In the early hours of June 28, 2009, military personnel arrested Honduras’ President Manuel Zelaya at his home in Tegucigalpa. Clad in his nightgown, Zelaya was brought to the airport at gunpoint, where he was put on a plane bound for Costa Rica. His ouster capped months of conflict between Zelaya and nearly every other political actor and institution in Honduras, ranging from the Supreme Court to the country’s highest religious authority to the president’s own Liberal Party.
Zelaya’s removal from power became the object of acute controversy and gave way to a complex political battle with hemisphere-wide implications. The episode focused attention on very significant questions regarding the geopolitical disputes now raging in Latin America, the United States’ continued influence in the region, the soundness of the Obama administration’s approach towards its southern neighbors, the effectiveness of the Organization of American States (OAS) as the guarantor the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the limits of the international community’s ability to reverse a perceived democratic breakdown, and the roots of populist authoritarianism in the region.
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President-elect Bolsonaro has embraced tough-on-crime measures that egregiously violate basic human rights and eviscerate the rule of law. Responding to Brazil’s 63,880 homicides in 2017, Bolsonaro calls for increasing protection for police officers who kill alleged criminals and arming citizens. He calls for further militarizing urban policing, reducing the age of criminal liability from 18 to 16, reinstating the death penalty, authorizing torture in interrogations and imprisoning more people... Brazil’s police are already notorious for being one of the world’s deadliest in the use of force. In many favelas, Brazil’s retired and current police officers operate illegal militias that extort and control local communities, murdering those who oppose them and engaging in warfare with Brazil’s highly-violent gangs and in social cleansing. Bolsonaro is simply threatening to turn the rest of the police into state-sanctioned thugs.