Thursday, July 2, 2009

Honduras: Coup d’état? No.

Virtually the entire world is condemning the “illegal coup” in Honduras. But this was not an illegal coup. To the contrary, what happened in Honduras was the legal removal from office of a president who was attempting to subvert the country’s constitution in direct violation of the orders of the Supreme Court. It was in fact, a triumph for the rule of law.

Moreover, this event highlights the continuing failures of Obama diplomacy, and it gives us the final piece we need to understand our new foreign policy. . . the Barack Doctrine.

Honduras The Country

Honduras, a banana and coffee exporting country of 7.5 million, has been a democratic republic since 1979. Its current constitution went into effect in 1982.

The Honduran government is broken into three parts: an executive, the judiciary, and a unicameral legislature. Constitutionally, each of these branches is independent, though historically the executive has dominated the other two.

The Honduran Supreme Court has fourteen constitutional duties. These include the power to declare laws unconstitutional and the power to try high-ranking government officials, including the president, when the National Congress declares that there are ground for impeachment.

Zelaya Becomes President

Recently deposed President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales first became active in the Liberal Party of Honduras in the 1980s. He served three terms in Congress, during which time he advocated decentralizing the government and giving more power to communities.

In 2005, Zelaya (left) ran for president. His campaign focused on a populist platform of “citizen power,” with promises to fight corruption, increase transparency in government, combat narco-trafficing, maintain economic stability, and reduce poverty. During the campaign, he often attacked the rich, despite being wealthy himself. He was elected on November 27, 2005, with less than a 4% margin of victory, the smallest margin ever in a Honduran election. His Liberal Party won 62 of the 128 congressional seats.

The Honduran president may serve only one four-year term. The constitution explicitly prohibits any attempts to amend this term limit. Thus, his term must end in November 2009.

Why He Became Unpopular

Zelaya’s government struggled from the beginning. He doubled the minimum wage, but businesses refused to pay it. Violence surged in the country by 25%, making Honduras one of Latin America’s deadliest countries. He also managed no appreciable reduction in poverty.

Zelaya’s government also has been dogged by allegations of corruption. Several officials are accused of accepting kickbacks. In 2007, Zelaya refused to submit a budget to the Congress, thereby eliminating all transparency with regard to the budget. This fueled allegations that his allies were stealing from the treasury.

In February of this year, the U.S. State Department, declared that “official corruption continues to be an impediment to effective law enforcement and there are press reports of drug trafficking and associated criminal activity among current and former government and military officials.”

In the last two days, foreign minister Enrique Ortez directly accused Zelaya’s government of involvement in the drug trade: “Every night, three or four Venezuelan-registered planes land without the permission of appropriate authorities and bring thousands of pounds . . . and packages of money that are the fruit of drug trafficking. . . We have proof of all of this. Neighboring governments have it. The DEA has it.” The DEA has refused to confirm or deny the allegations.

Zelaya’s Hard Left Turn

After being elected, Zelaya sought financial assistance from the United States. When his request was refused, he turned to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who provided subsidized fuel and $300 million in aid.

Zelaya then steered Honduras into Petrocarbide, Chavez’s oil subsidy scheme, and the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas -- a Chavez-led trade bloc meant to counter-balance American influence -- even though Honduras had signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2004 and even though the United States is Honduras’ largest trading partner.

When the media criticized his moves, Zelaya accused them of doing so for the sake of economic gain and he ordered all radio and television stations to broadcast each of his daily speeches.

His government also declared that it had a right to monitor phone conversations, though it claimed to stop this practice after a month of public outcry.

All of this even turned his own party against him. Roberto Micheletti, the Head of Congress and a member of Zelaya’s own Liberal Party, became his biggest critic.

The “Coup”

With his term nearing its end, Zelaya decided to hold a referendum on amending the constitution to let him stay in office. This was identical to the process used by the quasi-dictators in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador, to gut their own constitutions.

To make this happen, Zelaya’s people went around the country getting signatures on a “citizen’s power survey,” upon which voters would indicate that they wanted to amend the constitution. Many of these were gathered by civil servants, who were told to bring in a quota of “voluntarily” signed requests or lose their jobs. Signers were told that if they did not sign the survey, they would be denied health care or needed medicine.

With the survey complete, Zelaya announced his intention to hold a referendum. However, Honduran law provides that only the congress can call for a national referendum. Thus, the Supreme Court struck down Zelaya’s plan as illegal.

Disregarding the Supreme Court, Zelaya asked Venezuela’s Chavez to provide the ballots, which he did. In response, the attorney general declared that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying out the referendum. Regardless, Zelaya ordered General Romeo Vasquez, head of the country’s armed forces, to distribute the ballots. The general refused and Zelaya fired him, along with the secretary of defense.

The Supreme Court immediately ruled this illegal and ordered the General reinstated. Zelaya refused. Choosing instead to gather his supporters, lead a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots were stored, and tell his supporters to distribute them.

The following morning, Zelaya was arrested by the army, on the orders of the Supreme Court, and sent into exile in Costa Rica. In accordance with the constitution, Roberto Micheletti (right) was then named the acting president.

Two days later, before the United Nations, Zelaya stated that he would not hold the referendum, if he were allowed to return, and that he would not remain beyond his first term, even if offered the chance. Micheletti, however, states that Zelaya will be arrested if he attempts to return.

Triumph Of The Rule Of Law

So was this a coup or was Zelaya impeached in accordance with the rule of law?

The army arrested him. But it did so under the Supreme Court’s order. The Supreme Court has the right to impeach the president when the National Congress declares that there are ground for impeachment.

In this instance, the grounds for impeachment were Zelaya’s violation of the constitution. Not only did he illegally attempt to amend the constitution, but he did so in direct violation of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of his actions. This violates his oath to defend the constitution.

Moreover, he gave the army an illegal order and then fired General Vasquez when he refused to carry out that order. He compounded this by refusing to reinstate General Vasquez in defiance of a second Supreme Court order.

Thus, the Supreme Court had the right to impeach Zelaya and it certainly had grounds to order him impeached.

If there is a legal infirmity here, it is that the Congress did not refer the impeachment to the Court. However, the Congress did adopt the Court’s action after the fact. Thus, while the form may not have been accurately carried out, the substance of the law certainly was. Also, there is no reason the procedures could not be repeated now if needed.

Further, the current government has strictly followed the constitution since the arrest. The Congress met in emergency session and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in by law. It also affirmed that presidential elections set for November will go forward.

Thus, the “coup” was in fact, done in defense of the rule of law and substantively followed the rule of law -- an opinion shared by Dan Taylor at the Huffington Post. Therefore, it is incorrect to call this action “illegal,” as Obama had done.

The World Reacts Ignorantly

At this point, only Israel and Taiwan have recognized the new government. The United Nations has denounced the coup, the Organization of American States has given Honduras 72 hours to reinstate Zelaya or be kicked out of the OAS, the World Bank has cut off financial support, and Hugo Chavez has threatened an invasion to stop this “yanqui coup.”

(** update ** Israel now denies that it has recognized the new government.)

Obama’s Position

Supposed-constitutional scholar Obama immediately described the coup as “not legal” and declared that the United States believes that Zelaya “remains the president of Honduras.” He declared his reasoning as follows: “It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections.” Of course, as you saw above, this reasoning is backwards -- ousting Zelaya was the democratic process.

To apply pressure, Obama has threatened to cut off $215 million in aid and has cancelled joint military exercises. Though it is not clear what Obama would do if Chavez does invade Honduras, as the United States is bound by treaty to defend “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Honduras.”

The Barack Doctrine

Interestingly, Obama had a chance to solve this crisis before it happened. Indeed, the administration has confirmed that they were in discussions with both parties for several days trying to prevent this. Yet, clearly, his efforts met with no success. Once again, Obama's talk-centric foreign policy is shown to be threadbare. One wonders why the supposedly influential Obama could not convince Zelaya even to delay his illegal actions to avert this crisis?

And since Zelaya is the instigator, why does Obama now blame the legal government that acted in accordance with its responsibilities under the constitution? And why does he mischaracterize what has happened?

During his campaign, President Obama made a big deal of criticizing leaders who are elected democratically but don’t govern democratically. He had a chance here to stand up for those ideals. . . but he didn’t.

Obama speaks of the rule of law, but he didn't defend it here. He speaks of freedom, but as with Iran and China, he backs the tyrant. Why?

This is the Barack Doctrine. I will outline this further next week, but suffice it to say right now that Obama wants no disruptions in foreign policy. Change is fine, so long as it is not disruptive. If you want to know how Obama will respond to a future crisis, know that (1) he will always favor the status quo and (2) he will always oppose the party that causes an issue to become of international interest. This is the Barack Doctrine: call it turning a blind eye, call it the “Current World Order” or call it the Doctrine of Hope for No Change.
So much for liberal idealism.

More on this next week. . .


StlDan said...

Andrew, when I first read about this in the WSJ, I was sure we would back the rule of law. It was a no brain-er for me and I was truly surprised at this administration's response. The U.N. and the worlds response surprised me a little. I can only surmise from Obama's response, that he is truly a socialist/fascist, and the rule of law does not apply to him and the Constitution.

AndrewPrice said...

StlDan, I think that things like constitutions are entirely irrelevant to Obama. I think that he sees governing as something to be left the government without those pesky limitations so often contained in constitutions. Hence his love for behind-the-scenes governing through czars.

Thus, it is no surprise to me that he would ignore the rule of law when chosing which side to support.

The UN doesn't surprise me because they are dominated by thugs. Latin America doesn't surprise me either because half of them are leftist dictators and the other half are terrified of their own militaries or of rebel groups.

Obama should have been the voice of reason, but that would have required taking a real stand and would have drained his time and effort, when I think it's become clear that his foreign policy is about "don't let anything happen for the next four years."

Writer X said...

Andrew, thanks for posting this. It's the best summary of what's happening that I've seen so far. It's also the most chilling action thus far from the Obama administration.

Are there any Republican leaders that you know of sounding the horn on this? So far, the leaders in my state are characteristically silent.

BevfromNYC said...

Great article (again)! I have not had a chance to really read beyond the headlines, but I knew when Obama condemned "the coup", there must of been a legitimate reason for the military to run Zelaya off.

At our NY Tea Party yesterday, one of the speakers made a reference to Obama's idea of our Constitution. I found the reference on YouTube [I can post the link, if anyone is interested in hearing the entire interview]

"...The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf..." - quote from 2001 interview on Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ FM.

Obama obviously is working on the this idea - the Honduran Constitution has stated what the Honduran President CAN'T do, but it didn't say he COULDN'T fire anyone who disagrees with him and send his cronies out to force an illegal referendum.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X,

You're welcome. The main criticism I have seen has come from Connie Mack (R-Fla.):

"Manuel Zelaya trampled the Honduran Constitution by pushing for his illegal referendum to allow him to rule indefinitely, and by firing the top military official, General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, when he refused to comply with Zelaya's unconstitutional orders.

The Honduran Supreme Court, attorney general, and the Congress were right to confront Zelaya as he ignored the law and gutted the Honduran Constitution.

The United States and our allies in the region must now stand with the Honduran people to ensure the respect of freedom, the rule of law, and democracy."

I concur.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, Thanks!

Obama's talk about negative rights is the new leftwing take on eliminating the Constitution. They had previously tried the "Constitution as a living document" thing, but that has fallen apart for them. Here is Al Gore in full on lack of brilliance.

“The Constitution is a living, breathing document . . . intended by our founders to be interpreted in light of the constantly evolving experience of the American people.”
-- Al Gore

I can prove Obama wrong with the quotes:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
-- Tenth Amendment

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
-- Ninth Amendment

In other words, if it isn't in there, the Feds can't do it because it belongs to the people.

This is probably worth a longer post some time, when Obama stops spamming us with policy.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

When you see Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro and the U.N. all on the same side of an issue, you can pretty easily conclude that it's the wrong side of the issue. Great article Andrew.

CrispyRice said...

Very good summary, Andrew! Where can I get a Honduran flag to show them solidarity?

I'm just left thinking that Obama needs to be on Zelaya's side to lay some groundwork for when he has Acorn get "millions" of Americans signing petitions to make Obama prez-4-life.

AndrewPrice said...

Pittsburgh Enigma, Thanks! And you are right, you can almost always judge the value of a plan by seeing who supports it. Anything that every petty dictator on the planet likes can't be good.

CrispyRice, you don't want to hoist the Honduran flag or Homeland Security might think you are an extremist. ;-)

Fortunately, I think that before his four years are up, ACORN will probably be pretty happy to see the end of him.

LawHawkSF said...

Andrew: "Citizen Power" sounds a lot like "Community Organizing." That's a scary thought, but it would at least explain Obama's rush to condemn the power-shift in Honduras. It's a pattern the left has used since time immemorial. The slogans always refer to "the people, the citizens, the community" and the government always ends up being run by a dictator. Rumors have already started that First Citizen Obama would like to push for repeal of the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution so he can remain in office indefinitely. Honduras preventing a "President-for-Life" by the rule of law would be a blow to Obama's pretensions. Still,how much can I trust a country with a capital named Tegucigalpa?

BevfromNYC said...

Law, it's not a rumor. Repeal of the 22nd Amendment was introduced in January, 2009. See the link:

I doubt it will go anywhere, but it's there. On the flip side, because even without term limits, no one is guaranteed re-elected.

LawHawkSF said...

Bev: I did know about that, but the citation is much appreciated. I think that was just the first toe-in-the water to see what reaction would be gotten. Obama will never publicly admit that he wants to be a hereditary king instead of an elected representative, so naturally he will use surrogates. I wouldn't be surprised to see it proposed again, along with the perpetual electoral college amendment. The two go naturally together. And then we finally end up with the leftist dream: One man, one vote, one time.

Mike Kriskey said...

I bet Obama can't wait to give Zelaya the ol' fist bump.

If I'm not mistaken, I think similar measures to repeal the 22nd Amendment have been proposed every couple of years for quite some time, by both parties. It's never reached a vote (so far).

Tennessee Jed said...

This the best and most concise account I have read on this topic. It is confirming to me that Zelaya and Obama are both graduates of the same school of radical leftist politics. It is great that you and Hawk do these posts because it doesn't get covered very well in most traditional new outlets.

StanH said...

Good read Andrew! Birds of a feather, fellow traveler’s indeed …Barry, Zelaya, Chavez, Castro, Ortega a gaggle of Marxist. Aren’t we all so proud :(

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Jed. I'm glad you like it.

It is not at all easy to gather this kind of information and present it in a useful manner, but if we're ever going to make good decisions about what is going on in our world, in our country, or in our government, these are the types of details that need to be laid out for people every time an issue arises.

Unfortunately, the modern media rarely takes the time to understand issues anymore before they report on them. And most pundits just spout off uninformed opinions.

We don't accept that. We don't think that helps people. And until the MSM realizes that, and begins to do their job a little better, we will keep typing away into the night.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks StanH. I'm sure it's just coincidence that all of the dictators happen to see this the same way -- yeah, sure. It is much more troubling that we are going along with them.

This is especially troubling after all of Obama's talk about supporting the rule of law and democracy.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Outstanding post, Andrew!

I concur with Tennessee Jed, this is by far the best reporting of what is (and has been) going on in Honduras.

I consider Obama, Chavez, Jose, etc., to be infra-human a-holes. They seek to destroy liberty and replace it with tyranny.

Good for the Honduras military and Supreme Court!
They recognize this cancer of communism for what it is, and God bless 'em, they choose liberty!

I sincerely hope n' pray American citizens also drop Zero like they did Carter, and reclaim their liberty during the next few elections.

We really need to take back our public education and teach the truth about our history, and why liberty is so important.
We must also fight like hell to win the culture war, by proclaiming "we hold these truth's to be self evident."
Folks need to know these truth's that used to be more self evident.
Education and culture is the way to do it.

We need more critical and independent thinkers to serve as politicians. Not to mention principled.

Honduras is a good example of what must be done when our representatives ignore our Constitution and choose to impose by force their own slave mentality on folks.
For sure I would prefer we do that by voting for representatives that actually believe in liberty.

I refuse to be silent when others try to sell slavery by any other name with their "good intentions." Because good intentions don't matter when they pave the way to hell. Hey, if they wanna wear the chains of slavery then fine, but leave us liberty lovin' folks alone!
I'm certain most Americans will still agree. Yeah, I'm an optimist.
We must do all we can to point to Reality and Truth.
This blog does an outstanding job of doing just that.
Thanks guys and gals! :^)

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, Thanks! I'm glad you found it useful.

And I completely share your sentiments. People need to learn what makes our system so special (see our next post in fact), and they need to stand for and protect those things. Freedome requires responsibility, and part of that requires us to know the truth, to speak the truth, and the stand up for what is right.

And let us hope that in the end the Honduras prevail on this one. It would be shameful if we delivered seven million Hondurans into slavery.

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