“Obama stands with tyrants,” “Sides with Chavez, Castro against Honduran Democracy,” Newspapers Say

“Obama stands with tyrants,” writes the Washington Times. “When thousands of Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran protesting a rigged election and were beaten and shot down by pro-regime thugs, the president bided his time before making a series of noncommittal statements. He seemed to hope it would all just go away. However, when a socialist demagogue was ejected unceremoniously from Honduras on Sunday by his own government for trying to establish a presidency for life, Mr. Obama instantly sprang to his defense. What happened in Honduras was not a military coup. Honduras has a civilian president, Roberto Micheletti, a member of former President Manuel Zelaya’s own Liberal Party, who was elevated to the post after Mr. Zelaya was removed. The army did not seize power, but acted as the elected government’s instrument in ousting Mr. Zelaya, who was well on his way to subverting the Honduran constitution and erecting a dictatorship. The crisis followed an intense week of political drama over a planned referendum seeking to convene an assembly to rewrite the 1982 constitution to allow Mr. Zelaya to serve in office beyond the mandated one-term limit, which would have ended in January 2010. The Honduran National Congress opposed the referendum, and the Supreme Court declared it illegal. The plan was denounced by majority and opposition political parties, the Catholic Church and the Honduran Human Rights Commission,” but Zelaya went forward with it anyway, attempting to fire military leaders who refused to participate.

The Washington Examiner has an editorial entitled “Obama sides with Chavez, Castro against Honduran democracy.” Obama is joining the Cuban dictator Castro and Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez in demanding the Honduran ruler’s return.

“Honduras’s military acted under judicial orders in deposing President Manuel Zelaya, Supreme Court Justice Rosalinda Cruz” told Bloomberg News. “’The only thing the armed forces did was carry out an arrest order,’ Cruz, 55, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Tegucigalpa. ‘There’s no doubt he was preparing his own coup by conspiring to shut down the congress and courts.'”

Investors Business Daily says Honduras had ample reason to remove its dangerous, out-of-control President, who had repeatedly violated his country’s constitution and laws:

“Honduras’ now ex-president, Mel Zelaya, last Thursday defied a Supreme Court ruling and tried to hold a “survey” to rewrite the constitution for his permanent re-election. It’s the same blueprint for a rigged political system that’s made former democracies like Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador into shells of free countries. Zelaya’s operatives did their dirt all the way through. First they got signatures to launch the “citizen’s power” survey through threats — warning those who didn’t sign that they’d be denied medical care and worse. Zelaya then had the ballots flown to Tegucigalpa on Venezuelan planes. After his move was declared illegal by the Supreme Court, he tried to do it anyway. As a result of his brazen disregard for the law, Zelaya found himself escorted from office by the military Sunday morning, and into exile. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro rushed to blame the U.S., calling it a “yanqui coup.” . . There was a coup all right, but it wasn’t committed by the U.S. or the Honduran court. It was committed by Zelaya himself. He brazenly defied the law, and Hondurans overwhelmingly supported his removal (a pro-Zelaya rally Monday drew a mere 200 acolytes).”

The Wall Street Journal notes that Zelaya’s removal was a “democratic” response to “rule by the mob,” and that “the military didn’t oust President Manuel Zelaya on its own but instead followed an order of the Supreme Court. It also quickly turned power over to the president of the Honduran Congress, a man from the same party as Mr. Zelaya. The legislature and legal authorities all remain intact.” John Fund of the Journal earlier called Zelaya’s ouster a “triumph” of the law:

“Many foreign observers are condemning the ouster of Honduran President Mel Zelaya, a supporter of Hugo Chavez, as a ‘military coup.’ But can it be a coup when the Honduran military acted on the orders of the nation’s Supreme Court, the step was backed by the nation’s attorney general, and the man replacing Mr. Zelaya and elected in emergency session by that nation’s Congress is a member of the former president’s own political party? Mr. Zelaya had sacked General Romeo Vasquez, head of the country’s armed forces, after he refused to use his troops to provide logistical support for a referendum designed to let Mr. Zelaya escape the country’s one-term limit on presidents. Both the referendum and the firing of the military chief have been declared illegal by the Honduran Supreme Court. Nonetheless, Mr. Zelaya intended yesterday to use ballots printed in Venezuela to conduct the vote anyway. All this will be familiar to members of Honduras’ legislature, who vividly recall how Mr. Chavez in Venezuela adopted similar means to hijack his country’s democracy and economy. Elected a decade ago, Mr. Chavez held a Constituent Assembly and changed the constitution to enhance his power and subvert the country’s governing institutions. Mr. Zelaya made it clear that he wished to do the same in Honduras and that the referendum was the first step in installing a new constitution that would enhance his powers and allow him to run for re-election.”

What happened in Honduras was “not a coup,” agrees the Honduran lawyer and former Minister of Culture Octavio Sanchez in his July 2 column in the Christian Science Monitor. He notes that under Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, the President automatically lost his right to remain in office by seeking to extend his term in office: “According to Article 239: ‘No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.’ Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says ‘immediately’ – as in ‘instant,’ as in ‘no trial required,’ as in ‘no impeachment needed.’ Continuismo – the tendency of heads of state to extend their rule indefinitely – has been the lifeblood of Latin America’s authoritarian tradition. The Constitution’s provision of instant sanction might sound draconian, but every Latin American democrat knows how much of a threat to our fragile democracies continuismo presents. In Latin America, chiefs of state have often been above the law. The instant sanction of the supreme law has successfully prevented the possibility of a new Honduran continuismo. The Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya’s arrest for disobeying several court orders compelling him to obey the Constitution. He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day. Don’t believe the coup myth. The Honduran military acted entirely within the bounds of the Constitution. The military gained nothing but the respect of the nation by its actions.”

If Richard Nixon had been impeached and convicted for Watergate, and then refused to leave office, until being forced out by the military, would that have been a “military coup”? Of course not. But Obama and many in the press are taking essentially that position in demanding the reinstatement of Honduras’s would-be dictator.

The fact that the military carried out the Honduran Supreme Court’s orders in removing a would-be dictator, after he flouted the court’s rulings, does not make it a “military coup.” When court orders are defied by powerful government officials, troops are sometimes called out to enforce them, as happened in the U.S. in 1957 when federal troops forced Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus to stop blocking the court-ordered integration of Little Rock’s public schools. Indeed, Article 272 of the Honduran Constitution gives the military the power to remove a president even without a court order, if he seeks to violate the term limits prescribed in the Honduran Constitution. Even a legal commentator, Litho, at the leading liberal blog Daily Kos, which is run by a leftist Latin American immigrant, admits that the military’s action was “legal” in a “technical sense” under the Honduran Constitution.

Even the Cato Institute, which espouses antiwar positions and a dovish, liberal foreign policy, approved of Honduras’s removal of its oppressive ruler. Cato’s Juan Carlos Hidalgo notes that “the removal from office of Zelaya on Sunday by the armed forces is the result of his continuous attempts to promote a referendum that would allow for his reelection, a move that had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court and the Electoral Tribunal and condemned by the Honduran Congress and the attorney general. Unfortunately, the Honduran constitution does not provide an effective civilian mechanism for removing a president from office after repeated violations of the law, such as impeachment in the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, the armed forces acted under the order of the country’s Supreme Court, and the presidency has been hastily bestowed on a civilian figure — the president of Congress — as specified by the constitution.”