President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is the kind of guy that used to give America fits. That is, he wasn’t the kind of reliable ally the George W. Bush and others before him used to count on in Central America.
This past Sunday, about 100 soldiers entered this elected president’s home, and rushed him onto a plane bound for Costa Rica. His crime? He wanted to hold a referendum on re-writing the Honduran constitution.
Part of what Zelaya wanted was the chance to serve a second four-year term. That’s prohibited in the current constitution. What’s interesting about this is the striking similarity between what Zelaya wanted to do, and what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did here.
There are some major differences, however. Bloomberg got his chance to run for a third term by suborning the local city council. If he’d submitted the question to a referendum as Zelaya wanted to do, he might have lost.
The political parallel between the two can’t be denied.
Politicians generally are loath to leave office if they don’t think they’re ready. They may mouth platitudes about their need to serve, but, like fighters, some just can’t give up the spotlight. So it is with Bloomberg, so it appears to be with Zelaya, even though he’s nothing near the power hungry dictator in waiting some US media have made him out to be. When you read that he raised the minimum wage by 60% during his time in office, you wonder whether, if the Honduran people had a chance, they might not re-elect him.
Of course, not everyone thinks raising the minimum wage is a good thing. And when Zelaya fired top military General Romeo Vasquez for refusing to implement preparations for the referendum, the stage was set for the military and the Honduran oligarchy to act in concert. Zelaya’s support of Honduras’ poor people was too much. However, subsequent events must have taken them by surprise.
First the region, then Europe, then even the US lined up to condemn the coup.
It’s been condemned for what it is, a strong-arm tactic by a group of thugs in uniform. Here the similarity to recent events in Iran is worth noting.
So too is the reaction of President Obama. While he’s been hesitant to take some steps that could probably give the coup leaders pause, his statements demanding the reinstatement of Zelaya are welcome and needed. The next step is, of course, to cut off US aid to the country if it’s clear the money will go into the hands (and pockets) of the plotters. The firmness of Obama’s resolve could go a long way toward ending the reported brutal repression of protests against the coup.
Manuel Zelaya says he’ll return to Honduras on Thursday. What do you think. Will he be reinstated as president?