Tension mounts in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa as Honduran president Mel Zelaya defiantly continues his plans to hold an election Sunday to open up the country’s constitution to revision and potentially remove presidential term limits that currently prevent him from remaining in power past his current four-year term. Zelaya’s referendum has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court, and the congress passed a law earlier in the week blocking the illegitimate election from taking place.
Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, General Romeo Vasquez, Thursday, June 25th, after he refused to cooperate in handing over ballot boxes and provide logistical support for Sunday’s election, a role the army traditionally plays. Shortly after, the chiefs of the air force and navy resigned, along with the defense minister, Edmundo Orellana, in opposition to Zelaya. The Supreme Court ordered Zelaya to reinstate Vasquez, stating that he could not be fired for refusing to obey illegal orders, but Zelaya refused.
An estimated 2,000 supporters marched through the streets of Tegucigalpa Thursday with President Zelaya to an army base where the ballot boxes are kept. They were handed over to him without conflict, and he intends to use them to carry out Sunday’s election with the support of the police, who continue to back him.
Zelaya has gained much support for his movement from the poor – mainly farmers and labor leaders who believe his reforms would be to their benefit – but he is on his own amongst those in power. The congress, the Supreme Court, and both major political parties are against him. His own liberal party has already selected a candidate for this November’s election, and has distanced itself from Zelaya and his attempt to reform the constitution. The Attorney General, Luis Alberto Rubi, is urging congress to oust Zelaya from power.
Citizens throughout the country are watching the developments with anticipation, hoping the conflict will be resolved peacefully. Some are more optimistic than others. Two alternative viewpoints are presented below:
“Essentially, we’re on the brink of a complete break-down of our constitution and political structure. The president, Mel Zelaya, will hold an illegal vote on Sunday aimed at dissolving congress and paving the way for his presidency to remain in power indefinitely. Under his new government, Mel has vowed to follow Chavez and Fidel Castro’s model by adopting communist measures such as nationalizing private industry and declaring government ownership of children over the age of three (for indoctrination purposes). Imagine that?….unbelievable.
Although Mel has bought out the opposing political party and the high ranking military leaders, there is some sense of confidence among many Hondurans that his plan will fail, given the radical nature of his ideology which many citizens don’t subscribe to. Nonetheless, there is a deep sense of concern and uncertainty while the country is bracing for Sunday’s outcome.”
Julio Castillo, Adelante board member
“I have the opinion that things are not on the verge of complete breakdown and that our rudimentary checks and balances will prevail.
Already the heads of the armed forces resigned rather than obey the illegal process being proposed by the President. The Minister of Defense, who has been a close traditional ally of the President also resigned due to the illegality of this proposal. We are talking about a respected prominent lawyer, who has held the highest office in the Judiciary and has been within the inner circle of the President. We are a long ways from the end of this situation and it is worth mentioning that the illegal vote on Sunday is to decide if the Honduran people approve adding a ballot box during our November Presidential elections asking people if they are in favor of changing the Constitution. This a Chavista ploy (with cosmetic ¨¨democratic¨¨ camouflage) to grant our current President broad powers and undermine Constitutional term limits, freedom of the press, and the Judiciary. The President tried to manipulate the naming of the new Supreme Court a few months ago and was severely bruised as none of his nominees were selected. In the US people take for granted the separation of the Judiciary, Legislative and the Executive powers but this is the basis for democracy. If we have an independent Judiciary, it is harder for people with power of decision to violate laws. Without the assistance of the armed forces it will be logistically impossible to hold this charade. The President has had to change the name of the process to an opinion poll survey as voting in a ballot box is illegal outside the legal established chronology of the voting process. The highest courts of law, Attorney General, churches and Congress have determined this is an illegal process.
Although the GOH has had an intense media campaign financed by Chavez, our media has been virulent in it s opposition and common people have held massive demonstrations against the President in an orderly manner.
Mel Zelaya is a mercurial personality being manipulated by air conditioned Marxists who ride first class in trans Atlantic flights and ride around in Cadillac motorcades in the name of the campesino. He claimed to be a Civil engineer all his life until a journalist discovered he attended less than 90 days of university classes.”
Jose “Pepe” Herrero, citizen of La Ceiba