Imagine it is the summer of 2016, and President Obama is acting strangely. (If you can’t imagine President Obama acting strangely, insert “President Cheney”, or even “President Limbaugh” here, so that you get the appropriate sense of the willies.) Suddenly he decided that the whole idea of term limits was not good. He decided to hold a referendum to allow himself to serve additional terms in office, had the ballots printed by his buddy Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and ordered the Army to distribute the ballots (they refused). His attorney general, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and many members of his own party told him that he could not amend the Constitution by that method, but he ignored them.
After this, the Congress voted to impeach him, but he refused to go. He tried to replace the top military leaders, but Congress re-instated them. Finally, the Army stepped in, removed him from the White House, and sent him on a plane to Canada. The Army then installed Joe Biden as President, and returned to their normal role. President Biden took over, appointed a Vice President according to the rules of the Constitution, and assured the country that the next election would be held on schedule.
That is roughly what has been happening in Honduras over the last few months.
When you hear about what is happening in Honduras, it is described as a military coup, but that is not an accurate portrayal. The Honduran military did not act alone in removing Manuel Zelaya. They were acting under orders from the Honduran Supreme Court, who had ruled that Manuel Zelaya was acting unconstitutionally and should be arrested. His removal from office was confirmed by the National Congress, which is dominated by members of his own party.
Also, the Honduran military is not running the country. Leadership of the country was given to Roberto Micheletti, who was previously the President of the National Congress. (This is roughly equivalent to our Speaker of the House.) He is the person who was, according to the Honduran constitution, next in line if something happened to the President. Their Vice President, Elvin Santos, had resigned to run for President.
Many countries, including Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, and our own government, are calling for the restoration of Manuel Zelaya. They are ignoring that the next election is already set for November 29, and Mr. Zelaya was constitutionally forbidden from running for office again. If he had behaved himself, he would be retiring soon anyhow. The people who are running for President now were already campaigning to replace him before he was overthrown.
They are also ignoring the fact that the Honduran government was faced with a serious problem. A democratically elected leader was trying to violate his country’s constitution and become a dictator. (Hugo Chavez knows something about this.) The Honduran government stood up to him and removed him from office in the best way they could, and mostly followed their constitution. (The military’s only failure to follow their constitution was that they let Mr. Zelaya leave the country, rather than force him to be stand trial in Honduras.)
We should not be interfering in Honduras’ internal affairs, and pressuring them to take back a potential dictator. We should especially be suspicious that the potential dictator’s best friends in the region are Hugo Chavez and Raoul Castro.