While the world wasn’t looking, Honduras’s left-leaning Pres. Manuel “Mel” Zelaya tried to trash every legal institution in his country In an attempt to open the door for re-election, Zelaya demanded a popular referendum. (Honduran presidents can’t be re-elected, so Mel needs to change the constitution). When every institution from the Electoral Tribunal to the Supreme Court said no, “Mad” Mel stepped on the gas.
On Wednesday, he drove straight for the military, demanding they support his personal poll. The head of the armed forces objected to carrying out the illegal order. Zelaya fired him.
The next day, the Supreme Court ruled the firing unjustified. Zelaya fired back: “We will not obey the Supreme Court. The court which only imparts justice for the powerful, the rich, and the bankers, only causes problems for democracy.”
Come hell or high water, el presidente was set on having his referendum. Then came Sunday, the 28th of June.
Congress, the courts, and the military joined forces to send “Mad” Mel packing. In a deliberate, bipartisan manner, they selected a new president to serve until regular elections in November.
Now, the Obama administration is in a pickle. Utopians in the administration believe the Organization of American States, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and the State Department can all work comfortably together to put Zelaya back in power and, thus, “defend democracy.” But “Mad” Mel’s penchant is for mob democracy. And realists fear a restoration to power would only produce vendetta politics and populism of the worst sort. A few souls in Washington are leery about promptly delivering Honduras into the eager hands of Hugo Chávez and company.
Warts and all, the U.S. should find a way to recognize that the new government of Honduras has preserved constitutional order and that Zelaya is the problem, not the solution.
— Ray Walser is senior policy analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies.