The Verdict on Honduras

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ambassador Otto J. Reich

The Law Library of the Congress of the United States (LLC) has issued an opinion on the removal and expulsion of Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras. The LLC’s conclusion: Zelaya’s removal was legal but his deportation from the country was not.

Here is the summary of the opinion.

The Supreme Court of Honduras has constitutional and statutory authority to hear cases against the President of the Republic and many other high officers of the State, to adjudicate and enforce judgments, and to request the assistance of the public forces to enforce its rulings. The Constitution no longer authorizes impeachment, but gives Congress the power to disapprove of the conduct of the President, to conduct special investigations on issues of national interest, and to interpret the Constitution. In the case against President Zelaya, the National Congress interpreted the power to disapprove of the conduct of the President to encompass the power to remove him from office, based on the results of a special, extensive investigation. The Constitution prohibits the expatriation of Honduran citizens.

My thoughts: The LLC opinion may be inconvenient to Zelaya supporters, but it is based on facts. For the Obama administration to insist otherwise is inexplicable. Zelaya, a corrupt and feckless autocrat who was allied with Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, and other self-professed enemies of the United States, was lawfully removed from office by a unanimous decision of the Honduran supreme court. The U.S. had nothing to do with Zelaya’s removal, and it should do nothing to force his return. Rather, we should rejoice that one of the self-proclaimed “21st-century socialist” allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen. We should not collaborate with some of the most anti-American governments in the region — e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Ecuador — to thwart the Honduran constitution and force the restoration of a would-be dictator.

— Otto J. Reich served President Bush from 2001 to 2004, first as assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere and later in the National Security Council. He now heads his own international government-relations firm in Washington.


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