Opinion

Commentary: Zelaya's naked power grab led to Honduras coup

The greatest tourist attraction in Central America has always been politics. Diplomats stop by every few years, take a couple of snapshots of what's going on at the presidential palace, and then profoundly declare their opinions, devoid of context or history. This week's favorite diplotourism destination is Honduras, where the army Sunday arrested President Manuel Zelaya and booted him across the border to Costa Rica. In the Polaroid analysis, it's pretty clear what happened: "A return to barbarism in our hemisphere," as Argentina's president Cristina Fernandez put it.

She had plenty of company. "The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law."

The OAS Permanent Council voted "to condemn vehemently the coup d'etat staged this morning against the constitutionally established government of Honduras." U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded "the reinstatement of the democratically elected representatives of the country and full respect for human rights."

Here's a question for all these new-found defenders of Honduran democracy: Where were you last week? Perhaps if some of these warnings about sticking to the constitution had been addressed to President Zelaya, the Honduran army would still be in the barracks where it belongs.

For weeks, Zelaya — an erratic leftist who styles himself after his good pal Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — has been engaged in a naked and illegal power grab, trying to rewrite the Honduran constitution to allow him to run for reelection in November.

First Zelaya scheduled a national vote on a constitutional convention. After the Honduran supreme court ruled that only the country's congress could call such an election, Zelaya ordered the army to help him stage it anyway. (It would be "non-binding," he said.) When the head of the armed forces, acting on orders from the supreme court, refused, Zelaya fired him, then led a mob to break into a military base where the ballots were stored.

To read the complete column, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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