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Why President Zelaya's Actions in Honduras Were Legal and Constitutional

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subsuelo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 10:15 AM
Original message
Why President Zelaya's Actions in Honduras Were Legal and Constitutional
The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice, Attorney General, National Congress, Armed Forces and Supreme Electoral Tribunal have all falsely accused Manuel Zelaya of attempting a referendum to extend his term in office.

According to Honduran law, this attempt would be illegal. Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution clearly states that persons, who have served as presidents, cannot be presidential candidates again. The same article also states that public officials who breach this article, as well as those that help them, directly or indirectly, will automatically lose their immunity and are subject to persecution by law. Additionally, articles 374 and 5 of the Honduran Constitution of 1982 (with amendments of 2005), clearly state that: it is not possible to reform the Constitution regarding matters about the form of government, presidential periods, re-election and Honduran territory, and that reforms to article 374 of this Constitution are not subject to referendum.

Nevertheless, this is far from what President Zelaya attempted to do in Honduras the past Sunday and which the Honduran political/military elites disliked so much. President Zelaya intended to perform a non-binding public consultation, about the conformation of an elected National Constituent Assembly. To do this, he invoked article 5 of the Honduran Civil Participation Act of 2006. According to this act, all public functionaries can perform non-binding public consultations to inquire what the population thinks about policy measures. This act was approved by the National Congress and it was not contested by the Supreme Court of Justice, when it was published in the Official Paper of 2006. That is, until the president of the republic employed it in a manner that was not amicable to the interests of the members of these institutions.

Furthermore, the Honduran Constitution says nothing against the conformation of an elected National Constituent Assembly, with the mandate to draw up a completely new constitution, which the Honduran public would need to approve. Such a popular participatory process would bypass the current liberal democratic one specified in article 373 of the current constitution, in which the National Congress has to approve with 2/3 of the votes, any reform to the 1982 Constitution, excluding reforms to articles 239 and 374. This means that a perfectly legal National Constituent Assembly would have a greater mandate and fewer limitations than the National Congress, because such a National Constituent Assembly would not be reforming the Constitution, but re-writing it. The National Constituent Assemblys mandate would come directly from the Honduran people, who would have to approve the new draft for a constitution, unlike constitutional amendments that only need 2/3 of the votes in Congress. This popular constitution would be more democratic and it would contrast with the current 1982 Constitution, which was the product of a context characterized by counter-insurgency policies supported by the US-government, civil faade military governments and undemocratic policies. In opposition to other legal systems in the Central American region that (directly or indirectly) participated in the civil wars of the 1980s, the Honduran one has not been deeply affected by peace agreements and a subsequent reformation of the role played by the Armed Forces.

Recalling these observations, we can once again take a look at the widespread assumption that Zelaya was ousted as president after he tried to carry out a non-binding referendum to extend his term in office.

The poll was certainly non-binding, and therefore also not subject to prohibition. However it was not a referendum, as such public consultations are generally understood. Even if it had been, the objective was not to extend Zelayas term in office. In this sense, it is important to point out that Zelayas term concludes in January 2010. In line with article 239 of the Honduran Constitution of 1982, Zelaya is not participating in the presidential elections of November 2009, meaning that he could have not been reelected. Moreover, it is completely uncertain what the probable National Constituent Assembly would have suggested concerning matters of presidential periods and re-elections. These suggestions would have to be approved by all Hondurans and this would have happened at a time when Zelaya would have concluded his term. Likewise, even if the Honduran public had decided that earlier presidents could become presidential candidates again, this disposition would form a part of a completely new constitution. Therefore, it cannot be regarded as an amendment to the 1982 Constitution and it would not be in violation of articles 5, 239 and 374. The National Constituent Assembly, with a mandate from the people, would derogate the previous constitution before approving the new one. The people, not president Zelaya, who by that time would be ex-president Zelaya, would decide.


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Billy Burnett Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 10:30 AM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks for posting this clear explanation.
He was kidnapped and illegally extradited at gunpoint the day before the non binding poll asking whether or not there should be a referendum to vote for or against a referendum to add a referendum process to add amendments to the constitution. It was not the referendum to change the constitution and not even the referendum as whether or not they should have a referendum on changing the constitution. There is no poll or referendum on changing term limits even proposed, and even if there were to be it couldn't happen until after his term is over (disqualifying him from running again).

I see people twittering about Honduras Constitution, Article 42, section 5, but nowhere does it cover this event.

It's a power grab at gunpoint. A coup.

According to pro Honduran coup posters here, parts of a normal "impeachment" are:

Military raid on the presidential residence
Extradition of the president to another country (aka: kidnapping) in the dead of night
Shutting down of electricity
Shutting down of all TV stations (and when they went back up nothing but cartoons and soaps)
Shutting down land line phones
Shutting down internet communications
Installation of a new dear leader without national referendum
Arresting journalists
Troops beating and killing civillians
Disappearances of allies of the now exiled elected president

Just part of a normal "impeachment" in Honduras. :eyes:


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David__77 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 10:46 AM
Response to Original message
2. It'll be interesting to see what happens when he returns.
I think his popularity will rise greatly in Honduras. Patriotic officers and soldiers have a duty to perform in smashing the coup.
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hugo_from_TN Donating Member (895 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 05:58 PM
Response to Reply #2
7. That will be all fine if he steps down next January as the constitution proscribes.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 10:55 AM
Response to Original message
3. How much better it is to search for the facts than run amok half-cocked like real right-wingers.
It presents too much a handicap for people who prefer to barge ahead, completely unencumbered by the actual information they would need, in order to know what they're talking about.

The facts of this situation don't remotely resemble the wildly simplistic, and wrong crap which has been passed around freely.

Propagandists lie deliberately, and complete idiots with lazy minds or slipshot ethics lie because they are too stupid to wait for the facts first.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 11:14 AM
Response to Original message
4. Wanted to mention there are a couple of people who have claimed this is NOT a coup.
It's good if they get a chance to look up recent statements from President Obama, and check the following remark:
"We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras..."
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subsuelo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 04:15 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. even worse, some don't care one way or the other
for example, at the 'American Thinker', the argument is that since the coup serves U.S. interests, who cares if it was illegal?
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truedelphi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-01-09 05:51 PM
Response to Original message
6. It was pleasant to see C Span rising to the occassion and
Broadcasting Zelaya's remarks before the UN Security Council.

And to hear him talk about all the leaders in So America and Central America who have helped him, or sent him official letters pledging their support.



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