TEGUCIGALPA – Deposed President Manuel Zelaya wants the Honduran Congress to vote on his reinstatement before the installation of a national unity government that is due to take office by midnight Thursday, a representative of the ousted leader said.
Zelaya’s list of potential Cabinet members “is ready, but the first thing that has to be done is convene Congress,” Jorge Reina told the media.
The Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, signed last week by Zelaya and the current government led by Roberto Micheletti, set Thursday as the deadline for the establishment of the national unity administration.
The pact, which appeared to resolve the crisis sparked by the June 28 coup against Zelaya, also calls for Congress to vote on restoring the elected head of state.
But the text did not lay down a timeframe for that process and the congressional leadership has put off a debate, choosing instead to first seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court, the very institution that ordered Zelaya removed in the first place.
Zelaya and his supporters maintain that the installation of the national unity government and undoing the putsch are inextricably linked.
“There is an accord that has a date and we are ready to comply today,” Reina said, while adding that Zelaya would be open to delaying the formation of the unity coalition until lawmakers address reinstatement.
Regarding the makeup of the new administration, he said the Micheletti and Zelaya sides should each submit a list and “later reach a consensus so it will be truly a government of unity.”
And the members of the new government “should be sworn-in by the president of the republic,” Reina said, referring to Zelaya.
“If there is no restitution, the coup d’etat is perpetuated,” Reina said.
Speaking for Micheletti, Arturo Corrales said the government and its political allies have already submitted a list of 24 prospective members of the new government.
Outside Congress, where some 500 members of the anti-coup Resistance Front gathered to demand the restoration of Zelaya, one of the movement’s leaders accused the United States and the Organization of American States of complicity with the Micheletti government.
“We hold the OAS and the United States responsible for being accomplices in this coup d’etat, which, after 131 days, they have done nothing to resolve,” Juan Barahona told Efe. “They show no interest in the definitive exit of the putschists from power.”
His comments followed a statement by the top U.S. diplomat for the Americas, Thomas Shannon, that Washington would accept the Honduran Congress’ decision on whether or not to restore Zelaya to office for the less than three months left in his term.
The remark by Shannon, whose presence last week in Tegucigalpa was credited with spurring agreement between Zelaya and Micheletti, seemed to go back on Washington’s earlier threat not to recognize the winner of Honduras’ Nov. 29 presidential election unless the deposed leader was reinstated beforehand.
Barahona said that the OAS and Washington “could have forced the putschists, within 24 to 32 hours, to give back power they usurped.”
“The United States hasn’t done it because it is in agreement with the coup d’etat. The OAS hasn’t done it because that has been its role forever: to talk and not to do,” he said.
In the eyes of Constituional scholars and most Hondurans, Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup. The soldiers who escorted Zelaya from the presidential palace were enforcing a Supreme Court order after Zelaya refused to comply with their earlier order banning his planned referendum on revising the constitution to allow for unlimited presidential terms. The Constitution calls for immediate disempowerment of any official who does so.
Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution says “Any citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch cannot be President or Vice-President again. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those who support such violation directly or indirectly, must immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”
In August, the U.S. Congress Law Library issued a report that calls the disempowerment of Zelaya, with the exception of the removal of Zelaya from the country, constitutional under Honduran law.
According to report author Norma Gutiérrez, the Honduran Congress has the power to "disapprove of the conduct of the president".
The Congress "implicitly exercised its power of constitutional interpretation in the case of Zelaya when it decided that its power to 'disapprove' the president's actions encompassed the power to remove him", the report says.
Zelaya currently enjoys the support of only about a fifth of the legislators, and Congress had before his ouster already opened an investigation into whether he was mentally fit to govern, voted to disapprove his violations of the Constitution and replaced him with Micheletti after he was ousted. The Supreme Court, which will also weigh-in with an opinion, has already rejected Zelaya's return, saying he was replaced as president on June 28 because he violated the Constitution.