On September 4, 2009 on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, US Rep – D. William Delahunt (member of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs) from Massachusetts’s 10th District and U.S. Rep. – R. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida debated U.S. policy towards Honduras. During the discussion, Delahunt referred to Honduras as a “banana republic” adding that it was ruled by an “economic elite” that is unattached from the real needs of the population. “Banana republic” is a pejorative term for a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, corrupt clique and uneducated and subservient populations. Clearly this is not the case of Honduras or any Latin American country.

Honduras is a representative democracy, where the President is both head of state and head of government. The government is in charge of the Executive and the Judiciary is completely independent of the executive and the legislative branches. The current constitution dates back to 1987. In fact, the legislative, executive and judicial powers are so well respected in Honduras that when President Manuel Zelaya wanted to illegally change the constitution to extend his term in office, these two branches conformed by sympathizers and opponents of Mr. Zelaya, acted independently and in accordance to the law declaring that this move was illegal.

Congressman Delahunt appears to have a misunderstanding about the events that took place in Honduras. It is incredibly clear that Manuel Zelaya, following Hugo Chavez’s plan, violated the law, which expressly states in Article 239 that any president who seeks to amend the constitution and extend his term in office is automatically disqualified and is no longer president. The Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that Mr. Zelaya was attempting to extend his term with an illegal referendum. Thus, at the time of his arrest he knew, as well as everybody else, that he was no longer-as a matter of law, as far as the Supreme Court was concerned-president of Honduras. The Honduran leadership removed Zelaya because it was in accordance with the rule of law and the overwhelming majority of the population backed this decision.

But the problem doesn’t end there. It is quite disturbing to see the approach of the Obama Administration towards Honduras, which has decided to punish the Honduran people by declaring that they won’t recognize the election that’s going to take place in late November. In addition, the US government has suspended all military aid and has just withdrawn $30 million of foreign aid.

Is it so difficult for some to understand that Zelaya broke the law and that the decision taken by the Honduran leadership was the correct and lawful one? Why the insistence on restoring a president that violated the rule of law and the Constitution in many instances and who’s intent was to destabilize Honduras in order to instill a Chavista regime? Why do Mr. Delahunt and the Obama Administration so blindly side with the dictatorial ambitions of Manuel Zelaya, Hugo Chavez and their plans for a Latin American Bolivarian Revolution? This is clearly not what the Honduran people want.

Current President Roberto Micheletti succeeded Mr. Zelaya under the Honduran constitution’s order of succession (the vice president had resigned before all of this began so that he could run for president). This is and has always been an entirely civilian government. The military was ordered by an entirely civilian Supreme Court to arrest Mr. Zelaya. His removal was ordered by an entirely civilian and elected Congress. To suggest that Mr. Zelaya was ousted by means of a military coup is not true.

It is important to keep in mind that Delahunt’s point of view might be somewhat biased since in November, 2005, the Representative together with Joseph P. Kennedy II from Citizens Energy Corp. met with Venezuelan Hugo Chavez and engineered a deal in which Venezuela would supply winter home heating oil at a 40 percent price reduction to thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents. The deal was carried out via the Venezuelan owned CITGO, bringing accusations that Delahunt was assisting an anti-American leader. Maybe Delahunt had the best intentions to help the people in his state, but he must know better than to be used for the propagandistic agenda of anti- American Hugo Chavez.

With these statements, Mr. Delahunt demonstrates that he lacks understanding of Latin American politics, especially Honduras, and shows contempt for a loyal ally of the United States. Such labels are degrading to all Latin Americans and for this, he owes an apology.

Nicole M. Ferrand is a research analyst and editor of “The Americas Report” of the Menges Hemispheric Security Project. She is a graduate of Columbia University in Economics and Political Science with a background in Law from Peruvian University, UNIFE and in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University.

 

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