Fixing Honduras: Analysis

Is Honduras ready for a return to the community of nations? It has been almost two years since the forced removal of then-President Manuel Zelaya at the hands of the Honduran military. On June 1, the Organization of American States said yes, when it lifted the suspension of Honduras from the organization by a vote of 32 countries in favor and one against. Still, the question on everyone’s mind remains: Was there a coup d’état in 2009? Perhaps the better question to ask is: How can similar instability be avoided in the future in Honduras and elsewhere in the region?

Immediately after Zelaya’s removal, the United States, the United Nations and the OAS denounced the ouster as illegitimate and demanded Zelaya’s restoration, which triggered restrictions on foreign aid and trade. So this situation has had real-world effects on ordinary Hondurans.

Since then, the Obama administration has subtly backed away from its initial stance of absolute condemnation. Several months after Zelaya’s ouster, the State Department noted that it “recognized the complicated nature” of events leading to Zelaya’s removal. The following year, the U.S. resumed aid to Honduras, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the OAS to readmit Honduras into the organization, citing its “free and fair” election of President Porfirio Lobo in November 2009 and its establishment of a truth commission. This year, Clinton upped the ante by voicing “strong support” for Lobo and emphasizing the U.S. “commitment” to having Honduras readmitted to the OAS.

The truth commission asked us — a team of U.S. specialists in comparative constitutional law — to evaluate what had happened from a legal perspective and to propose fixes. What we found was a good deal more complex than the simple story of a coup or a justified removal. In our judgment, both Zelaya and those who removed him acted unconstitutionally.

To begin with, Zelaya violated Honduran law when he tried to hold a referendum asking voters whether they wanted to call a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. His foes claimed the goal was to extend his stay in office. The constitution, aiming to avoid dictatorship, restricts the president to a single term. Zelaya threatened the integrity of the constitutional order by ignoring numerous court orders that he desist from holding the vote, and by ordering the military rather than the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to supervise the process.

Continue LA Times article on Fixing Honduras here.

One Response to "Fixing Honduras: Analysis"

  1. ron ladd  June 8, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Printing articles written by college law professors in the US telling Honduras how we should change our constitution to prevent political unrest is a waste of computer space. When our government took action to protect the population from a criminal, the US State Department listened to CNN and condemned it. They have spent two years trying to undo the harm they caused us by their irresponsible knee jerk reaction. They were wrong. They know it but do not have the integrity to simply admit it. Having law professors who have never lived among us tell us what to do is not helping. Maybe those law professors should advise the US government how to guide their country out of bankruptcy. They are bankrupt, they just do not admit it. They were wrong to interfere with Honduras, they just will not admit it.

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