Constitutional crisis in Honduras–Who cares?

By Doug Bandow, The Campaign for Liberty

The Honduran constitutional crisis has been resolved. Maybe. But why should Americans care?

More than four months ago Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted. Backed by the Obama administration and most governments in Latin America, Zelaya demanded reinstatement. Now he and the interim Honduran government have reached an agreement to bring him back with limited powers to serve out the rest of his term, which expires in January.

The controversy is legally complex and politically charged. Zelaya’s critics contend that he intended to violate the constitution, and his behavior warranted suspicion. So too did his friendship with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has used the formal democratic process to limit liberty.

Zelaya argued in turn that the case against him was unproved. He also claimed that the method used to unseat him — he was tossed out of the country at gunpoint by the military — was a de facto coup. The interim government admitted that forcing him into exile may have been improper, but argued that his ouster was valid. Although the constitution is ambiguous, the military’s action came at the behest of a warrant issued by the Honduran supreme court and was endorsed by the Honduran congress. A majority of Hondurans believe that Zelaya’s ouster was legal.

The controversy would make for an interesting case study in law school. In fact, the Congressional Research Office reviewed the legal issues and concluded that while Zelaya should not have been exiled, his ouster was consistent with Honduran law. Zelaya’s defenders, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), have attacked the CRS report.
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