Honduras’ presidential standoff

What the U.S. and other regional players can do to resolve the ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya

What happened

The Honduran military prevented ousted President Manuel Zelaya from returning to the country Sunday, as clashes between his supporters and the military left at least one pro-Zelaya protester shot dead. The Organization of American States suspended Honduras Saturday, after its new leaders refused to reinstate Zelaya. (Reuters)

What the commentators said

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“International opinion has correctly rallied behind” Manuel Zelaya, said Canada’s Globe and Mail in an editorial, but Honduras was also right to stop Zelaya’s “machinations” to insert a Hugo Chavez–like “generalissimo clause” into its onstitution. Because he was ousted by the military, “Zelaya should be restored to office,” but only if he agrees to obey his nation’s one-term limit.

Why are we being so “insane” as to follow Hugo Chavez’s lead on reinstating Manuel Zelaya? said Mary Anastasia O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal. By following in Chavez’s footsteps, Zelaya was the one posing a real threat to democracy. And unlike other nations poisoned by Chavez, “Honduras had the courage to push back.” The U.S. should support that bravery.

This isn’t about Chavez, despite the fixation of the international media, said Juan Francisco Coloane in Argentina’s Argenpress (via Watching America). It’s about Zelaya—a “truly accidental” leftist, and “a rightist at the core”—ruffling the feathers of the Honduran elite, through social reforms to help the country’s poor. The elite’s solution was a “classic coup,” which the U.S. hasn’t condemned enough.

Yes, it was an “illegal coup,” said Dan Rosenheck in Slate, but shoving Zelaya “back down Hondras’ throat” will only backfire. The “constitutional crisis” that led to the coup was all Zelaya’s fault, but because Honduras’ constitution doesn’t have an impeachment clause, the Supreme Court had to improvise—badly, in this case. With the world in its face, “plucky Honduras” will just dig in, so it's time to tone down the demands.

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