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Close to the edge… Honduras

27 June 2009

Update 28-July (Sunday):  Reports out of Tegucigalpa are that the President has been arrested by military troops… which sounds like a coup to me.

There may or may not be a referendum in Honduras this weekend.  Then again, there may or may not be a coup d’etat, too.  It’s hard to tell, and everyone outside Honduras is more than a little confused by the situation.

The outgoing president, Jose Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, has called for a non-binding referendum on calling for a constitutional convention.  Fears that a new constitution would allow for re-election of the president (Zelaya’s term ends in January 2010) have led to extreme oppositon.

The Honduran Supreme Court ruled that the referendum was illegal, and the Army — which normally oversees voting in that country — has refused presidental orders to ignore the court and distribute ballots.  Last Wednesday, Zelaya sacked Army chief Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, who disobeyed the President. Zeleya supporters have seized the ballots, and the Army has taken to the streets to prevent the referendum.

Short of a military coup, Congress may take action.  Honduras, like several Latin American countries, allows for Congress to vote on the president’s mental fitness to hold office.  Zelaya wouldn’t be the first Latin President whose congress decided he was loco.

Nearly all English-language reports have claimed the point of the referendum was to extend Zelaya’s tenure in office, but — given that the referendum is simply a non-binding resolution designed to nudge the Honduran Congress into taking up the issue, and any new constitution wouldn’t be finished before next January — these reports make no sense. The only two sources to have the story right that I’ve seen are Al Jazeera’s English language service and the Caracas-based Latin American Herald-Tribune.   While Zelaya is considered an ally of Hugo Chavez and part of the “axis of Evo”, it should be noted that the Latin American Herald-Tribune is generally considered a “conservative” publication, and is considered “anti-Chavista”.

Other than providing immigrants and as a transit point for Colombian cocaine, Honduras is not particularly important to the United States.  Although largely spared the worst of the civil wars of the 1980s, Honduras “hosted” a large U.S. military presence — it was the base for Oliver North’s “Contra” operations, and was used for training rebel Nicaraguan units.    Although the EXISTING Honduran Constitution forbids permanent foreign troops on Honduran soil, Sota Cana Air Base has been operational since 1981,  used by the United States Air Force.

Zelaya,  whose background is as a land-owner and business-man, came to office on a “law-and-order” platform, and has succeeded in doubling the number of police officers, which cracking down on organzied crime, specifically the Mara Salvatruca gangs that infest Central America.  However, crime has increased during his tenure, and his foreign policy has cost him support among the “traditional elites” who favor better relations with the United States.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 June 2009 5:25 am

    Thanks for this. I was unaware of the crisis which was brewing in Honduras until Cuba’s Fidel Castro put out a short not about it on Friday. You’ve added to my understanding of this, and I’m grateful.

    Here’s what Fidel Castro had to say:

    Reflections by Comrade Fidel

    A gesture that will never be forgotten

    I made a stop in the drafting of a material about a historical episode on which I have been working for two weeks now to express my solidarity with the constitutional president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya.

    I was impressed when I saw him on Telesur, haranguing the Honduran people. He was energetically denouncing a gross reactionary refusal aimed at preventing an important popular consultation. That is the “democracy” that imperialism defends. Zelaya has not infringed the law in any way; neither did he resort to the use of force. He is the President and the General Commander of the Armed Forces of Honduras. The situation that might result from whatever occurs in that country will be a test for the OAS and the current US administration.

    An ALBA meeting took place yesterday in Maracay, the Venezuelan state of Aragua. The Latin American and Caribbean leaders who spoke yesterday at such meeting excelled in their eloquence as much as in their dignity.

    Today I was listening to the solid arguments expressed by President Hugo Chávez when he denounced the attempted coup through the TV channel Venezolana de Televisión.

    We do not know what will happen tonight or tomorrow in Honduras, but the courageous behaviour adopted by Zelaya will go down in history.

    His words made us remember the speech given by President Salvador Allende while several fighter planes were bombing the Presidential Palace, where he died heroically on September 11, 1973. This time we saw another Latin American President entering an air base, accompanied by his people, to claim for the popular consultation ballots that had been spuriously confiscated.

    That is how a President and a General Commander behaves!

    The Honduran people will never forget that gesture!

    Fidel Castro Ruz
    June 25, 2009
    8:15 p.m.


  1. Honduras News | Human Trend
  2. Coup in Honduras « The Mex Files

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