Obama, Clinton and State Department Wrong About Honduras

I think we know the answer to the question “what in the world are Constitutions for if not to be followed” as we address it to those named in the headline, but we now have the Congressional Research Service weighing in on Honduras and it isn’t good news for the US’s policy toward that country.

David Freddoso reports that the CRS’s Senior Foreign Law Specialist Norma Gutierrez has completed a study of the Honduran actions as they relate to former president Mel Zelaya and they don’t reflect well on the US. Freddoso has distilled them to the following:

* The Honduran Congress appears to have acted properly in deposing President Manuel Zelaya. Unlike in the United States, the Honduran Congress has the last word when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Although there is no provision in Honduras’s Constitution for impeachment as such, the body does have powers to disapprove of the president’s official acts, and to replace him in the event that he is incapable of performing his duties. Most importantly, the Congress also has the authority to interpret exactly what that means.

* The Supreme Court was legally entitled to ask the military to arrest Zelaya. The high court, which is the constitutional venue for trials of the president and other high-ranking officials, also recognized the Congress’s ouster of Zelaya when it referred his case back down to a lower court afterward, on the grounds that he was “no longer a high-ranking government official.”

* The military did not act properly in forcibly expatriating Zelaya. According to the CRS report and other news stories, Honduran authorities are investigating their decision, which the military justified at the time as a means of preventing bloodshed. In fact, Zelaya should have been given a trial, and if convicted of seeking reelection, he would have lost his citizenship. But he is still a citizen now, and the Constitution forbids the expatriation of Honduran citizens by their government.

* The proper line of succession was followed after Zelaya’s ouster. Because there was no Vice President in office when Zelaya was removed (he had resigned to run for president), Micheletti was the proper successor, as he had been president of the Congress.

So the only unlawful or improper act, according the the CRS, was the forceful expatriation of Zelaya. Despite the desire to avoid bloodshed, the military should merely have removed and arrested him. Other than that, everything appears to go precisely as it should according to their constitution and their legal interpretation of it.

For a man who just stood up in the UN and claimed the right of people for self-determination (except in Iran, of course), he sure is working awful hard to ensure Honduras’s citizens don’t enjoy that right.

He’s wrong. Secretary of State Clinton is wrong. The State Department’s actions against Honduras are wrong. No equivocation here – the US is on the wrong side of this issue. This needs to be rethought and readdressed quickly and Mel Zelaya ought to be treated like he deserves – as someone who broke the law of the land.

[Crossposted at QandO]

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