The Honduran Constitution

I wish I had the exact quote in front of me, but one of the lines from the Honduran Constitution was that President was subject to extreme sanctions for even mentioning in public the possibility of extending his term beyond Constitutional limits.  This is one of the provisions that Manuel Zelaya was ousted for violating.

Now, such a provision sounds very odd to our ears.  Until one considers that any number of other "democratically" elected South American presidents have held suspect "elections" that waived the Constitution and gave them extra terms.  Hugo Chavez is but one example.  Seeing this around them, the authors of the Honduran Constitution  did everything they could think of to prevent such an occurrence.  They wanted real term limits and they did not want them to be waived by any process. They knew that democratically elected Presidents had a way of becoming dictators in Latin America.

Unfortunately, in what I hope was ignorance but others have argued is calculated, Hillary Clinton's state department and Obama are backing Zelaya and arguing that, against any reasonable reading of the Constitution, he was wrongly ousted.

Now, in Nicaragua, we can again see exactly why the Honduran Constitution writers were so paranoid, and why it is so depressing the Administration has taken the position it has:

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega announced Sunday, on the 30th anniversary of the leftist Sandinista revolution he led, that he would seek a referendum to change the constitution to allow him to seek reelection.

Following in the footsteps of elected regional allies, Ortega told thousands of supporters here that he would seek a referendum to let "the people say if they want to reward or punish" their leaders with reelection.

His close leftist allies who have had rules changed enabling them to remain in power include presidents Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador.

In the last month President Manuel Zelaya in neighboring Honduras was ousted in a coup by his own military after seeking similar action.

I am sure Jimmy Carter will be available to put his imprimatur on the election.

  • Gorgasal

    Zelaya lost his office and became ineligible for public office for ten years just for suggesting reforming presidential term limits, by articles 4, 239 and 374 of the Honduran constitution.

    The Honduran constitution can be found here (painfully unorganized):
    http://www.congreso.gob.hn/constitucionVigentes.htm

    Art. 4. ... La alternabilidad en el ejercicio de la Presidencia de la República es obligatoria. La infracción de esta norma constituye delito de traición a la Patria.

    Art. 239. El ciudadano que haya desempenado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá der Presidente o Designado. El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeno de sus respectivos cargos, y quedarán inhabilitados por diez anos para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

    Art. 374. No podrán reformarse, en ningún caso, ... los artículos constitucionales que se refieren ... a la prohibición para ser nuevamente Presidente de la República...

  • Ian Random

    Wait, according to our supreme court we need to look at foreign laws and incorporate them into our own because the world is more enlightened than us Neanderthals. But if the Honduran Supreme Court rules against a potential lefty dictator then it's bad law because they are removing an elected president. I think remember something like this happening in 2000.

  • Michael Miller

    Obama and his Secretary of State are both exposing their true colors on this issue. Their sympathies are clearly with the leftist authoritarians, Ortega, Zelaya and Chavez. Didn't Obama himself refer to the US Constitution as, "a deeply flawed document". So, why would Obama show any more respect for the Constitution of Honduras?

    For instance, Obama proposes that the US pay for his universal health care plan by confiscating significant portions from the incomes and assets of the "wealthy". He is a redistributionist, just like Hugo Chavez and his friends. This is the real reason he is supporting Zelaya. At core, they are all fellow travelers.

  • James H

    I still think that if O gets a second term, he will be posturing to remove the term limits here. The rhetoric will come pouring out day and night. I think he must have this in his mind now, and knows that if he supports term limits in Honduras that it would weaken his arguments in the US.

  • http://blog.jackalopepursuivant.com/ Dan

    It makes me grateful for the complexity of American federalism. Good luck getting a term-extension bill through 2/3 of state legislatures.

    National referendums would be the swift and sure death of the American republic. It is a real pity that other countries can't seem to emulate the structure of American government.

  • Dr. T

    Dan, Obama supports Zelaya because he sees himself in the same boat in 2016. Obama won't get a repeal of the 22nd amendment, but he'll convene some phony popular referendum to override our election process just as Zelaya did. But, Obama will learn from the Honduras episode and ensure that the majority of the Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs of Staff support him.

  • Craig

    To be fair, the US does have a bad record of interfering in South America, and I can see the utility of improving our image there. However, we could have paid lip service to democracy without siding with Zelaya so vociferously. Especially after we barely lifted a finger to help the Iranians.

  • Russ Summerell

    "our Constitution also includes a single exception to this rule in article 239, which states that the President that violates the principle of alternation of the Presidency or simply proposes its reform, will immediately cease in the exercise of office. In other words, the simple act of proposing the reform removes ispo jure (by operation of law) a President from office. This may sound radical to many, but the truth is it's coherent with the geopolitical reality of Honduras ; and on June 28 of 2009 it proved why."

    I spent two days in Tegucigalpa this week and going back today. Met with US AMbassador. My impression is that the US' abuse of Honduras is coming from the very top of this admin. The country is open and working! Come on down for vacation in Roatan -- most hotels are 2 for 1.

  • Gringo

    Craig To be fair, the US does have a bad record of interfering in South America, and I can see the utility of improving our image there. However, we could have paid lip service to democracy without siding with Zelaya so vociferously. Especially after we barely lifted a finger to help the Iranians.

    Have you read “Declaration of the Breakdown of Chile’s Democracy?” Three weeks the Chilean Chamber of Deputies passed this resolution by a 81-47 vote, a strong 63% majority.In general and in specific, the resolution could be interpreted as an invitation to a coup. Allende himself called it such. The democratically elected members of the House of Deputies would not have passed such a strongly-worded resolution by a commanding 63- 37% majority if their constituents, the Chilean people, were not also disgusted with the Allende government’s repeated violations of law and democratic procedure.
    The Chilean Supreme Court had also condemned Allende. Like Zelaya, Allende tried to accumulate powers not granted him by his Constitution.