July 5, 2009 [LINK / comment]

OAS gives Honduras the boot

The Organization of American States voted to "suspend" Honduras after the de facto leaders (interim president Roberto Micheletti, top judges, and others) refused to comply with foreign demands by reinstating Jose Manuel Zelaya to the presidency. See CNN.com. How ironic, only one month after admitting the ruthless dictatorship of Cuba. Can you say double standard? That would be "doble criterio," en español.

The latest news is that Zelaya's jet was blocked from landing at the Tegucigalpa airport, forcing him to abort his flight. See BBC. The Honduran authorities had vowed to arrest him if he landed, but he went ahead with the flight, hoping to outbluff them. There have been violent disturbances at the airport, where Zelaya's supporters are confronting police. One person has already died in the clashes. In the streets, many pro-Zelaya militants wear the masks typical of rebel fighters, another sign of what could turn out to be a revolutionary situation. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has vowed to do everything he can to help Zelaya regain power. This is getting very ominous...

The Honduran newspaper El Heraldo praised Senator Jim DeMint for supporting the anti-Zelaya cause. For his part, President Obama continues to insist that President Zelaya was democratically elected (true), and deserved to finish his term (uncertain).

Personally, I have no strong opinion one way or the other as far as the legitimacy of the means by which Manuel Zelaya was removed from office. I would like to know why they didn't try to use the proper constitutional means of impeachment, as has been done in Brazil and other Latin American countries over the past two decades. (Before that, such a procedure was unheard of in that region.) Based on everything I have learned, Zelaya was a trouble-maker who was leading the country toward a major political crisis. That alone may not have justified his abrupt removal, however.

BBC has an analysis of the "coup" (if that's what it really was), suggesting that it may have been carried out at the "wrong" time. It leaves no doubt that Zelaya has become a deeply polarizing figure, extremely popular to some people but strongly disliked by the majority. A recent survey indicated that he has a popularity rating of only 30 percent. One lawyer in Honduras observed, "Zelaya, for some reason, became a radical." What a riddle that will be for students of Latin American politics to solve!