I have to give major props to Fausta for staying all over the top of this, and to most of her readers for a very lively discussion in the post. For the benefit of those who have been following the likes of The News Organization That Cannot Be Quoted™ instead of the likes of The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady, allow me to give the Cliff’s Notes version:
- Honduras President Mel Zelaya, dismayed to learn that his country’s Constitution precludes him from serving a second term (Article 239), and indeed prohibits any changes to that Article (Article 384), tried to hold a referendum for the purpose of calling a second referendum to be held in November, at the same time as the general election and the Presidential election, to rewrite the Constitution and remove that limitation (despite the National Congress having sole power to create and approve any legal amendments). That referendum was to be held yesterday.
- Prior to that, specifically this past Tuesday, the National Congress passed a law prohibiting referendums within 180 days of a general election.
- Honduras’ Supreme Court declared the referendum illegal, and Honduras’ armed forces, which typically help deliver ballots, refused to deliver ballots.
- Zelaya fired the chief of the armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vásquez, in response, and refused to reinstate him after the Supreme Court unanimously ordered his reinstatement.
- The Supreme Election Tribunal similiarly refused to participate, so the Venezuelan Air Force was brought in to distribute ballots.
- At 6 am Sunday, Honduras’ armed forces, operating with a court order issued by the Supreme Court, under another part of Article 239 of the constitution that specifies that any public officeholder who calls for a change to the one-term limit for President immediately give up the powers of that office and be barred from any future public office for 10 years, removed Zelaya from the country. After an initial stop in Costa Rica, the Venezuelan Air Force delivered him to Nicaragua.
- Among those calling for Honduras to ignore its Constitution and allow Zelaya to complete his Chavista Venezuelan takeover are Venezuelan
Presidentdictator Hugo Chavez, the Organization of American States, the European Union, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
For those that wonder why such a strong one-term limit is in Honduras’ constitution, they’ve had a long history of strongmen who overstayed their welcome. After the last bout of strongmen ended in 1982, they decided, never again.
In a few minutes, Fausta will take up this topic in her Monday-Friday 15 Minutes on Latin America podcast. I highly recommend you listen.
Revisions/extensions (11:22 pm 6/29/2009) - Corrected the number of the article that prohibits any change to Honduras’ constitution that would affect the one-term-only President provision; somehow mistyped.