Honduras Is Not Iran

A reader writes:

Your post about the Honduras situation was inaccurate. President Zelaya is a proto-Chavez leader who was trying to do something that was illegal in order to gain more power and stay in office indefinitely (again, a la Chavez). As a matter of fact, this is ALSO a kind of coup, albeit a ‘softer’ kind, one that uses the idea of having referenda as a subterfuge to gradually undermine the fundamentals of a democracy (it’s indeed ironic that the Chavez-like figures that are proliferating in Latin America, like Evo Morales or Rafael Correa, try to use a seemingly democratic tool in order to concentrate more power into their own hands, and less power in the courts and in the Congress, thus creating more authoritarian states).

The Constitution of Honduras – see articles 184, 185, and 186 – says that the Supreme Court has the power of declaring something to be unconstitutional, and the President does not have the power to overrule this. The separation of powers in a democracy demands that each power be independent. However, even though both the Supreme Court and the Congress clearly affirmed that Zelaya’s attempt to change the constitution was unconstitutional, Zelaya went forward with his plans nevertheless. The article 272 also says that one of the Army’s main duties is to protect the Constitution; therefore, if the president gives an order that goes against the Constitution (and he does that in clear defiance of the other powers of the Republic), then the Army has a constitutional duty to stop the president. That’s what they seem to have done so far; by allowing the president of the Congress to serve as an interim leader until the next elections (as it is prescribed, again, in the Constitution), then the Army has done its duty to protect democracy.

The comparison Al Giordano did between Iran and Honduras, therefore, is ludicrous and factually incorrect. Countries in Latin America such as Venezuela, Equador, and Bolivia would be in much better shape if the Legislative and Judiciary branches of the government hadn’t gradually lost its power to the Executive. This is true even as those charismatic leaders have used their popularity and charisma to convince the majority of the populace to allow them to do whatever they wanted. Democratic principles cease to be democratic when they are used against the principles of democracy itself, one of which being the balance of powers and alternation of leaders.