Students react to Honduran crisis
UH Students for a Democratic Society coordinated a protest of approximately 50 demonstrators outside the offices of the Honduran Consulate in Houston on Friday.
Protesting the military expulsion of President Manuel Zelaya from Honduras, demonstrators chanted slogans such as ‘democrac’iacute;a s’iacute;, militares no’ (‘democracy yes, army no’) and ‘alto al golpe contra Honduras’ (‘stop to the coup against Honduras’).
Zelaya was arrested June 28 by the Honduran military and expelled from the country before being replaced by fellow Liberal Party member Roberto Micheletti.
The White House, the United Nations and the Organization of American States have aligned themselves with the ousted Honduran president, who seeks to be restored to power through international pressure.
The Obama administration has taken a conservative approach to resolving the dispute, saying ‘as the (Organization of American States) did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.’
The OAS adopted a resolution ‘strongly condemning the coup d”eacute;tat’ and demanded ‘the immediate and unconditional return of Zelaya to his constitutional duties.’
After decades of military authoritarianism, Honduras ratified its, democratically framed constitution in 1982.
Zelaya won the presidency in a fervently contested vote in 2005. With his term expiring this year, the president is constitutionally limited to a single four-year term.
Since March, Zelaya has publicly sought a referendum to change the law to allow him to stand for a second term.
In the United States, Zelaya’s referendum would be similar to George W. Bush, during his second consecutive term in office, calling for a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for another term.
The Honduran Supreme Court ruled the referendum unconstitutional. The National Congress of Honduras supported the ruling and declared Zelaya ineligible for re-election.
Defying the court, Zelaya proclaimed he would conduct the public referendum anyway. The military then arrested Zelaya at his home and exiled him from the country.
A History senior and founding member of SDS, Robinson Block helped organize the protest. He argued that the military intervention in the political process was unjustified.
‘There is no due process. (Zelaya) could have very well done things that were unconstitutional, but that doesn’t mean that you send the military in to abduct people. You bring them into court,’ Block said.
Block said, since the coup, the military has also violated several articles of the constitution. According to SDS, the violations include the suppression of domestic and international news coverage, suspension of public transit and restrictions on public assembly.
‘If the auspices of the coup against Zelaya was to enforce the Constitution, they’ve now violated many more things,’ Block said.
Professor Raul Madrid, who specializes in Latin American democratization at the University of Texas at Austin, said that the ousted president’s refusal to capitulate to the Congress and the Supreme Court did not warrant military intervention.
‘It was a huge mistake on the part of the military because one, his term was about to end in six months, and two, (the referendum) was basically a plebiscite to see if they could change the constitution in the future,’ Madrid said.
Madrid said the Honduran Congress could have impeached Zelaya, rather than support his removal by the military.
‘There was no question what (Zelaya) was doing some things that were undemocratic,’ Madrid said. ‘The problem is that the military has gone a step further in the wrong direction.’
Like Block, Madrid said the referendum proposed by Zelaya would not have legally changed the Honduran Constitution.
‘Four other articles would have contradicted his term-limit change,’ Madrid said.
Political science senior and co-founder of SDS Stephanie Caballero criticized the military intervention as a means of the Honduran government to stop Zelaya’s defiance.
‘There are other democratic ways to deal with that situation,’ she said.
Caballero, whose mother is from Honduras, said Honduras has never had a civil war and has been a relatively peaceful country in a region that has a tumultuous history. In the difficult process of reconciliation that lies ahead, Caballero said ‘the best option is to fully reinstate Zelaya.’
Block has a less supportive view.
‘I’m not one that thinks that Zelaya is a saint, and if he’s done things wrong I’m totally okay with him being prosecuted,’ Block said. ‘But the idea that (a military coup) is better strikes me as extremely disingenuous.’