If It Smells Like a Coup ...
The military raided the president's home, forcibly put him on an airplane and sent him out of the country, yet we are told that what happened in Honduras June 28 was not a coup d'etat.
Of course, "if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck," and Honduras doesn't pass the duck test.
President Manuel Zelaya's deportation may have been ordered by the courts and supported by the Congress of that Central American nation. It may have been well-deserved for a president who constantly defied the other two branches of the Honduran government. It may have been a well-intended effort to save democracy in Honduras from another leftist president who wants to become a dictator. Heck, it even may have had the support of the majority of the Honduran people.
But it was definitely a coup d'etat! What else would you call such a sudden, unconventional and unconstitutional deposition of a legitimate government?
Unfortunately, the coup had the effect of turning a law-breaking president into a victim and — even worse — a hero. This is a coup that backfired.
Granted, it may not have been the classic coup, in which the military takes control of the government and bans elections and the coup leader turns into a dictator. Honduras is now ruled by a civilian interim president, and free presidential elections still are planned for November.
But the way they went about removing Zelaya from power, the way they deported the democratically elected president without even a hearing in which he could defend himself, they turned a perfectly impeachable crook into an "overthrown president" and an undeserving celebrity. And they forced even Zelaya's potential critics to defend him.
World leaders, starting with President Barack Obama, had no choice but to call the "coup" by its proper name and to demand respect for democracy. "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras, the democratically elected president there," Obama said.
In a Moscow speech, Obama noted that "we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not."
Amazingly, leaders of the Free World were lining up to support a president who clearly had abused his constitutional power and who, just a few days earlier, had been on the verge of a justified impeachment.
Even worse, the cynical Latin American leftist presidents, known for their totalitarian ambitions, were given an opportunity to come off as champions of democracy.
Curiously, these are the same leftist leaders who clearly do not "respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders," the same leaders who hypocritically claim that the whole world should butt out of Cuba because, although the Castro brothers have not held elections in 50 years, we should respect the Cuban people's alleged right to self-determination. As long as the dictator is a leftist, they see no problems.
Let's be clear: The reason Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Raul Castro, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales are so upset about what has happened in Honduras is they were getting ready to add a new comrade, Zelaya, to their Latin American axis of evil.
Although Zelaya was considered a right-of-center moderate when he was elected in 2005, he sold his soul to the left, declared himself a socialist in 2007, and set out to criticize U.S. policies in the region and to find ways to circumvent the rule of law to impose another Latin American populist dictatorship.
The reason Zelaya repeatedly was sanctioned by Honduran legislators, prosecutors and courts was he was following the Chavez playbook on calling referendums to rewrite the constitution and keep himself in power indefinitely. He couldn't get away with it because the Congress wouldn't support him and the courts kept telling him that such a referendum is unconstitutional, but he kept trying.
When the military refused to follow Zelaya's directive to defy a court order and organize a referendum, he fired the commander of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vasquez. And when the Supreme Court reinstated Vasquez and found that his removal had been illegal, it became clear that Zelaya deserved to be impeached for repeatedly and defiantly abusing his authority.
A Supreme Court judge ordered the president's detention June 26. The logical thing would have been to prosecute him. Yet two days later, a hasty decision to expel Zelaya from the country turned a perfectly legitimate procedure to remove a president into a sham.
Now the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti is fighting pro-Zelaya demonstrators on the streets and blocking the airports to prevent Zelaya from re-entering the country. And if Zelaya manages to step on Honduran soil, they are pledging to do what they should have done in the first place: arrest him and try him for treason and abuse of authority.
Yet now that they have turned Zelaya into a celebrity victim and a phony symbol of the so-called struggle to save democracy in Honduras, prosecuting this law-breaking president may be harder to accomplish.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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