President of Honduras Overthrown in Military Coup

Published on
by
Inter Press Service

President of Honduras Overthrown in Military Coup

by
Thelma Mejía

Demonstrators hold up copies of Honduras' flag as they take part in a show of support for Honduras' President Manuel Zelaya outside Miraflores Palace in Caracas June 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

TEGUCIGALPA - A group of at least
100 soldiers surrounded the residence of Honduran President Manuel
Zelaya early Sunday morning, hauled him out of bed, took him to an air
force base and put him on a plane for Costa Rica.

Congress,
which decided late Thursday to investigate whether the president was
fit to govern on the grounds that he "failed to pay due attention to
problems of national interest and did not obey legal decisions, to the
detriment of the rule of law," planned to meet at noon (18:00 GMT) to
complete the process.

The head of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, will be named acting president, as Zelaya’s constitutional successor.

General elections are due in Honduras in November, and Zelaya’s term ends in January.

Blackout

There is virtually no power or Internet in the Honduran capital
in the wake of the coup d’etat. Electricity was gradually cut
throughout the city, which is being overflown by war planes and
helicopters. The few media outlets that continue to broadcast are only
airing music.

The police have reportedly fired tear gas to disperse the growing crowds that have taken to the streets to protest.

There is also a blackout in some neighbourhoods in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in this Central American nation.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) has convened an
emergency meeting on the situation, at its headquarters in Washington,
D.C.

In a statement, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza strongly
condemned the military coup and called on the Honduran people, the
countries of the Americas and the international community "to join
forces against this grave disturbance of the democratic process" in the
region.

U.S. President Barack Obama said "I am deeply concerned by
reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of
President Manuel Zelaya. As the Organisation of American States did on
Friday, I call on all political and social actors in
Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of
the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and
disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any
outside interference."

Officials in the White House reported that Obama and National
Security Adviser James Jones met early Sunday to discuss the situation
in Honduras.

Zelaya’s plans to hold a non-binding popular referendum Sunday
asking voters whether or not to hold a formal vote in November on
creating a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution put him at
loggerheads with the Supreme Court, the military and Congress,
including members of his own party, the Liberal Party.

The situation deteriorated quickly over the last few days.

On Wednesday the president dismissed the military chief,
General Romeo Vásquez and accepted the resignation of Defence Minister
Edmundo Orellana after the armed forces commanders refused to help
organise the referendum by distributing ballot boxes and providing
security.

The Supreme Court ruled that the referendum was illegal, and
voted to reinstate Vásquez. But Zelaya refused to accept the military
chief’s reinstatement, and went ahead with the distribution of voting
materials.

The opposition maintains that Zelaya’s aim was to change the constitution to allow presidents to run for re-election.

Sunday’s unofficial referendum was deemed illegal on the
argument that it violates the constitutional stipulation that
referendums cannot be held during an election year.

The European Union has called on the Honduran military to
release Zelaya and restore constitutional order. "The EU strongly
condemns the arrest of the constitutional president of the republic of
Honduras by the armed forces," Foreign Minister Jan Kohout of the Czech
Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters in
Corfu, Greece.

"This action is an unacceptable violation of constitutional
order in Honduras," said Kohout. "The EU calls for the urgent release
of the president and a swift return to constitutional normality."

Zelaya was elected as the candidate of the centrist Liberal Party, but soon after taking office he took a turn to the left.

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