Yesterday, Sunday June 28, 2009, will be marked for the rest of our lives as the day in which socialism received its biggest slap on the face in recent years. Honduran President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, a moderate-turned-into-radical leftist, who admires Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, was removed from power. The world saw this as a coup d’état but really wasn’t. The Armed Forces, obeying an order from the judiciary, came to Zelaya’s home early in the morning, snatched him from his bed, drove him to a military air base and flew him on his presidential jet to San José, Costa Rica, where he was left – still in his PJs. All against his will.
Why such an extreme measure to legally remove a President? In this article, I’ll talk about the reasons for removing Zelaya from power, which are divided in the following categories: 1) His support or leniency for all sorts of crimes and criminals; 2) His repeated violation and disregard for the rule of law, due process and judicial orders; 3) His intentions of making Honduras a socialist country, disrespecting democracy and freedom. In a future piece I’ll discuss the legal procedures for removing a president like Zelaya.
1) Zelaya the crime lover
Manuel Zelaya, from the Liberal Party, came to power in 2006, after winning the elections with a slim margin. His campaign was reportedly funded by Honduran drug lords, who are his friends, relatives and friends of his relatives. There hasn’t been an official investigation on this matter, but this is well known in political circles.
Unsurprisingly, Zelaya was a softy when handling drug lords, drug traffickers, kidnappers, assassins, extortionists, and the like. Even though he enlarged the size of the National Police, this was not enough to fight these criminals. For a while, he publicly insulted the judiciary branch, claiming that judges released criminals after they were captured by the police and taken to court hearings. Yes, judges do release real criminals if there isn’t enough proof to send them to prison. Who’s supposed to investigate crimes and present proof against criminals? The National Direction of Criminal Investigation, which is part of the Office of Security, which in turn reports directly to the executive. President Zelaya could not and would not cleanse the Office of Security from the pile of criminals that infiltrated it. There are serious reports and even criminal court judgments against police agents and officers for being part or leading bands of drug distribution, extortionists, hit men, kidnappers, car thieves and so on. These are very lucrative businesses that Zelaya and his secretaries of State knew about; instead of fighting them, Zelaya decided to cooperate with them, benefit from them and otherwise let them flourish, at the expense of 7.5 million Hondurans, who suffered immensely from the abuses of these criminals.
President Zelaya constantly claimed that he did what he could to fight crime, but reality reflected the contrary. During his incumbency, violent deaths and kidnappings skyrocketed, making Honduras one of the dangerous countries in the Western Hemisphere. Congress emphatically demanded for Zelaya to do something about the terrible situation that had the police force and the general citizenry on their knees. President Zelaya preferred to ride his horse on every town parade he was invited to, traveled to 70 countries around the world, flew on a jetfighter just for kicks, stopped Tegucigalpa’s traffic just to make way for his motorcade, and many other luxuries (and abuses) that only compare to what brutal African tyrants enjoy. Yes, all of this at the expense and frustration of millions of Hondurans, who cannot afford hiring a bodyguard for protection from the hoards of criminals that infest our country.
As of recent, an increasing number of small aircraft have been landing or crashing in Honduran territory. These planes carry the Venezuelan flag and are chockfull of kilos of cocaine. Most loads are not confiscated by the authorities; when they are, they’re actually redistributed into the drug market, expanding the business circle to police officers and other public officials. Weekly, one or two of these aircrafts are detected but rarely are the culprits captured. President Zelaya, knowing all this, prefers to keep silent, since he well knows he shouldn’t fight the drug lords, who are his friends.
2) Zelaya the anarchist
I have yet to find a legal disposition or judicial order that President Zelaya obeyed out of respect for due process, the rule of law and order. Anytime he did obey the law was to benefit from it unfairly, enrich his family or his cronies, or to make a political move that would make him win the favor of his followers. The government of Manuel Zelaya will be recorded in Honduran history as the most corrupt, disorganized and mischievous government.
Let’s not forget that Zelaya only has a high school education. He was enrolled in the Honduran state university for five years, only passing 11 of classes and never graduating; his cumulative average was 34.6%.
Zelaya’s father was heavily involved in the massacre of over a dozen clergy and civilians in 1975, thirty-four years before President Zelaya broke into the Honduran Air Force base in Tegucigalpa, this past Friday, to claim the 15,000 survey boxes that had already been declared illicit material by a court.
Manuel Zelaya cannot be blamed for the atrocities of his father or any of his relatives, but you can definitely see a trend in his anarchist lifestyle. He has never had an authority over him, nor does he care what others think of his carefree style that damages our nation so much. Zelaya has enjoyed a free-spirit lifestyle, to the point of being a negligent parent and an aloof husband. In fact, his adulterous ways are well known in the capital’s social circles. We can see that same adulterous style in the way he handled his government – if you want to call it that.
For the past two years, Manuel Zelaya’s approval rates have been in the 30s. He always expressed the unimportance of these results, since he knew that el pueblo loved him – he felt in the town parades, he said.
Instead of wisely directing the business of the public administration, Zelaya would rather go on a trip to the Honduran jungle (“La Mosquitia”) and spend the weekend there, televising every move he made, every inanity that came out of his mouth and every song he played on his guitar. The other 7.5 million Hondurans, annoyed at their president, wondered when this circus would be over. But, alas, Zelaya surprised the Honduran republic, by going to the Hog Keys (Cayos Cochinos), in our Caribbean, to show his citizens and the world his abilities as a scuba diver.
Private hospitals have been happy with Zelaya’s presidency, particularly because he was a frequent patient in the “detox” center, where he would get cleansed from all the cocaine he snorted. Yes, I said it, one of the taboos of Honduran society: Manuel Zelaya is a drug addict. His close friends can tell you the countless times he visited the hospital or was taken to a secluded place until his drug fever would be over. Of course, the Honduran media never reported on this, nor was there a serious investigation on it. However, why do you think Zelaya recently proposed in public that illegal drugs should be legalized? Later, he claimed he never said such thing and that he meant something else.
When Zelaya did not like a law or decree passed by Congress, he hid it and put its approval in suspense for months, if not years. Around 70 laws or decrees have suffered this treatment by Zelaya, causing grave damage to our country, which is in need for implementing laws that make it bigger and better.
This year, in order to pressure Congress to support his views, President Zelaya decided to withhold the 2009 budget, which was supposed to be presented to Congress since late 2008. Honduran law says that when this happens, the budget from the previous year will be used. Zelaya was strangulating the public administration, Congress and the Judiciary by not presenting this year’s budget for approval. He wanted public officials to support his plans for a new Constitution via a constituent assembly. Thankfully, Congress did not budge and preferred to remove him from the presidency for his threats and abuse of power.
President Zelaya, as we all have witnessed, has demonstrated to disrespect the institutions established by our legal system. He constantly disobeyed court orders and was minimally interested in what the other two branches of power had to say.
His family and his family’s close buddies drove around the country in motorcades and were protected by bodyguards. Even distant relatives and their friends enjoyed the blessings that the State provided with the funds of public taxes.
After a couple of months in power, Zelaya demonstrated to be a president that no one wanted. Even though he’s only been in power three and a half years, it surely feels he has been president forever.
Is this the type of president average citizens want for their country? I highly doubt it, which is why over 70% of Hondurans approve of Zelaya’s removal from power.
3) Zelaya the socialist
Manuel Zelaya, since the beginning of his presidency, has showed his passion for the masses, the poor people and the destitute. He has started many programs to help the poor, but, in fact, hasn’t carried through. The thousands of posts opened to supposedly aid the needy have been filled by his political activists who don’t always show up for work, unless it’s pay day. These are the same activists who are out in the streets today, protesting for Zelaya’s return to power. Of course, they don’t really care about democracy or the rule of law or the people they’re supposed to be helping out through their posts: They are deeply afraid of losing that pay check from the social program or aid institution that was supposedly created to help those in need.
The mountains of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and despotism of Zelaya’s government can only be compared to that of stereotypical African nations. His government had all the characteristics of an administration that was leading our country to a level of complete failure. The progress made in the past 20-some years, in matters of due process, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, and legality, has been trampled upon by the Zelaya administration. If you visit any public office, you’ll find out no one is really interested in working or helping you out in any way. Public officials of the Zelaya administration have not earned their jobs and are very confident that while their leader is in power, they will not lose their jobs.
Yes, things could be worse, I know. We were going to get there, if Zelaya stayed in power. For the past two years, President Zelaya has strengthened his ties with Venezuela, Cuba and other socialist and radically left-wing nations. He has been very bold about his admiration for these countries, hinting that Honduras should learn from them. Under these types of regimes, there is corruption, cronyism, nepotism and despotism galore. Honduras’ doors opened to socialism last year when Zelaya pushed an oil-and-money assistance program provided by Venezuela, called Petrocaribe, expecting nothing back from Honduras (and so Zelaya told us). Most people thought this was a good thing because gas prices would come down, we would get assistance money for social programs and Chávez’s intentions were merely philanthropic. After much debate, Congress was bought out by Venezuela’s petro/narcodollars, and Petrocaribe got a green light. None of the promises came true, except for the money that many congress representatives got for voting in favor of it.
Later in 2008, Zelaya and his cronies tried to convince Congress to approve Honduras’ adherence to the socialist Alternativa Bolivariana para las Américas (ALBA), which supposedly is a social-aid alliance funded mainly by Chávez’s Venezuela; all of its members are blatantly leftist. The Honduran Congress was skeptical of this deal, but, after many talks and money transfers, the adherence to the ALBA passed. From here on, Honduran citizens noticed a clear turn to the left of President Zelaya.
Early this year, Zelaya started promoting his so-called Cuarta Urna (fourth ballot box), representing the fourth ballot box that would be included in this year’s general elections. So, what would this ballot box decide? Well, its purpose was to know whether or not Honduran citizens wanted to call for a constituent assembly that would abolish our current Constitution. There is nothing glaringly wrong with our Constitution, but Zelaya did not like the fact that presidential terms only lasted four years and that there was not chance for a reelection. Zelaya started heavily and viciously campaigning for this ballot box to be included in the November elections. But, before then, he also wanted a non-binding survey (not a referendum or plebiscite) asking the population whether or not they actually wanted the fourth ballot box in November. “Wow, what an honest and transparent president he was,” you might say. Much to our surprise, he wanted to revamp the Constitution in order to stay in power and make Honduras a socialist nation, following the trend of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
The point of the so-called non-binding survey was to have a backup and an anchor to prove Congress and the world that Zelaya’s plans for a new Constitution were demanded by the majority of Honduras. Naturally, as he did in the 2005 elections and recently confirmed it, Zelaya would rig the “votes” and conclusively have the support of an overwhelming majority of Hondurans. The Attorney General, seeing Zelaya’s unconstitutional and dangerous plans, filed a suit in court so that the survey would be stopped. The judge’s provisional but firm judgment declared the June 28th survey as illegal. Any type of consultation or survey that plans to abolish the Constitution would be illegal. Anyone who supported this survey would be tried in court for countless crimes. The Armed Forces received a court order to not support Zelaya’s survey and to incinerate any type of material destined for the survey. It wasn’t until last week that the Armed Forces received a final order from the court, telling them it’s their constitutional duty to preserve the Constitution.
After Zelaya found out that the Armed Forces were not going to support him in his “survey”, he decided to fire the head of the Joints Chief of Staff, five-star General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez. Immediately, Congress named a commission to prepare a report on the grievances done by Zelaya, which would disable him to continue as president of Honduras. The following day, Friday, Vásquez Velásquez was reinstated by the Supreme Court of Justice, since Zelaya hadn’t followed the proper methods to fire the general nor were there legal reasons to fire him. Vásquez Velásquez only wanted to preserve the Constitution and that was a crime in Zelaya’s eyes.
On Friday, June 26, President Zelaya, along with a thousand of his paid activists, took a road trip to the Honduras Air Force base in Tegucigalpa, where the survey’s material was being stored, after arriving from Venezuela. Disobeying a court order, Zelaya decided to take the survey material to another place, where he could be sure it would not be sacked or incinerated. The reason the 15,000 survey boxes were handed over to him without much resistance was to avoid violence from the mob that accompanied Zelaya.
Saturday was a calm day for Zelaya and was destined to illegally distribute the survey material throughout Honduras. That evening, in the company of diplomats and foreign-aid program representatives, President Zelaya communicated to his citizens that Sunday would be a glorious day in which everyone should go out and vote, without fear, regarding what a court and the Attorney General had said.
Sunday morning, what everyone in Honduras had been waiting for: around 5:30 a.m., President Zelaya is snatched from his home and flown against his will to Costa Rica; he is later removed from power as President and a new President is legally and formally named.
As you can see, President Zelaya’s ouster was a bomb waiting to explode. As Honduran citizens, we were tired of his mediocrity, abuse of power, insults to other branches of government, and excessive spending in personal enjoyments and illegal acts. We were suffering from his lack of governance. We are happy he is gone. We could’ve well waited until January 27, 2010, when his term was officially over, but, after expressing his desire to abolish the Constitution and stay in power, he had to be removed immediately.
If you think Zelaya is a good guy who should be reinstated in power, why don’t you adopt him in your country and let him run it? We surely wouldn’t mind, but I’m sure you would.
Next: the legal analysis of how Manuel Zelaya was removed from power. This was not a coup d’état, as the international media have been reporting, thus misinforming the international community, who now supports Zelaya, the martyr, and thinks our new government is de facto and illegitimate. They’re wrong.
Written by Inti Jordán Martínez Alemán, a Honduran citizen who loves freedom, peace and democracy
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