Myths and Facts about the Coup in Honduras
by Carol Schachet
August 7, 2009 -- Now more than a month after the military ousted President Manuel Zelaya from Honduras, the coup regime remains in power. Below we attempt to dispel some of the myths and misinformation surrounding the crisis in Honduras. Our allies at the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC provided much of the background and analysis for this article. (Editor: This article is reprinted with permission from Grassroots International. Grassroots International works to create a just and sustainable world by building alliances with progressive movements through grantmaking, education and advocacy.)
Myth #1: This was not a coup because Zelaya was impeached by the court.
Fact #1: Zelaya’s ouster was not an impeachment. It is clearly a military coup -- armed soldiers stormed into his bedroom and kidnapped him at gunpoint, bundled him on to a plane in his nightclothes and left him on the tarmac of the airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. As Zelaya himself has said, he was neither arrested nor tried (with regard to impeachment), but forcibly exiled.
Fact #2: The vote that was to take place was not about giving Zelaya another term, and it was not technically a referendum. President Manuel Zelaya’s proposed survey, to have been conducted on June 28, would have been a non-binding polling of the public to gauge support for including a proposal for a Constituent Assembly, to redraft the Constitution, on the November ballot. Here is a translation of the actual question: "Do you agree that, during the general elections of November 2009 there should be a fourth ballot to decide whether to hold a Constituent National Assembly that will approve a new political constitution?" Zelaya himself was not on the November ballot being ineligible to run for a second term as per the current Honduran Constitution.
Fact #3: Even if the non-binding public consultation supported the formation of a Constitutional Assembly, and even if the Constitution was ultimately changed, Zelaya would not have been able to run for president again until some time in the future since under the current constitution his term expires in November. If the vote on a new Constituent Assembly passed in November, the new president -- whoever that might be, not Zelaya -- would oversee the formation of that Assembly which would then begin discussion on a new Constitution and which would be a process that might take a few years.
Fact #5: The people opposing Zelaya and supporting the coup are mostly rich businessmen and large landowners. But, it also includes others in the urban middle class that have benefitted from a Constitution and an economic system that favors the few rather than the many. The Honduran media is largely controlled by the elite, and so a lot of people in Honduras have been getting misinformation on what is happening or what this whole constitutional reform issue is about. So for example, when someone hears that this is all about Zelaya wanting and trying to get another term (when the Constitution prohibits it) they might get worried about presidents amassing too much power given the history of that country with dictatorship. So it is understandable that not just the rich but even sections of the poor might oppose Zelaya, but in the latter case it is based on misinformation.
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