When we heard that the Honduran military took over power in Honduras by taking President Zelaya to Costa Rica, the United States joined many countries in criticizing what happened. It seemed that the past methods of military juntas crushing democracies were rearing it's ugly head again.
However, there is more to this story than it seems. As in every story, let's go back to the beginning shall we?
In 2006, President Zelaya won a close presidential election. Similar to all Presidents, he did not get along with members of Congress or even members of his own party. Fine. Representative Democracy can be slow and messy, but it is still inhertantly good.
The Honduran Constitution allows the President to serve one four year term, no re-election. In 2010, President Zelaya's time would me up. So, around six months ago, he proposed a Referendum regarding term limits to the Constitution. He had ballots printed up with the help of his political ally, Venzuelan President Hugo Chavez and the ballots were flown in. Congress disagreed. This issue went all the way the the Honduran Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided that only Congress has the right to propose any changes to the Constitution. After the Supreme Court ruled against Zelaya, his supporters attempted to break into the military base where the ballots where were being stored while the issue was in the courts.
This brings up an important question. What are democratic forces to do when Democracy itself is under attack? President Zelaya made it very clear that he was going to proceed with his referendum. He was attacking the Separation of Powers, the Constitution and increasing the powers of the Executive Branch by ignoring Congress and the Supreme Court. What are democratic forces to do? Go to court? Tried that. Hope for a "angrily worded statement" from the United Nations or the Organization of American States?
Given this reality, this prompted the Honduran Military to come out of their barracks for the first time in eighteen years and fly Zelaya to Costa Rica. Is the Military in charge? No. Congress, not the military swore in Roberto MIcheletti as President. Per the Constitution, he was next in succession. Has the 2010 Presidential election been suspended or banned? No. Was President Zelaya imprisoned or shot? No, he was removed. Distastefull as it seems, the military has saved Democracy in Honduras, at least for now.
Since the Obama Administration has declared that it will impose economic sanctions on Honduras, this will cripple it's economy. If Zelaya is allowed back and if he is allowed to trample the Constitution under the lie of doing it for "The People," seven million Hondurans will join the twenty eight million Venezuelans in a slow march towards Dictatorship. Despite the slogans, Venezuela enjoys one man despotic rule where the trappings of democracy exist but in reality are only there for show.
The immense power of the Obama Administration can support Democracy by not imposing sanctions on Honduras. Maybe Zelaya might be allowed to return but under no circumstances be allowed to change the Constitution. If he does, economic sanctions should be imposed. The United States should be supporting Democracy in Latin America, not opposing it.
As the historian and moralist Lord Acton said in the 1800's - "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."
It doesn't get more basic than that.....