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Sunday, June 28, 2009
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Honduran leader forced into exile

Troops in Honduras have detained the president and flown him out of the country after a power struggle over plans to change the constitution.

President Manuel Zelaya was flown to Costa Rica from an air force base outside the capital, Tegucigalpa.

Mr Zelaya, elected for a non-renewable four-year term in January 2006, wanted a vote to extend his time in office.

His arrest came just before the start of a referendum ruled illegal by the Supreme Court and opposed by Congress.

There was also resistance within Mr Zelaya’s own party to the plan to hold the vote.

The Zelaya is now in Costa Rica:

From Costa Rica, Mr Zelaya told Venezuelan TV that Honduran soldiers had arrested him in his pyjamas.

“I’m in San Jose in Costa Rica,” he said. “I’ve been the victim of a kidnapping by a group of Honduran soldiers.

“This was a plot by a very voracious elite, an elite which wants only to keep this country isolated, in an extreme level of poverty. It doesn’t care about the people, it’s not sensitive to them.”

I was aware that there was a problem brewing in Honduras, but had not focused too much attention on the topic. Matthew Shugart had a post on the crisis as it was coming to a head from last friday. More extensive background can be found via Boz here and here.

The basics are that the president wanted a non-binding plebiscite regarding a removal of term limits submitted to the public this weekend. The Supreme Court and th e AG declared the move illegal and the Congress passed a law last week to block the President from going forward with his plans. The President then fired the head of the armed forces for refusing to help him implement the planned vote. The Supreme Court ordered the President to reinstate said general, but the President refused.

This lead, according to a BBC report to the resignation of the Defense Minister and the “heads of the army, navy and air force also resign[ing] in protest.

A rather spectacular display of inter-institutional conflict within the Honduran state.

This is a developing story, but I am not sure how this can be called anything other than a coup as it was a clearly extralegal move by someone (Congressional leaders? Military commanders?). That the President was behaving illegally seems clear, but grabbing him and putting him out of the country can’t be a constitutional maneuver (to put it mildly).

More later, no doubt.

Meanwhile, Fausta has constructed a timeline of events.

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6 Responses to “Coup in Honduras, President Forced into Exile”

  1. Fausta Says:

    I just translated from Honduran newssite La Prensa that an official statement of the Supreme Court of Justice explained that the Armed Forces acted under lawful grounds when detaining the President of the Republic, and that Zelaya was detained this morning by the military in compliance with an order of the courts of law.

    Thanks for the link!

  2. MSS Says:

    Has anyone seen the text of the question Hondurans were to be voting on today? (I assume that is not going ahead.) My understanding-but not from the mainstream media-is that it was not a vote on extending his term. It was to enable a subsequent vote on a constituent assembly, at the time that Zelaya’s successor was to be elected.

    So I do not know what Zelaya’s future plans were, but it was evidently not to succeed himself, at least immediately.

    And, no, he had no authority to call the plebiscite unilaterally, not to order the military to carry it out. But he did have the authority to dismiss the military commander, which he did Friday. The military, of course, had no authority to turn around and dismiss him.

    OK, so Obama has his first genuine political crisis in the Americas.

  3. Steven L. Taylor Says:


    Thanks for the comment and I will give the order a look.

    With the caveat that I am not defending Zelaya, just because the Court declared the action legal doesn’t make it so. Ordering the military to stop the illegal vote makes plenty of legal sense-detaining and then exiling the president strikes me as something that has to be illegal by definition. I somehow doubt that the constitution, for example, recognizes such an action ;)

    Still, we shall see.

  4. Steven L. Taylor Says:

    The military, of course, had no authority to turn around and dismiss him.

    This, indeed, the central point.

  5. On the Honduran Coup Says:

    [...] Coup in Honduras, President Forced into Exile [...]

  6. Mandy Says:

    I agree that is was not legal. But Zelaya was following in the footsteps (and with the aid) of Hugo Chaves who has succeeded in such referendums in the past. Hondurans may have felt they had no other options. Again this does not make it legal. But look again at La Prensa see the reaction of the people.

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