a coup d’etat and the use of force. It is impossible to accept legitimacy when power is acquired outside of the boundaries established by democratic law.

So whilst Zelaya attempted an ilegal grasping of more time in power, it does not justify the coup d’etat. Congress lost all of its legal status the second it did not impose strict opposition to the actions against the President. What should have occurred was a political trial against the President within his own country.

“For the sake of democracy it is fundamental that the newly instated government is not accepted by the international community and hopefully the people of Honduras will not be victims of power play.”

ON A MORE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL

The UN, UNUSAR and even the US government have all stated their opposition to the coup d’etat and the newly instated government. Moreover, the Organization of American States does not recognize the new government in accordance with the Carta Democrática.

Zelaya’s proximity to Hugo Chávez, who has been a general example to Zelaya, could possibly be the reason for his need to expand power ilegally and his consequential expulsion by force. In fact, removing him from the country probably became reasonable to those acting in the coup because they saw how the arrest of Chávez in his own country led to a counter attack from Chávez and his reinstatement into power. Chile, under Bachelet, reacted immediately and denounced the coup d’etat but curiously was one of the few countries who although briefly, still supported the ilegal replacement of Chávez.

These facts are what will keep the situation quite polarized and also the are behind the threats of intervention placed by foreign countries.

“Latin America must quickly realize that it is necessary to respect the rules of the game and in this way achieve true democracy: the only thing which can avoid power abuse and violent measures.”

FOR HONDURAS AND THE SURROUNDING REGION

This coup shows a regression to 1980’s military interventionalism and for Latin America in general gives stronger proof of the fact that it is so difficult for the region to accept that democracy cannot function without respecting the legal system within the country and its institutionality, two elements which can and should only be modified within the rules stated. This fact is violated equally by both the ones who try to abuse the system to gain power and the ones who carry out the coup.

In conclusion we can rightly state that Honduras is living under an ilegal government which succeeded a leader who tried to become reelected through an unauthorized path. For the sake of democracy it is fundamental that the newly instated government is not accepted by the international community and hopefully the people of Honduras will not be victims of power play.

Latin America must quickly realize that it is necessary to respect the rules of the game and in this way achieve true democracy: the only thing which can avoid power abuse and violent measures.