Yesterday’s removal of Honduran President, Manuel Zelaya, sparked protests in the country’s capital Tegucigalpa. The protestors put up barricades near the presidential palace as governments across the region condemned the first military overthrow in Central America since the end of the cold war.
Zelaya, who had been in office since 2006, was ousted after clashing with the judiciary, congress and the army over proposed constitutional changes that would allow presidents to seek re-election.
Congress named an interim president, Roberto Micheletti, who announced an immediate curfew for Sunday and Monday nights. The country's leading court said it had authorised the toppling of the president.
The US and European Union joined Latin American governments in denouncing the coup. The US president, Barack Obama, distanced the US from any involvement in the coup."Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference," he said. Washington said it recognised only Zelaya as president.
Last week, Zelaya tried to fire the armed forces chief, General Romeo Vasquez, in a dispute over an attempt to hold an unofficial referendum about changing the constitution to allow presidential terms beyond a single, four-year stretch. Under the constitution as it stands, Zelaya would have been due to leave office in early 2010.The Supreme Court, which last week ordered him to reinstate Vasquez, said yesterday it had told the army to remove the president.
Zelaya may have exceeded the limits of his presidential authority by calling for an unconstitutional referendum and by attempting to dismiss the head of the armed forces for refusing to cooperate in said referendum. But using the military to depose Zelaya was absolutely and utterly wrong, no matter how mild their role was (if the reports are accurate).
Latin America has been plagued by military coups ever since the Spanish and Portuguese were ousted in the 1820s. It is not long since we have seen the passing of some extremely nasty dictators (Pinochet, Videla, Rios Montt, and Stroessner to name a few). Any military action against a duly elected leader is to be condemned absolutely. I hope to hell that this is not the start of the slippery slope back to those vile times.