In declaring the ousted President of Honduras thecountry's only legitmte political leader, President Obama appears to be elevating democracy (populism and majority rule) over constitutionalism and the rule of law. This policy endangers the individual rights and liberty upon which the U.S. Constitution is grounded. Democracy unconstrained by individual rights and the rule of law is no less tyrannous than a dictator---just more people get to participate in the tyranny. Keep this in mind while watching process of appointing the next Supreme Court guardian of our own Constitution.
From Net Right Nation:
In Honduras, Freedom Restored
ALG News - Sunday, 28 June 2009
Earlier this year, in the face of strong public opposition, Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales declared that he would stage a referendum to have the country’s constitutional term limits law overturned, thereby allowing him to remain indefinitely in power. The people of Honduras had adopted the single, four-year--term limit as part of their Constitution in January of 1982. Significantly, the term limits provision is one of only eight “firm articles,” out of 375. By law, cannot be amended.
The Supreme Court of Honduras declared the Zelaya referendum unconstitutional, his own Liberal Party came out in strong opposition, and the public overwhelmingly opposed his power grab. Despite this, Zelaya, a leftwing politician with strong ties to Cuba’s Castro and Venezuela’s Chavez, scheduled the referendum for Sunday, June 28. At midnight, Wednesday, June 24, the strong-arm president gave a televised speech accusing his opposition of promoting “destabilization and chaos” by attempting to thwart his unconstitutional referendum.
As the situation in Honduras continued to deteriorate, the Zelaya’s attorney general called for his ouster; his Defense Minister resigned; he fired the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for stating that he would refuse to send out troops to put down public protests; the chiefs of the army, navy, and air force resigned; and the country’s Supreme Court ordered the nation’s army and police not to support the unconstitutional referendum. (All emphases added.)
From the Wall Street Journal:
Honduras Defends Its Democracy by Mary Anastasia O'Grady
The attorney general had already made clear that the referendum was illegal and that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out....
It's not surprising that the chavistas throughout the region are claiming that he was a victim of a military coup. They want to hide the fact that the military was acting on a court order to defend the rule of law and the constitution, and that the Congress asserted itself for that purpose too.
Coup Rocks Honduras
President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" and called on all political actors in Honduras to "respect democratic norms"...
Honduras's Supreme Court gave the order for the military to detain the president, according to a former Supreme Court official who is in touch with the court.Later, Honduras's Congress formally removed Mr. Zelaya from the presidency and named congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as his successor until the end of Mr. Zelaya's term in January...
Moves to try to stay in power through the ballot box have become increasingly common in Latin America. Leftist Latin American leaders such as Venezuela's Mr. Chavez, Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Bolivia's Evo Morales have used referendums for a similar purpose, and Colombia's right-wing President Alváro Uribe is trying to change the constitution to allow him a third term...
Latin America analysts said the Honduran coup will complicate President Obama's efforts to re-engage a region where anti-Americanism has flourished in recent years. They said Mr. Chavez is likely to seize on the crisis to depict Central America as under attack.
As a result, analysts said Mr. Obama will need to aggressively call for the reinstatement of President Zelaya, despite U.S. concerns that he is seeking to mirror Mr. Chávez's campaign to secure limitless rule.
From the New York Times:
In a Coup in Honduras, Ghosts of Past U.S. Policies
President Obama on Monday strongly condemned the ouster of Honduras’s president as an illegal coup that set a “terrible precedent” for the region, as the country’s new government defied international calls to return the toppled president to power and clashed with thousands of protesters...
American officials did not believe that Mr. Zelaya’s plans for the referendum were in line with the Constitution...
[O]ne administration official said that while the United States thought the referendum was a bad idea, it did not justify a coup.“On the one instance, we’re talking about conducting a survey, a nonbinding survey; in the other instance, we’re talking about the forcible removal of a president from a country”...
[A]dministration officials said that they did not expect that the military would go so far as to carry out a coup. “There was talk of how they might remove the president from office, how he could be arrested, on whose authority they could do that,” the administration official said. But the official said that the speculation had focused on legal maneuvers to remove the president, not a coup...
Roberto Micheletti, the veteran congressional leader who was sworn in by his fellow lawmakers on Sunday to replace Mr. Zelaya, seemed to plead with the world to understand that Mr. Zelaya’s arrest by the army had been under an official arrest warrant based on his flouting of the Constitution.
The Honduran president was forcibly removed from office with the assistance and support of the military. Power has been quickly returned to civilian control with the appointment of a new president by the country's legislative body. From what I am reading, the former President was in violation of the law and those who acted to remove him from office were acting to preserve the rule of law.
If a "coup" is simply a sudden take-over of power, then this term is being accurately used. However, the connotations which accompany the term imply an illegal act by the military against the proper supremacy of civilian government. Recent events in Honduras do not at this time appear to fall within this meaning of the term and it should therefore be avoided.