Figured I'd make a quick post before going to bed, mostly because I wanted to keep this particularly disturbing piece of news for future reference: the first military coup of the 21st century in Latin America took place today, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
After spending the whole day reading tweets
on the matter, watching BBC and CNN International, obsessively updating CNN en Español
, El País
, and La Prensa
, I think I would sum up what happened like this:
Honduras has been living a rather problematic political crisis during President Manuel Zelaya's mandate. For while now, Mr Zelaya has been trying to hold a referendum that would allow him to change the constitution and run for a second term. Last week, the Supreme Court held that said referendum was inconstitucional, and the armed forces commander, Romeo Vazquez, stated that the military would not participate in the vote. Zelaya then fired Vazquez, but the act was also considered illegal by the Supreme Court.
Last Thursday, President Zelaya, along with a group of protesters, seized the ballots that were to be used on the referendum—which had been ordered confiscated by the prosecutor’s office and the electoral tribunal—from an air force installation.
And then all hell broke loose.
The vote was to take place today, but the President awoke to find his house surrounded by the military, and himself thrown on an air force plane with a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. During the course of the afternoon, Congress received an "official resignation letter" from the President, and proceeded to swear in Roberto Micheletti, head of Congress. Mr Zelaya, however, claims he has not and never will resign until his term ends.
The European Union, the UN, the OAS, the United States and several other countries have expressed deep concern over the situation, condemned the coup, and asked for Mr Zelaya to be reinstated as President and for the constitutional order to be restored. The OAS approved a resolution
in which it asks for the unconditional return of Mr Zelaya, and emphatically states that it will not recognise the new government.
There are some who are saying that the arrest of the President was ordered by the Judiciary, and was therefore constitutional and justified, seeing that Mr Zelaya broke the law. The way I see it, there is nothing in a democracy that can allow the military to arrest a President and exile him from his own country. In any Latin American History textbook, that is called a military coup.
Latin America is still a region that is learning what it's like to live in a democracy. We still need to be taken by our hands and be patiently told that it's not OK to arbitrarily arrest someone—instead of remembering there is a thing called "due process of law" and another one called "human rights"—and put that person on a plane to a foreign country. Especially
when said person is the constitutionally elected President.
Now, I don't care if Zelaya is a crazy-ass communist who dreams of staying in power forever and is best friends with Hugo Chávez and the Castro brothers. He could be a bloody homophobic for all I care; the man is still
the representative of the people of Honduras and was elected to run the country until 2010. Therefore, unless there is a proper impeachment process, a forged letter of resignation will not
do to constitutionally and democratically destitute him.
It takes time, patience and several mistakes to strengthen a democracy. On the other hand, only a few minutes are needed to tear it down. Unfortunately, this kind lesson remains hard to teach in our still-developing continent. Let's just hope the Honduran congress will come to its senses in the morning.