Manuel Zelaya, a Hugo Chavez wannabe, was elected president of Honduras
in November, 2005. He wanted to serve a second term. But there was a
difficulty. Under the constitution of Honduras, the president may serve
only a single four year term.
Mr. Zelaya proposed to circumvent that difficulty by holding a popular
referendum on whether he should be allowed to run for a second term.
But there was a difficulty with that, too. The constitution of Honduras
provides only one way for the constitution to be amended. That is by a
two-thirds vote of all the members of the national congress in two
consecutive regular annual sessions.
The supreme court of Honduras ruled the referendum was unconstitutional,
and the national congress passed a law forbidding referenda within 180
days of a national election. (Honduras' next is this November.) But
Mr. Zelaya pressed on. When the army acting on an order from the
supreme court refused to distribute ballots for the referendum (which
had been printed in Venezuela), the president fired its chief of staff.
The supreme court unanimously declared the firing illegal, and Honduras'
attorney general asked congress to oust the president.
Push came to shove on Sunday (6/18). The army, acting on a warrant
issued by the supreme court, arrested Mr. Zelaya and sent him into exile
(in his pajamas, to Costa Rica). This was described as a "coup" by the
news media, and was denounced by, among others, Hugo Chavez, who
threatened military action to restore Mr. Zelaya to power, and the Obama
It's the administration's view the coup was an "illegal and illegitimate
act that cannot stand," officials, briefing on background, told
journalists. Mr. Zelaya must be returned to power, they said.
"Knowing trouble was brewing in Honduras over several weeks, the Obama
administration warned power players there, including the armed forces,
that the United States and other nations in the Americas would not
support or abide a coup," the AP quoted "officials" as saying. "They
said Honduran military leaders stopped taking their calls."
It seems more accurate to say that Mr. Zelaya, with Venezuelan help, was
trying to execute a coup against the Honduran constitution than to
accuse the military which was acting on orders from the supreme court
and with the support of the legislature (124 of 128 deputies in the
unicameral congress endorsed Mr. Zelaya's removal Sunday afternoon)
of having done so.
Daniel Lopez Carballo, a retired Honduran general, told CNN that if the
military hadn't acted, Mr. Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator, would have
been running Honduras by proxy.
Typically in a coup, the military seizes control of the government. But
the military quickly surrendered power to an acting president from
Mr. Zelaya's own party chosen by the national congress.
The streets of Tegucigulpa were quiet after Mr. Zelaya's removal,
perhaps because not many Hondurans like him. In a Mitofsky poll taken
in April, Mr. Zelaya had an approval rating of 25 percent, the lowest of
18 regional leaders.
So Mr. Obama is intervening on the wrong side. But if you take him at
his word (a dangerous thing to do), the wonder is that he is intervening
at all. This is the guy, you'll remember, who was so concerned about
being perceived as "meddling" in Iran's internal affairs that he, alone
among Western leaders, refused to denounce the blatantly stolen election
in Iran, or to express support for those who protested the theft.
Mr. Obama is now doing with regard to Honduras what he has refused to do
with regard to Iran: organizing an international coalition to pressure
the country to reverse course. Why threaten Honduras, but not Iran?
Honduras is no threat to us. Iran is. A large majority in Iran oppose
the government's brutality. Apparently, a large majority in Honduras
support what the army has done.
There is a disturbing consistency to Mr. Obama's apparent inconsistency
on Honduras and Iran. In both the case where he has intervened, and in
the case where he hasn't, he has taken the side of anti-American
dictators (in Mr. Zelaya's case, a wannabe dictator) over the vast
majority of their people.
"We're getting a close look at Obama's priorities, and they are
hideously out of step with democracy and the rule of law," said Web
logger Ed Morrissey.