Library of Congress Report Finds No Coup in Honduras, Zelaya Returns

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[H/t Neo-Republica for this image and image below]

Mary Anastasia O’Grady (WSJ) has uncovered some very important information on the so-called coup in Honduras.  She notes, “a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts”. The report, written by CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez claims:

Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system.

I have been trying to find a copy of the report online this morning but am unable to locate it. As soon as I find it I will post a link.

Meanwhile, Zelaya has returned to Honduras with the assistance of Brazilian president Lula de Silva. This is via Voice of America:

Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has returned to his country’s capital, Tegucigalpa, and taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy to avoid arrest.

In a television interview Monday, Mr. Zelaya said he had returned to Honduras to reclaim his presidency in accordance with the will of the people. He called for for a national dialogue.

Initial reports that Mr. Zelaya had returned were unclear about his exact location. Crowds of supporters rallied outside the United Nations building in Tegucigalpa amid reports that he was inside.

A spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Ian Kelly, said the U.S. reiterates its “almost daily” call for supporters of both Mr. Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could provoke violence.

Kelly added the U.S. still considers Mr. Zeyala Honduras’s democratically elected and constitutional leader.

Jose De Cordoba (WSJ) reports:

A few thousand Zelaya supporters surrounded the embassy in Tegucigalpa, raising fears of violence between his backers and the interim government of President Roberto Micheletti. Mr. Micheletti’s government had vowed to arrest Mr. Zelaya if he returned.

Some of the demonstrators said they would march to the presidential palace on Tuesday to throw out Mr. Micheletti’s government and install Mr. Zelaya. Mr. Micheletti’s government had set a Monday curfew from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m., and later extended the curfew through Tuesday evening.

In a television address, Mr. Micheletti, flanked by his cabinet and Gen. Romeo Vasquez, the Honduran army’s chief of staff, said the Brazilian government should turn over Mr. Zelaya to Honduran authorities so he can face legal charges. Mr. Micheletti said Mr. Zelaya’s “irregular” return didn’t change anything, as Mr. Zelaya had been removed from power following a Supreme Court order.

In New York, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin told reporters he hoped that Mr. Zelaya’s return to Honduras would open a new stage in the so-far failed negotiations…

Close ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said Mr. Zelaya told him he traveled with four companions. Mr. Chávez hailed Mr. Zelaya’s return and said his country stood ready to help him return to power.

honduras_zelaya_suppoters_palos

Also in WSJ:

Mr. Zelaya was deposed and deported this summer after he agitated street protests to support a rewrite of the Honduran constitution so he could serve a second term. The constitution strictly prohibits a change in the term-limits provision. On multiple occasions he was warned to desist, and on June 28 the Supreme Court ordered his arrest.

Every major Honduran institution supported the move, even members in Congress of his own political party, the Catholic Church and the country’s human rights ombudsman. To avoid violence the Honduran military escorted Mr. Zelaya out of the country. In other words, his removal from office was legal and constitutional, though his ejection from the country gave the false appearance of an old-fashioned Latin American coup.

The U.S. has since come down solidly on the side of—Mr. Zelaya. While it has supported negotiations and called for calm, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both insisted that Honduras must ignore Mr. Zelaya’s transgressions and their own legal processes and restore him as president. The U.S. has gone so far as to cut off aid, threaten Honduran assets in the U.S. and pull visas to enter the U.S. from the independent judiciary. The U.S. has even threatened not to recognize presidential elections previously scheduled for November unless Mr. Zelaya is first brought back to power—even though he couldn’t run again.

This remarkable diplomatic pressure against a small Central American ally has only reinforced Mr. Zelaya’s refusal to compromise short of a return to the presidency, with all of the instability and potential for violence that could involve. It also probably encouraged him to gamble on returning to Honduras on Monday, figuring even that provocation won’t endanger U.S. support. And so far it hasn’t.

Now that he is back, Mr. Zelaya and his allies aren’t calling for calm. His supporters have flocked to Brazil’s embassy with cinder blocks, sticks and Molotov cocktails. “The fatherland, restitution or death,” he shouted to demonstrators outside the embassy. In anticipation of trouble and with concern for public safety, President Roberto Micheletti announced a curfew. But when police tried to enforce the curfew, the zelayistas resisted and there is now a Honduran standoff.

On Monday Mr. Zelaya said he owed his return and political survival to “the support of the international community.” He’s getting support from Nicaragua’s Sandinista President Daniel Ortega, the former guerrilla group FMLN in El Salvador, and especially from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. But let’s face it: None of that support would mean very much without the diplomatic and sanctions muscle of the U.S.

This is from J.E. Dyer at Contentions:

Brazil’s support for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is the latest event in a worrying trend. Zelaya has been holed up at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since his secretive return to Honduras on Monday. Brazil is not taking a neutral stance by harboring him. Brazil is among the majority of Latin American nations that have insisted on Zelaya’s reinstatement, but it is significant that Brasilia’s embassy is hosting the ousted president, rather than, say, the embassy of Costa Rica, whose President Arias acted as mediator in talks this summer…

It should not surprise us to learn that Lula da Silva is facing the same decision that confronts all modern Latin American presidents: the end of his constitutionally permitted tenure in office. He has steadfastly refused to consider amending Brazil’s constitution so he can seek another term. But he is a popular president, his handpicked successor has been battling cancer, and Brazilian sentiment is 50-50 on whether he should be allowed another term. Like Uribe of Colombia, Lula da Silva is popular enough to obtain the approval of the people for this course—making them both unlike Zelaya.

Lastly, here is former Honduran Foreign Minister and Supreme Court Justice Guillermo Perez-Cadalso on the situation (via C-SPAN2):

4 responses »

  1. I oppose Lula da Silva as much as the next (sane and well-informed) person. But a third-term proposal to favor him, Uribe-style, would go counter the “spirit” – or rather, the intentions – of our Constitution, and would clearly be blocked by the courts. It is clear that our institutions are strong enough so as to impede any caudillo from seizing power. Constitutionalism here is stronger than it’s ever been. Lula is not even “facing a decision” about this, as it’s already clearly “decided” in the Constitution. Therefore, the suggestion JE Dyer makes is bogus.

  2. What really is wrong with third terms in office? Britain has no constitutional limit to how long a president can serve – does that make it an authoritarian state?

    Also, I don’t completely get the logic of Dyer’s point. He says that because Lula does not indulge in the same infantile theatrics of Chavez he can get away with this. Well, yes, Lula does not indulge in the Chavez-style infantile theatrics because he is not a Chavez style thug; he is a deeply serious sensible statesman. And why shouldn’t Brazil have a leadership role in Latin America? It has a huge population and a rapidly developing economy, and is relatively stable. Dyer says “To the extent that Brazil consciously seeks regional leadership, and appears to take a decisive role in the Zelaya problem, the future looks dimmer than ever for reliable constitutionalism in Latin America.” But wouldn’t it be equally true to say that to the extent that Zelaya is aligned with Lula (and Lula himself steadfastly refuses a change in the Brazilian constitution) he is aligned precisely with the forces of reliable constitutionalism?

    I am not asking these questions rhetorically. I genuinely don’t get the situation in Honduras. Your support (as someone I trust politically, even when I don’t agree with) for the interim government genuinely makes me doubt all of my instincts. My instincts tell me that a government which has instituted a curfew to stop Zelaya supporters from rallying, that bans un-authorized meetings, that takes the right to suppress dissident media – is an authoritarian, anti-democratic government, regardless of the constitutional legitimacy of the way it gained power.

    Chavez, incidentally, gained power perfectly constitutionally, which does not make his attempts to abrogate more power to the executive and to reduce freedom of speech any better.

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