In the early hours of June 28, 2009, military personnel arrested Honduras’ President Manuel Zelaya at his home in Tegucigalpa. His ousting capped months of torrid 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, Cardinal Rodriguez-Maradiaga, to the President’s own Liberal Party.
Zelaya’s deposition became the object of acute controversy and gave way to a complex political battle with hemisphere-wide implications. The episode threw in the open very significant questions about the geopolitical disputes that are 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 of 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. Despite the swearing in of a new democratically elected government in January 2010, led by President Porfirio Lobo, the consequences of this episode, for both Honduras and the region, linger on.
The following pages will attempt to give answers to five key questions about the Honduran crisis: Was the interruption of Zelaya’s term a coup? Why did it happen? Why, despite an overwhelmingly hostile reaction from the international community, was it not reversed? What is the tentative balance of the crisis? What is to be done if a similar meltdown is to be prevented in the future?
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