Democracy and Honduran people have ‘lost out’ in coup

By staff writers
July 2, 2009

People working with the Catholic aid agency Cafod, have said that the forced removal of the President of Honduras is a backwards step but that his restitution is not the solution.

Manuel Zelaya Rosales was ousted and exiled in the first coup d'état in Central America since 1993, when the Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano was forced to step down by the military.

Following attempts to seek a constitutional amendment that would allow his re-election, President Zelaya was captured and detained by the military early on Sunday morning. He was taken to a military airport and flown to Costa Rica.

He arrived last night in Nicaragua where an emergency meeting of regional leaders is taking place. Honduran deputies have named Roberto Micheletti, Head of Congress, as acting president.

Pedro Landa, director of Caritas Tegucigalpa which works with the Catholic aid agency Cafod said: "The forced dismissal of Zelaya on Sunday 28 June signifies a backwards step in Honduras' democratic process and does not resolve the central problem of the democratic crisis and the exhaustion of the two-party rule in Honduras.

"But Zelaya's restitution is not the real solution to the problem.

"The employment of a coup as a result of the political crisis in Honduras seems to have been unavoidable. It looks as though the decision to oust Zelaya was taken because he himself was planning to take the dramatic step of dissolving the National Congress and immediately convening a constitutional convention. So the disintegration of democratic rule was inevitable from either side.

"It is not possible to accept or agree with the violent dismissal of a government. But there are no winners here - the only thing that is certain is that democracy and the Honduran people have lost out. Now we are left with the challenge to reconstruct a new democracy and fight to avoid these events happening again.

"Calls from different social sectors to settle the crisis through dialogue have fallen on deaf ears. Rather than debating about whether or not the events have been legal, discussion should be around driving a process of national dialogue and transforming Honduras' exhausted political structures."

The military has deployed armoured tanks and cars across the capital and established checkpoints at the entry and exit points of towns. There has been little coverage of events through national media other than by Channel 8, a TV station which was established by Zelaya and which was shut down by the military yesterday.

Radio Progreso, a community radio station of CAFOD partner ERIC was invaded by 25 military police on Sunday morning during transmission of events and forced to cease its programming. It has since resumed its coverage of events despite receiving threats from the military. Electricity has been cut across the country and the telephone system was temporarily shut down. CAFOD partners have told the aid agency that whilst they are able to communicate with the outside world through the internet, much of the Honduran population is confused about what is happening and who their President is.

A 48-hour curfew was ordered by Mr Michelatti on Sunday but some protestors remain defiant. The EU has condemned the military action and President Obama has asked for "existing tensions and disputes (to be) resolved peacefully".

President Zelaya had planned to hold a popular vote on Sunday 28 June to ask people whether there should be a referendum on changing the constitution - changes that would have included ending the limit on just one presidential term.

There have been public denunciations in the Honduran Press of the President's use of populist measures to coerce people to vote in favour of the reform. There have even been reports that patients admitted to public hospitals in the last few days were forced to sign a ballot paper in favour of the constitutional reform before they could receive medical treatment.

Zelaya dismissed the military chief, General Romeo Vásquez, when he refused to provide logistical support for Sunday's vote, which seems to have been another major catalyst in the events leading to the military coup.

CAFOD has been supporting partner organisations in Honduras since the 1970s.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.