Hondurans of Faith: Into the Breech

I watched HBO’s ‘Into the Storm‘ over the weekend. The film is a historical drama about British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill during World War II. The part of the film which presented the dilemma facing Churchill as to whether to negotiate with the Germans or fight against great odds was especially moving. Churchill’s answer:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

People of a similar faith in democracy — Hondurans who opposed former President Zelaya’s efforts to replicate a Chavez-stlye subversion of their democracy in Honduras — faced a difficult decision recently. They also choose to fight. Fighting in their case meant acting — although the Honduran constitution did not offer direction over how to handle a standoff between the president and other parts of the government — rather than hoping that Zelayo and his ally Chavez would either act with restraint or fail.

What happened? In what irresponsible way did they act so as to cause the American president to label their actions ‘not legal’ and place the US on the side of Ortega, Chavez and Castro in the dispute?

Here are the list of events:

  • In Honduras, a constituent assembly can only be called through a national referendum approved by its Congress.
  • Then President Zelaya, declared a national referendum on his own and had Hugo Chávez ship him ballots from Venezuela.
  • The Honduran Supreme Court ruled his referendum unconstitutional, and it instructed the military not to carry out the logistics of the vote as it normally would do.
  • The attorney general also made clear that the referendum was illegal, and he announced that he would prosecute anyone involved in carrying it out.
  • The top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, told the president that he would have to comply.
  • Mr. Zelaya fired him.
  • The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Mr. Zelaya refused.
  • Mr. Zelaya led a mob that broke into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his supporters distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court’s order.
  • Mr. Zelaya was arrested by the military and exiled to Costa Rica.

So why aren’t the Hondurans who acted being celebrated like those who stood up to Nixon in the Saturday Night Massacre? The reason is that the Honduran constitution does not offer a clear direction on how to handle disputes between the president and other branches of the government. So what were they supposed to do? Please pay special attention to those who criticize Honduras for their actions. What are they suggesting should have occurred?

Here is an example from the Economist magazine, which criticized the removal of Zelaya. Here is their recap and criticism:

Even so, there is no evidence of Hondurans clamouring for the president’s return with anything like the enthusiasm of outsiders.

That is because most have tired of his rule, and blame him for the constitutional crisis that preceded the coup. It was precipitated by his attempt to emulate Mr Chávez by organising a referendum to call a constituent assembly, which he seemed to hope would allow him to remain in power beyond January, when his four-year term ends. Under Honduras’s constitution, only Congress can call referendums and it was against one. Mr Zelaya went ahead anyway. When the head of the armed forces refused to carry out an order to distribute the ballot papers, the president sacked him. The Supreme Court reinstated the general, and the electoral tribunal ordered the ballots to be confiscated. In response, Mr Zelaya led a group of supporters to an air force base where they carted off the ballots. He instructed public employees to collect signatures for the constituent assembly. Hours before voting was to begin, the army seized the president.

The army said he was arrested for defying the Supreme Court, though no explanation has been given for why he was not brought before a Honduran judge. The legislature then voted almost unanimously to install Mr Micheletti, a Liberal rival of Mr Zelaya, as his successor. Congress has no constitutional power to remove the president. Mr Micheletti produced a curiously worded resignation letter which Mr Zelaya denies having written or signed.

That’s it, they go no further in their analysis. Even in a magazine editorial, the left seems to lack the courage of their convictions. The Economist, like our President, are oh so gutless in this case. Gutless because they step up to the breech in their criticism and then fall back silently. Knowing the political pitfalls of spelling out their alternative.

So most critics implicitly suggest what they realize would look and sound terrible if spelled out. Here it is; What they believe Hondurans should have done was to not act, allow events to unfold and hope that Zelaya and Chavez would fail in their efforts. That is the position of the Miami Herald as well – they editorialized:

Congress could have ignored the outcome and stepped up preparations for scheduled presidential elections in November. It could have impeded the referendum by less drastic means that upheld the rule of law.

Maybe. If you are a Honduran who believes in democracy, that ‘maybe’ is not as appealing as it to those who sit in genteel offices overlooking the Arsht Center and Biscayne Bay. Given the examples of Nicaragua and Venezuela, Hondurans understandably moved to act with something more definite than ‘ignoring outcomes of elections.’ The spirit of Lord Halifax is alive and well in many places today, unfortunately, that includes our White House. That is not bad news everywhere, Iranian religious zealots and tyrants are thrilled.

The WSJ’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady, writes of the primary phrase found in the hundreds of emails from Hondurans, ‘please pray for us.’ We would do well to do so for many reasons, not the least of which would be Pastor Martin Niemöller’s rationale:

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then… they came for me… And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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One Response to Hondurans of Faith: Into the Breech

  1. Luis says:

    Honduras is a TEST!
    There are a few things to remember in the Honduras story.
    First Honduras, like the USA, is not a “pure democracy” in that there are limits placed by their Constitution on what a popular majority can do, politically. Even insular minorities have certain basic rights outside of the legislative reach of the majority. Honduras is a Constitutional republic. The “pure democracy” model was abandoned by our own founding fathers in favor of a constitutional republic because they feared “mob rule.” While an absolute monarch could become a despot the same was true of a completely, unchecked, majority. What's more, the unchecked majority could easily be persuaded (manipulated) into turning over liberty to a despot in exchange for security. Not so in a Constitutional republic, or so they thought…. There are some things that are not within the majority's ability to legislatively alter. These are the essential rights written into the Constitution of the republic.

    Second, what happens in Honduras is important because we are seeing a tension between a “pure democracy” movement and constitutional liberalism. The movement in South America towards “pure” or “absolute” popular government could easily spread all over the World. Worse, it could envelope the whole World in a “democratically elected” Uber Government. Our founding fathers knew that freedom required that certain individual rights be protected from the majority for a society to be truly free. Those who would ignore this fact were the enemies of freedom.

    The highest political leader in the United States, President Barack Obama, sided, not with the rule of law in Honduras as expressed by their legitimate judicial and legislative system… but with an overreaching populist, Zalaya. Zalaya would grant himself powers that the rule of law in Honduras would, for good reason, deny him. He enlisted the help of another despot, Hugo Chavez, in breaking the highest law in Honduras in order to perpetuate his own power. After the legitimate political authority removed this criminal our President endorsed his actions by demanding the criminal be returned to power.

    Why is this a problem. Well, there are only two possible explanations, as I see it, for our President's decision to side with those who despise freedom. One is he is not intelligent enough to analyze the situation for what it is and therefore ill-equiped to be the highest political authority of the most power full nation in the world which has pledged itself, with the blood of her own sons and daughters, to the service of freedom. The second explanation is worse…. he likes the idea of there being no limit on political power. Truth itself is at the service of political power. That our President thinks that a democratic majority can do as it pleases is un-American and such an idea betrays a reluctance to protect this Nations Constitution as he promised in his oath of office.
    Surely, a person as intelligent as the ex-law professor should be able to see the situation in Honduras for what it is…. That only leaves #2.
    If someone can explain to me why the President of the United States should demand the Mr. Zelaya be returned to power I might feel better about our President….
    Or does Obama sympathize with Zelaya because he plans to violate Article XXII http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-second_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution of the U.S. Constitution (which was proposed and ratified in the United States after President Roosevelt refused to honor the two-term tradition set by George Washington)?
    “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” – Rahm Emanuel
    I say “Honduras is a TEST!”

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