Commentary: Honduras coup a bad power play

June 30, 2009 

The forcible removal from office of President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is an undeniable setback for democracy in a country that, until this weekend, had relegated the military overthrow of governments to the history books.

That Mr. Zelaya's own ambitious political schemes set in motion the chain of events that led to his ouster is no excuse for a coup d'etat. He stubbornly insisted on holding a plebiscite that the Supreme Court had disallowed.

Sure, it was a thinly veiled attempt to circumvent a restriction that limits a president to a single term, but there are ways to deal with presidents behaving badly short of a military coup.

Mr. Zelaya had little political support for his machinations. Even his own Liberal Party had condemned the plebiscite beforehand. With that in mind, 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.

Fed up with Mr. Zelaya's recklessness, they chose instead to short-circuit the process by apparently conspiring with the military to remove him by force.

On Sunday, Roberto Micheletti, president of the Congress, was appointed to take Mr. Zelaya's place and promptly had his Woody Allen moment. In a scene straight out of the farcical movie, Bananas, Mr. Micheletti proclaimed "Long live democracy!" insisting no coup d'etat had occurred.

Nonsense. What else do you call it when soldiers wearing hoods stage a pre-dawn attack on the presidential palace, seize the president and send him into exile, still in his pajamas? Not an orderly transfer of power, even by Woody Allen standards.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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