Thursday, July 02, 2009

More Analysis/Observations on the Honduran Coup

Greg hits it on the head in his four points about Zelaya, the coup, and issues of constitutionality and legality:

1. According to the constitution, taking Zelaya out of the country was illegal. Period.

2. Zelaya is charged with trying to amend the constitution to allow re-election of the president (which would be illegal), yet no one has ever provided evidence to that effect. It is illegal to amend seven particular parts of the constitution, but the wording of the proposed vote did not mention any of them.I do not care if you are positive he wanted to, as that does not constitute evidence. He said before the coup that he would leave office in 2010. Maybe he was lying, maybe not. But it deserves more investigation before overthrowing him. Ousting a president requires more than just assumptions about intent.

3. At various times, commenters have mentioned Venezuela as intruding (such as with the plebiscite materials) but I have never seen the Supreme Court or Attorney General mention evidence. Until I do, I think Venezuela is irrelevant. That Zelaya liked Hugo Chavez is not relevant to his standing as president. That Chavez says ridiculous things about invasion is not relevant to Zelaya's case either.

4. Zelaya was unpopular (even with his own party) and many people in Honduras are glad he's gone. This is irrelevant to the law. Surprisingly, I have not yet seen anyone make an argument for how a parliamentary system might have mediated the situation better--Honduran political institutions are so weak it might not have mattered.

I couldn't agree more with each of these items. As I said before, I think Zelaya overextended himself, I suspect thinking he'd have more support than he did when he tried to get the paper ballots for the referendum from the air force base and go against the Supreme Court - it wasn't necessarily that he was wrong in deed (and, as Greg points out, the definition of power in the constitution is nebulous at best); rather, he was wrong in the estimation of his limits. It is in this regard that I think you can say Zelaya is somewhat responsible (not "guilty") for what happened. However, the burden of the events rests on the military and the opposition (and those in Zelaya's own party) who supported the way things have played out since Sunday morning. Nothing was legal about this, if Zelaya is guilty of misestimations, the military and opposition are guilty of a blatantly illegal coup, and it shouldn't be too difficult for anybody to discern which of those two offenses is more severe. And given the points Greg makes, it really shouldn't be that hard for anybody to understand why Obama would want to come out against this coup. It's not about "meddling" in Latin America - it's about condemning an injustice committed against a democratically elected leader, something the global community has also vocally condemned.