Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Thought on the Situation in Honduras

I have to admit that I'm not too enamored of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Although I sympathize with his policy positions in many respects, I'm not too keen on his demagoguery and neo-populist methods of threats of violent revolution and rabble-rousing. Even still, I am definitely opposed to the military coup that ousted him and I think he should be allowed back into his country to resume his duties as President of the country.

I think of it like this: would we in the United States tolerate the resolution of a similar situation in our country by accepting the legitimacy of a military ouster of a democratically elected President?

The clear answer is "No." Even if a U.S. President commits first-degree murder, we wouldn't send in the armed forces and exile him. We'd have him arrested and tried in a court of law. I'd even go so far as to say that even if our President defies the Legislature (which, by the way, he does regularly through something called the "signing statement") or the Supreme Court (which is not unheard of in the history of this country - i.e. Andrew Jackson and the Marshall Court's Worcester v. Georgia decision of 1832), we wouldn't tolerate the army storming the White House and sending the duly elected President off into exile without any kind of due process.

So, what remains for me is the idea that if we wouldn't tolerate resolution of a dispute between a President, the Legislature, and the Supreme Court by the armed overthrow of a legitimately elected President in our own country, then we shouldn't tolerate it for Honduras, either.

To accept this method of dispute resolution for Honduras, but not for ourselves, is not only hypocritical, but it also sends a very patronizing message to Honduras itself. And that message is: because Honduras is a "backward" place, "backward" solutions are apprpriate. I reject this attitude. If we would like to promote democracy and the rule of law as the ideal, then we should hold our friends to this ideal. To do otherwise merely encourages those who would rather resolve disputes outside of democratic practices and the rule of law.

Finally, I should say that my lack of being enamored of the behavior and tactics of Zelaya makes me very cautious to embrace uncritically the behavior and tactics of his opponents. If one thinks that Honduran politics is rife with demagoguery and disrespect for the rule of law, it would be naive to think that this aspect of Honduran political culture applies only to one side of opposing political factions and not the other. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out that the gang currently running the country isn't itself prone to demagoguic, neo-populist behavior. In fact, engineering a coup outside of the rule of law, in and of itself, hints very strongly in that direction.

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