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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

VenEconomy: Who Violated the Constitution in Honduras?
Will the OAS ever be capable of understanding that simply holding elections has never been and never will be a valid, sufficient argument for classifying a government as democratic?

From the Editors of VenEconomy

A country’s constitution is the legal framework that regulates relations among its citizens, between the population and the State, and also among states, and it is only strict compliance with the constitution that guarantees the peaceful coexistence of peoples and countries.

In Honduras, the Constitution orders that election laws may not be amended or submitted to referendum less than six months before elections to public office. In Honduras, general elections are slated for November 29 this year.

Despite this constitutional precept, the then-President of the Republic of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, considered that he was not bound to comply with this rule and called a referendum to decide whether, at the November general elections, a constituent assembly would also be called that would permit him to run for reelection. Who violated the Constitution?

This referendum, scheduled for Sunday June 28, only five months away from the general elections, unleashed an institutional crisis in Honduras after a court of the Republic determined that the referendum proposed by Zelaya was illegal. As a democratic president, Zelaya should have abided by the court’s decision or at least have appealed to a higher court. But he did neither.

Zelaya, perhaps believing -like other Latin American caudillos -- that as president he was above the Judiciary, disregarded the court’s order and went ahead with organizing the referendum. So, he ordered the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, to transfer and safeguard the electoral materials that the Venezuelan Government had prepared and donated. General Vásquez Velásquez refused to follow this illegal order, and, as a consequence, was dismissed. Who violated the Constitution?

The Supreme Court reinstated General Vásquez Velásquez and the Congress voted unanimously to appoint a committee to analyze the situation and investigate President Zelaya for his refusal to respect the Constitution and the orders issued by other branches of government. But Zelaya carried on with his preparations and only performed a cosmetic change to this illegal referendum: on Saturday night, he verbally stated that the referendum would not be binding, but confirmed that it would go ahead as planned. Who violated the Constitution?

Other branches of government, such as the Supreme Court, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Congress of the Republic, as well as all the political parties, including President Zelaya’s liberal party, rejected the referendum, as did the Church, businessmen, and civil society. Who violated the Constitution?

Just a few hours before the opening of the polling stations for this illegal referendum, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the president’s removal from office. The army carried out the order, took Zelaya out of the country and transported him to Costa Rica. The argument, valid or not, was to avoid a bloodbath in the face of the threat of other governments interfering in Honduras’s internal affairs, among them Venezuela and Nicaragua. Who violated the Constitution?

The Congress, abiding by the constitutional rules, unanimously appointed the president of the Congress as the acting President of the Republic until the elections are held in November and a new president is chosen. Who violated the Constitution?

Now the OAS is meeting. There are fears that, once again, this collapsing organization, which counts among its members several governments of a totalitarian bent, will not enforce the Democratic Charter to defend respect for the Constitution in Honduras and the principles of a true democracy. It is more than likely that the OAS will, once again, succumb to the demagogic temptation to defend certain fledgling dictators disguised as democrats.

Will the OAS ever be capable of understanding that simply holding elections has never been and never will be a valid, sufficient argument for classifying a government as democtic?

VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

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