Cafe Impresso

Honduras, a Comedy of Errors

It had nothing to do with William Shakepeare. It has just happened in Latin America. It isn't a joke, it's a very serious event. It's Latin American politics. The Honduran Supreme Court and Congress, in full, two constitutional powers in the Central American country, had every legal tool at hand to impeach President Manuel Zelaya, who had broken the law by trying to carry out a referendum to gain a reelection. Instead of impeaching him publicly, the Congress deployed troops in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, arrested Zelaya and put him in a plane toward Costa Rica, in pajamas. Half of the world knows that sending troops against a Latin president sounds like a military coup, no matter if it's a coup or not. The other half doesn't know that Zelaya had broken the law. And the two half combined don't know that the Honduran Congress, including Zelaya's Liberal Party, in full, was ready to impeach him. No deaths reported.

What did Zelaya do? He ignored a Honduran law that forbids referendums or any type of plebiscites 180 days before and 180 after general elections. Next general elections in Honduras had been scheduled for November 29, 2009. The Electoral Superior Court issued a statement to remind that Zelaya's referedum was illegal, but the president insisted in carrying it out with public funds and ballots provided by his good friend, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Zelaya ordered the Army to prepare the logistics for the referendum. General Romeo Vasquez, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refused to follow the order after considering it an illegal action. Zelaya fired General Vasquez. Then the Supreme Court immediately reinstated Vasquez in his position and warned Zelaya of the illegal referendum.

Honduras, with a population of 7 million, a poverty rate of 73.4%, and 12 murders a day that have made it an important bridge for drug trafficking to the United States, is now isolated by the international community because of the Honduran Congress' decision to deploy troops and to deport Zelaya.

From Caracas, Chavez is threatening Honduras with a military invasion. Obviously, the U.S. Government, traditionally misinformed of Latin American politics, rushed its support to Zelaya, an outlaw who impovereshed Honduras in the last year by almost 10%.

What alternatives does the new government of Honduras have? In a country where Zelaya has a popularity of 30%, constitutional powers, including a Congress elected by the people, look very strong. However, those powers are very weakened in the international arena. The only choices for the Honduran temporary government, presided over by former Congress leader Roberto Micheletti, from Zelaya's Liberal Party, are: to bring Zelaya back to Honduras after a deal with the ousted president on not to break the law again; to endure isolation until the November elections; or to carry out an international public relations campaign to show evidences of Zelaya's wrongdoings to gain support, after recognizing that deploying troops, arresting and deporting Zelaya was a chain of mistakes. Also, Zelaya may be brought to Honduras, reinstated and then properly impeached. Those who support Zelaya should avoid this. According to the small country's law, the ousted president may face up to 20 years in prison.

Can we imagine Barack Obama or George W. Bush promoting a referendum to gain a third term, against the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congress? Can we imagine the National Guard and the Marines deployed in Washington to inform Obama or Bush that they have been impeached? Or Obama and Bush in a plane toward Canada, in pajamas? It would be a comedy of errors. In Latin America, it's simply Latin politics.

(Hernández Cuéllar is Publisher and Editor in Chief of Contacto Magazine, a bilingual publication he founded on July 1, 1994 in Burbank, California. He has also worked as a news writer for Spain's international news agency EFE in Cuba, Central America and the United States, and Metro Editor of La Opinion of Los Angeles, as well as an instructor of journalism at the University of California Los Angeles, UCLA.)

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