Update: Political Situation in Honduras

The following analysis of the was prepared by Elena Cryst for the Carter Center.  It is reproduced her with permission.

On Sunday, June 28 2009, a military coup took place in Honduras against president Manuel Zelaya. The armed forces took over the presidential residence, defeating the Presidential Guard, and captured the president. They then put President Zelaya on a military plane bound for San Juan, Costa Rica. The congress quickly appointed Congressional President Roberto Micheletti as the Provisional President of Honduras. The Supreme Court announced that it authorized the coup and ordered the army to remove the president.

President Zelaya was elected in 2005 as part of the center-right Liberal Party. The President draws much of his support from Union groups and rural workers. He later aligned himself with the growing Left-wing coalition in Latin America by joining the Chavez-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (Alba) in 2008. Honduras, which has traditionally been closely tied with the United States and is a member of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), has thus under Zelaya been moving to ally itself more closely with its more leftist neighboring countries. In a public opinion poll collected in 2008 by Latinobarómetro, the President received a 35 percent approval rating. Confidence in the Government in general was 25 percent, and 26 percent of people indicated that they had a lot or some confidence in the Congress. Recent opinion polls have put approval of President Zelaya as low as 30 percent.

Tensions were rising over the past few weeks and months between the executive on one side, and the armed forces, the congress, and the Supreme Court on the other over Zelaya’s intention announced last year to call for a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. President Zelaya proposed a non-binding public consultation for June 28 to approve the inclusion in the November 2009 national elections a question calling for the creation of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. It is speculated that Zelaya would like the Constituent Assembly to include presidential reelection among the constitutional reforms. As it stands, Honduras elects presidents for one non-renewable four-year term, and the current constitution prohibits any change to that provision. President Zelaya’s term was set to end after the November 2009 elections.

The Supreme Court ruled that the popular consultation was illegal. Congress reaffirmed the judicial ruling by approving a law last week that prohibits any popular referenda within 180 days, before or after, of the national elections. President Zelaya then asked the head of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, to support the president in the vote scheduled for Sunday, June 28. When Vásquez refused, Zelaya fired him. The Supreme Court immediately ordered that the President reinstate Vásquez. President Zelaya refused.

On Friday, June 26, the Permanent Council of the Organization of the American States (OAS) held an emergency meeting regarding the impending crisis in Honduras. They resolved to support the democratic constitutional government of Honduras. They called all political and social actors in the country to respect the government with the hopes of avoiding a rupture of the constitutional order and peace in the country. They also decided to organize a Special Commission under Secretary General José Miguel Insulza to visit Honduras to help find a democratic solution to the impending situation.

Before the OAS mission arrived, Zelaya was forcibly removed from the presidential palace by the armed forces the morning of Sunday, June 28. The Congress then voted to name Roberto Micheletti, President of the Congress and member of Zelaya’s Liberal Party, as the new president, in a unanimous vote with 124 of 128 members present, saying that Zelaya had acted unconstitutionally by defying the Supreme Court.

After the Coup on Sunday morning, the OAS Permanent Council held an emergency meeting to draft a resolution on the political situation in Honduras. They adopted a resolution strongly condemning the coup d’Etat, declared it a “constitutional alteration” under the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and demanded the “immediate and unconditional return of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to his constitutional duties.” The resolution instructed Secretary General to attend the previously scheduled meeting of Central America presidents in Nicaragua on June 29, and stated that no governments would recognize the newly-installed government in Honduras. It also condemned the detention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Rodas, and the Mayor of San Pedro Sula, as well as other ministers and associates, and demanded their immediate release. The OAS General Assembly will hold a special session on June 30, to make appropriate decisions in accordance with the Charter of the OAS, international law, and the provisions of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. They will also forward their resolution to the Secretary General of the United Nations.

In the wake of the events Sunday morning, the countries of Latin America have unanimously condemned the coup and noted that they will not recognize Micheletti as president of Honduras. President Obama announced his deep concern and called on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democracy. He affirmed that the United States would only recognize Zelaya as president. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela announced that he would attack Honduras if the military invades the Venezuelan embassy in Tegucigalpa. He has put the Venezuelan armed forces on heightened alert. In the Honduran capital, hundreds of Zelaya supporters have taken to the street, setting up road blockades and burning tires. Micheletti imposed a curfew on the country hours after being sworn in as an attempt to restore order.

In an interview with CNN en Español, acting president Micheletti said that the military was trying to enforce a decision from the Supreme Court, and that President Zelaya didn’t have respect for the democratic process. He invited other countries to come investigate the coup in Honduras, claiming that the new government is a civil government with a congressional and judicial mandate. Meanwhile, in a public address, Zelaya called Micheletti “a pathetic, second-class congressman who got that job because of me, because I gave you space within my political current.”

SOURCES

AFP, 26 June 2009

Agencias/Clave Digital, 28 June 2009

Al Jazeera, 26 June 2009

Associated Press, 26 June 2009

BBC, 29 June 2009

Guardian, 29 June 2009

Hondudiario, 28 June 2009

The Independent, 29 June 2009

El Libertador, 29 June 2009

Nacion, 29 June 2009

The New York Times, 29 June 2009

OAS, 26-29 June 2009

La Republica, 29 June 2009

The Washington Post, 28 June 2009

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