Editorial: Contemplating the Coup in Honduras

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 19, No. 25            July 2, 2009

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This week the staff at The San Pedro Sun office engaged in heavy discussion about the recent military coup in our neighboring country, Honduras. The whole idea of a military coup, how the chain of events lead up to the kidnapping and exile of President Zelaya to Costa Rica, how the people of that country must feel right now while drawing parallels to our own country of Belize were some of the many topics we contemplated. Likened to the recent earthquake that rocked the Honduras, the same question was posed, “could it happen here and what would we do under the same circumstances?” Our debates were enlightening and even heated at times, but there was one thing we all agreed on, when it comes to changing a country’s constitution, its very soul and foundation, people do not take lightly to leaders who abuse their power and attempt to change national policy without regard to procedure and popular consensus. No matter how fair or reasonable a change might appear to be (in this case pushing for presidential re-election), an elected leader cannot make up policy as he goes, and when he does so, you can count on trouble.

    Although a country can be rightfully distraught with its leader, a military coup cannot be the resolution to a problem when its people have worked so hard to gain democracy. To quote US President Obama in regards to the coup, “It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections,” he added. “The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions. ... We don’t want to go back to a dark past.”

    But what are the choices when it comes to reigning in a renegade leader and when do the people say enough is enough? And when they do say “enough is enough” how do they remedy the problem when the powers that be have done all that they can to control the man but the tyrant won’t go away? Although coups have been common in Central America until the 1980s, Sunday’s ouster was the first military power grab in Latin America since a brief, failed 2002 coup against Chavez in Venezuela and it was the first military ouster of a Central American president since 1993, when Guatemalan military officials refused to accept President Jorge Serrano’s attempt to seize absolute power and removed him. Honduras had not seen a coup since 1978, when one military government overthrew another. Regardless of the scenario, overtaking a government is a dangerous remedy that undermines democratic progress.

    People around the world often feel powerless against their government and at times a coup can give a population a huge sense of false command. While one leader is ousted just who is running the country now? While you are busy dancing in the streets, are these new, self-appointed leaders holding your best interest at heart? What makes them any more qualified or sincere than the last guy? At least when you elect a president you have some idea of who the man is, but when the business of self-appointed leadership steps in, the people can be left in the dark with no clue as to what the future holds. While the government is in massive turmoil you have to worry, “who is minding the house?” While the world watches and many countries and international organizations openly condemn the coup, is your new government making sure that life goes on as usual? What about the banking system? What about the health care system? What about civil aviation? What about public communication systems? If you depend on foreign tourism, will your business survive the turmoil? What about your personal safety and the safety of the country itself? If the military is busy taking over the country and “maintaining” the peace, who is watching the borders? It is no secret that border disputes exist and wouldn’t now be a prime time to pounce when the country and its military is in disarray?

    Did these mighty new leaders consider these things before they bound and gagged the current president and sent him to exile? While the country might be riding on a wave of hope with its new leadership, the only real way of choosing a leader that represents the desires of its people is by the democratic process of voting. The president who was elected by the people has been removed by a power they did not vote for. Until democratic peace and process can be restored the people are powerless in who governs their country and who decides their very future.

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