ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Coup in Honduras

Dithering US action prevents removal of a usurper regime, while the Honduran citizens step up their protests.

Ousted Honduran president Jose Manuel Zelaya made a dramatic return to his country on 21 September by taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy in the capital Tegucigalpa, defying the de facto government’s ban on his entry. Zelaya was removed in a military coup and sent to exile on 28 June for trying to call a referendum on a constituent assembly that would have coincided with presidential elections in November 2009. Since then, despite outright condemnation by the Union of South American Nations and even by the United States (US), the European Union and the United Nations General Assembly, the coup plotters and the “interim government” led by Roberto Micheletti have been brazen in their refusal to quit office.

Jose Manuel Zelaya, from the moderate Liberal Party, had managed to garner support from the poor by implementing welfare measures such as a 60% increase in the minimum wages, free primary schooling and lower prices for public transport. As in all such social-democrat experiments around the world, when welfare measures threaten the status quo, the elite seeks a restoration. In Honduras, which was ruled by a military dictatorship until 1982, the elite had perfected a system whereby the US-trained military remains the paramount force and regularly meddled with democratic institutions. This has been helped by the fact that democratically elected presidents are given only a single term in office. Zelaya tried to change this constitutionally and recommended a non-binding referendum to establish a new constituent assembly that would, among other things, gauge public opinion on the term limits issue. This followed the Supreme Court’s refusal on technical grounds to allow a binding referendum. Zelaya’s limited proposal itself became a convenient excuse to stage a military coup and a puppet was installed after the elected president was forced out of the country.

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