Honduras braces itself for ousted president’s return today.

Political cartoon taken from the newspaper Diario La Prensa of 7/2/09. It depicts Venezuelen president Hugo Chavez controlling a robotic Mel Zelaya in his campaign to pass an illegal referendum.

Political cartoon taken from the newspaper Diario La Prensa of 7/2/09. It depicts Venezuelen president Hugo Chavez controlling a robotic Mel Zelaya in his campaign to pass an illegal referendum.

In a midnight meeting held in Washington D.C. on Saturday July 4th, the Organization of American States voted unanimously to suspend Honduras from the Organization.  This development came as no surprise after a visit from the OAS Secretary, Jose Miguel Insulza, to Honduras on Friday, with the purpose of demanding the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, failed to produce the desired result.   The current Honduran administration attempted to resign from the Organization Saturday morning, but was ignored because the OAS does not recognize the government of interim president Roberto Micheletti as legitimate.

Country after country lambasted Honduras for the infringement to democracy last Sunday’s overthrow of Zelaya represents to them.  However, the hypocrisy was blatant as representatives from such countries as Bolivia and Ecuador – whose current presidents used similar referenda to that which Zelaya was attempting to orchestrate to extend their own term limits, and Venezuela – whose own president Hugo Chavez began his political career with a failed military coup led by himself in 1992, condemned Honduras for its actions.  Furthermore, in an assembly of the OAS hosted by Zelaya last month in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the Organization voted to readmit Cuba – where a democratic election has not taken place in half a century and the current president, Raul Castro, was appointed to the presidency by his brother Fidel when he began to suffer from health problems in 2006.

Despite the recommendations of numerous diplomats present at the OAS meeting as well as that of world-renowned Honduran Cardinal, Oscar Andres Rodriguez, to suspend plans to return to Honduras until a diplomatic solution could be found, Zelaya announced shortly after the meeting that he would go ahead with his plans to return Sunday afternoon, July 5th.  Earlier Saturday morning, in a national television and radio address, Cardinal Rodriguez implored Zelaya not to return to Honduras at this time in order to prevent a “bloodbath.”

During the week since he was ousted from power, thousands of citizens have demonstrated for and against his reinstatement to the presidency.  However, while some of these demonstrations were heated, none resulted in serious injury or loss of life.  Many believe that this delicate peace will be impossible to maintain once Zelaya returns to the country.

Zelaya’s egocentric decision to return to Honduras Sunday despite the threat it poses to a nation desperately clinging to a fragile peace is consistent with his previous actions as president that brought the country to its current state of affairs.  The interim Honduran government remains firm in its promise to arrest Zelaya the moment he sets foot in the country.  He is accused of a variety of crimes including treason, abuse of power, misuse of government funds, and involvement in drug trafficking.  His most recent offense came to light Saturday, July 4th when he was reported to have spent an astounding $80,000 in public funds using a state credit card in the five days between Sunday June 28th when he was removed from power and Thursday July 2nd when the card was cancelled.  The charges, made in Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and the United States, included luxurious hotels and rental cars, meals, and designer suits[1].

The Honduran armed forces, headed by General Romeo Vasquez, took the blame for having removed Zelaya from the country after following an order from the Supreme Court to capture him early Sunday morning, June 28th.  They made the spur-of-the-moment decision, reportedly, to prevent a bloody confrontation with Zelaya supporters.  Honduran law allows for such an “estado de necesidad” (state of necessity) to be made by the military when they believe it is in the nation’s best interest.  A similar decision was made on Thursday, June 25th when Zelaya, accompanied by a mob of over 1,000 supporters, broke in to a military compound to take possession of the ballot boxes and illegal referendum ballots the military had been ordered by the Supreme Court to protect.  They did not intervene for fear of a potentially deadly encounter.

The Supreme Court has justified its emergency decision to oust Zelaya from power based on evidence that he planned to dissolve the Court and Congress on Monday June 29th with an official decree that he already had printed and ready to distribute following Sunday’s referendum vote.  Zelaya apparently planned to re-write Honduras’ constitution to his own benefit, including removing the current one-term limit imposed on the presidency.

By Sophia Anderson


[1] Diario La Prensa. “Manuel Zelaya gasto L. 1.5 millones en cinco dias.” 4/7/09. http://www.laprensa.hn.

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