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July 01, 2009

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I think the main issue is that the court and military lacked the authority to do what they did. It would be sort of like the Supreme Court and Attorney General removing a US president because of allegations that laws were broken. No due process.

Ultimately, though, I agree with you. The problem is that the constitution (as I understand it) doesn't give anyone the power to remove the president. That's the main problem. It's unnerving when a military does so (even in concert with courts), but the fundamental failure was the lack of an adequate impeachment process.

[HS: Just because the removal process isn't exactly like the U.S. impeachment process doesn't mean it violated norms of due process. And what would happen in the U.S. if Nixon or Clinton had been ordered to step down after a proper impeachment process, and they refused? Wouldn't the U.S. Supreme Court order his removal?]

I will give the MSM a little credit on this one. I haven't watched a lot of the coverage, but the coverage I have watched seems to at least question Obama's decision. That is more than I can say about the MSM and most things he does. Of course, Foxnews has been all over it.

//And what would happen in the U.S. if Nixon or Clinton had been ordered to step down after a proper impeachment process, and they refused? Wouldn't the U.S. Supreme Court order his removal?//

Yes and no. The Supreme Court's role would be to certify that the impeachment process was legal and that the presidential power had changed hands. What would happen is that President Ford or President Gore would have to order the physical removal and the legal system would deal with the arrest.

The key is that would at least have been a process to point to. In Honduras there is none. The authority of determining presidential removal does not appear to be vested in the Supreme Court. Nor does the act of the removal fall with the military. In the US the authority to determine removal resides with congress. The act of removal would likely be the secret service acting under the authority of the new president.

The problem here is that these provisions to not appear to exist under the Honduran constitution. There does not appear to be any established process for removing a president. Hopefully after this there will be.

What is this slavish worship of process? Has Sarbanes Oxley extended to international relations now? Are we worried about failing an audit?

Certainly the *intention* of the law was followed. And it was done in a way that honored the separation powers.

The Honduran Constitution really says "No citizen that"?

[HS: I copied it from a tertiary source, who know. At the very least, it's a translation from Spanish. ]

What do the people there want? Who wins in this? Are the masses getting screwed or are they being manipulated to think so? Do they not respect the constitution? What's the militaries motivation here?

These are all real questions. I don't have a clue here. Except that if the military is overthrowing the Pres on legal/constitutional issues I have to say that's strikes me as odd. Wouldn't there be other ways to get the guy out of office?

If they are in the right, legally and morally, and the people in the country are against the move, should they still be doing this?

I am amazed at the fundamental ignorance of this issue that is taking place out in the blogoshpere and in the media. I have seen dozens of references to this section of the Honduran Constitution - but not ONE reference to HOW the impeachment process occurs.

THE POINT(s):

First: The Honduran Constitution requires that if a high-ranking member of the Executive Branch has violated the law or exercised authority outside the dictates of the Constitution (which is treason), the Congress shall then file a petition for impeachment in the Supreme Court and the individual is to be tried with all rights of due process attaching. It seems apparent under those circumstances that they could arrest him (LAW ENFORCEMENT - NOT THE MILITARY) and hold him in jail pending trial.

LET US BE CLEAR ON THIS FIRST POINT - the allegation of Zelaya's unconstitutional acts do seem to violate the constitutional prohibition against a President attempting to amend the constitution in respect to term limits - if so, he had committed treason. HOWEVER, the Honduran Supreme Court nor Congress has the power to order the military or anyone to "remove him" until such trial has taken place. Procedurally speaking, the President's powers would be suspended after his arrest, and during his detention while awaiting for trial. And under the constitution, an interim President would be designated until case on the article(s) of impeachment was tried. Assuming he is convicted after having had full due process, his Presidency would terminate, and the acting President would then serve out the remainder of the term, and he would not be allowed to run for another term.


Second - The Obama Administration is backing the world-wide accepted principle that proper democratic procedure MUST be followed to the letter of the law. Otherwise, the notion of democracy becomes a farce.

Honduras did NOT follow their own constitutional procedure for impeachment and removal - IRRESPECTIVE of whether this guy violated the constitution first. That makes them hipocrites - just like they have labeled him.

FINALLY: For all you people who are labeling Obama as a Liberal or Socialist or Communist, you are engaging in Argument ad Hominem - the first rule of invalid argumentation. If you have not studied Aristotle or Aristotelean Logic (which I have), in layman's terms this means - "if you don't have a case, abuse the speaker."

If you want to engage in an intelligent discourse, drop the "Rush Limbaugh label-them-a-Liberal first" routine. It only reveals the depth of your ignorance and your lack of any valid argument.

[HS: (1) It's obvious that the the other branches of government didn't trust Zelaya to peacefully stand by why this happened; (2) I dispute the fact that the army couldn't arrest him because I don't know enough about Honduran law to know if they have the same distinction between army and police as we do in the United States. The actual body in charge of interpreting Honduran law, the Honduran supreme court, thought it was legal; (3) Even in the United States, there is not a real "trial" to impeach the president, it's essentially a political vote with some but not all of the trappings of a trial. There was a unanimous vote of the Honduran Congress involved, that's enough as far as I'm concerned.]

Lancemh:

I'm not sure that your analysis is correct. Based on the above language, it looks like the proper procedures were followed. Impeachment would be the process used for general remedies of violations of law and the constitution, but Section 239 seems to have its own remedy built into it. It says that "Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform" will "immediately cease in their functions." As a matter of legal interpretation, the only thing needed here is a finding, presumably by a court, that there was an illegal proposed reform. The Supreme Court of Honduras made that finding, in fact issued a judgment that the referendum Zelaya was attempting was illegal. Upon that finding being made, there seems to be a pretty solid argument that Zelaya was, in fact, no longer president. If that's the case, then the military was simply dealing with an ordinary citizen and there was no "coup." What you need to show to disprove this is that the impeachment sections of the constitution stipulate that impeachment is the SOLE REMEDY for a violation of Section 239. Otherwise, 239 can be pretty clearly interpreted to strip a president of their office upon a finding of violation of Section 239.

This may sound alien to those of us in the US, because there is no other provision of the constitution that lays out a parallel remedy for removal of a president. But in a (pardon the phrase) banana republic like Honduras, and as a poster above pointed out, this makes perfect sense from a policy point of view.... if someone tries to become president for life, they often do so through extralegal means like insurrection, revolution or other actions (like getting the mob all hopped up on an illegal referendum prior to having them engage in open revolt) that are not well suited to calm deliberative processes. Going through a formal impeachment process can take months, and would seems to be a great boon to the wanna-be dictator who claims control of the country while the legislature discusses and debates ad nauseum.

All Zelaya did was ask for a plebiscite. That didn't constitute advocating the abolition of the term limit prohibition. All he was attempting to do was to obtain the political pulse of the electorate. What's so unconstitutional and violative of the law about that?

Peter,

We are happy with what happened with Mel Zelaya, the majority of Hondurans don't want him back. It was obvious as to what he wanted to do. His relationship with Chavez, the ballots being printed in Venezuela are enough to know what his real intentions are. We are not Venezuela and we are not Cuba and that is thanks to the people that defended our Constitution. Mel is the problem in Honduras, not the solution.

I just hope the world respects what we have done, good or bad we are defending what we believe in and we just have to hold for 5 months till the next elections.

Trumwill above stated:

"The problem here is that these provisions to not appear to exist under the Honduran constitution. There does not appear to be any established process for removing a president. Hopefully after this there will be."

I disagree. According to article 313, the Supreme Court can comadeer the Armed Forces to carry out its rulings. If they rule that 239 was breached, and therefore that the President must "immediately cease the performance of their duties" (according to 239), then the Supreme Court has the right to enlist the military to Constitutionally remove the President.

I've been arguing elsewhere that this removal could not have been Constitutional. But I'm beginning to conclude that indeed it was.

It seems clear that this coup was constitutional.

The former president of Honduras, Mel Zelaya, was constitutionally ousted. As has been pointed out, the Honduras Constitution, Article 239, establishes term limits and the 'punishment, for attempting or PROPOSING, to modify that article. The punishment: IMMEDIATELY CEASE from holding his/her office. No drawn out legal impeachment process required. This constitution was developed in the context of experiences with dictators and so, the 'fathers (and mothers) of the republic who wrote the Constitution, included some firewalls. By publicly declaring his intent to modify the constitution and by printing the executive order (on the eve of scheduled 'plebiscit, referendum') Zelaya disqualified himself as the president of Honduras. Conclusion: Zelaya was legally ousted!

The military has patrolled the streets of Tegucigalpa (with M16s) for years just like our police do here.

The COBRA force patrolled my hotel hallways for security as far back as 1987.

He violated the Constitution and the other branches removed him as it says.

I've read Article 239 in the original Spanish.

It states clearly that a citizen that has already been President cannot be President or President-designee again, and anyone who breaks this disposition or proposes its reform, and anyone who supports him directly or indirectly, shall immediately be removed from his position, and shall not be able to hold public office for 10 years.

By promoting a vote to change this Article, Zelaya obviously violated it. His removal was legal.

Hate to rain on the parade here, but there is the minor detail that the Honduran Supreme Court never once mentioned Article 239 in their decision. This appears to be a red herring the coup plotters are pushing to the Western media because it appears to be open and shut about removal. The courts must have realized there was no proof of Zelaya's intentions and, even if there were, the proposed (non-binding referendum said nothing about the issue).

It doesn't matter his intentions. Article 239 clearly says "or proposes its reform". His ouster was correct. He is the very person that this article is trying to prevent from becoming dictator.

Now, I know nothing of the means for amending their constitution, but it does seem that this article was specifically and purposefully phrased so as not ever to allow modification of this particular article.

That's exactly the way the want it -- forever -- until some dictator does take power and burns their constitution, that is.

Zelaya is a statist.
Obama is a statist.
All statists have no problem dictating rules for *others* to live by, so, I'm not surprised that O is on the wrong side again.

bv


"his appears to be a red herring the coup plotters are pushing to the Western media"


LOL, yes the "coup plotters" had that inserted into the constitution before hand! I love watching people who worship Obama grasp at straws to justify his ridiculous actions.

The Supreme Court's order did not mention expulsion. The Army's actions were therefore illegal.

Well, according to the AP (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jAkMGKIUDg_ngUiZboxQbYj5_DPwD99FSO2O0), "The military decided to send him into exile instead — a move that military lawyers have since acknowledged also violates the constitution." So there's one authoritative answer on the legality of the military action.

The question of whether calling for a referendum is legally the same as "proposing...reform" would, in the U.S., be a question of law for the court to decide. I don't know how justice operates in Honduras but I would expect something similar. It does strike me as anti-democratic that calling for a vote on something (whether binding or non-binding) would be illegal. If 239 requires immediate removal from office without some process of determining questions of fact and of law, then that strikes me as folly on the part of the drafters of the article.

There is a good entry in Wikipedia that focuses on the constitution of Honduras and the issues relevant to the ouster of Zelaya, providing accurate translations of Articles of the constitution(I can vouch for it because I am a Honduran, thus fluent in Spanish.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Honduras

Here is the entire constitution (in Spanish)- http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Honduras/hond05.html

BTW, 90% of Hondurans today support the coup, with Zelaya already being seen like an incompetent buffoon long before it and he had less popularity than even George W Bush at his lowest.

The Constitution of Honduras appears to assume that anyone who "indirectly" supports a reform of this term can be immediately removed from office and kept out of office for 10 years? My goodness. Is there a level of proof required for that? Or can the Supreme Court just decide that someone has indirectly supported reform and get them out of office???

Article 102 of the Honduran Constitution prohibits the expatriation or delivery to a foreign government of an Honduran. Kidnapping and flying Zelaya to Costa Rica is clearly NOT a constitutional procedure of any sort, regardless of what he did.

And the question precisely, is what he did. People here are mistakenly claiming Zelaya directly and explicitly broke article 239 of the Constitution. In fact, reform of article 239 was never mentioned by Zelaya or his government at any point; the exact terms of June 28's referendum were published in the Honduran Gazette a whole week before the actual poll took place, and the wording of the poll doesn't mention anything of the sort either. Accusations of wanting to reform article 239 consistently came only from the Honduran government's opposition all along, people who hated Zelaya for his reforms to help the poorest people in the country.

So the fact remains, the poll that was to be conducted on June 28 was vague as to Zelaya's intentions and no one knows whether he would actually propose to reform article 239. This is why the Honduran Supreme Court never mentioned said article in its impeaching order; it was because there was no proof whatsoever he would do something of the sort. You don't arrest someone because you think he might break a law, he actually has to break it. And the form of Zelaya's removal from power was far from due process or legal (or anything but high treason) by any stretch. This is clearly an act of treason, a coup d'etat, and the people responsible have to be brought to justice, if only for this (ignoring their repeated violations of human rights and the Constitution since they formed a new government). I believe Obama has some sort of respect for democracy, so I guess I understand why he did not endorse the coup.

It would seem that the constitution of Honduras states that their President violated the law. Just because we do not think that they have all provisions defined does not allow us to interfere with their government.
Mr. Obama has demonstrated his true beliefs, just as he did when he blamed the Cambridge policeman for being at fault when he admitted he did not have the facts. His socialism and racism are showing through. He was listening and believing Reverend Wright.

First of all in Honduras we do not have the provision of impeachment like the US constitution, If president Zelaya would have ceased promoting, and going through with the referendum he would still be president and we under constitutional law could not remove him from power, but since he violated article 239 of the constitution of the Republic of Honduras he ceased his functions, without the need for due process or impeachment. He simply is removed from office and is succeeded by whomever is in line, since Elvin Santos had resigned Vice-Presidency the President of the National Congress, Mr. Roberto Micheletti becomes constitutional president.Regarding article 102, He was not expatriated, he is still a honduran citizen, and the authorities did not hand him over to another country, he was asked to leave, and since then has been invited to return to the country to face due process for his now civil corruption charges.regarding the GAZETTE (the government newspaper where decrees are stated), he first said it was a survey and days before he changed it to a non-binding referendum. HELLO THE SAME THING CHAVEZ DID AND ALL HIS HOMOLOGUE PRESIDENTS ARE TRYING TO DO. DIDN'T YOU HEAR DANIEL ORTEGA DECLARE WE WAS GOING TO DO THE SAME REFERENDUM BUT UNLIKE HONDURAS HE WOULD SUCCEED!WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!

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