Tag Archives: coup

A Challenge for the OAS: Honduras

How the events unfold in Honduras will reshape the role of the Organization of American States in Inter-American affairs within the next couple of years. In the last year, the Organization’s Permanent Council, General Assembly and its Secretary General remained rather quiet in the face of rigged elections in Nicaragua, attacks on media outlets in Venezuela, Ecuador, or Peru by their governments, or actions by some branches of government – specially the executive – in the Western Hemisphere to alter the structure of checks and balances in their countries. These actions clearly undermined the rule of law and the principles of (liberal) democracy that the organization and its members agreed to defend and promote.

In Honduras, President Zelaya effectively shrugged off decisions from the Supreme Court and Congress. Both declared the ballot he proposed for June 28 illegal. The ballot would have called for a Constitutional Assembly in the November general elections. Despite the Court’s and Congress’ decision, Zelaya pushed ahead and turned it into a survey through decree. An OAS’s Permanent Council resolution (CP/RES. 952 1699/09) called for all political and social actors to respect the rule of law prior to the events on Sunday June 28. Zelaya’s persistence undermined Honduras’ rule of law. The President’s removal from his country by the military equates a coup even though it has received wide support from Hondurans, the business community, and allegedly took place following the constitutional order Zelaya violated.  

OAS’s Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza will visit Honduras before the end of the week, most likely accompanied by an ad hoc committee probably appointed during the General Assembly Special Session. President Zelaya also announced that he will return to the country. The interim government led by Roberto Micheletti affirmed that Isulza is welcome, but Zelaya will be put behind bars if he arrives in Honduras.

Zelaya return to office in the next months seems unlikely as he lacks local support. Only if he fully agrees to abide by the rule of law and Honduras’ constitution he will be able to finish his term. Once Zelaya is back in power or shares it with Micheletti, the OAS and its governing bodies will need to respond with stronger positions and preemptively to face threats to democracy and the rule of law in the Western Hemisphere. That means condemning actions by the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, Bolivia, Ecuador, or any other government in the region that undermines democracy, the rule of law, and constitutional order. If the OAS continues to remain silent in the occurrence of these challenges, it will lose the reduced credibility it has among the democratic regimes of the region.

The State of Democracy in Thailand

On December 2nd, the Thai Constitutional Court ruled against the governing coalition parties led by People Power Party (PPP) on vote-buying charges and ordered the parties to disband. The incumbent Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat was ousted shortly afterwards, ending a several-month long anti-government protest by the People Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which largely represents the urban elite. The ruling would seem to support the PAD’s persistent claim that Somchai was not a proper, democratic leader but another corrupt proxy of the hated Thaksin clan. Democracy, it would appear, has prevailed, though at huge expense: Thailand’s reputation as a safe business environment and friendly tourist destination has been shattered.

However, some argue that the court’s ruling, the protests, and the silence of Thailand’s respected King effectively constituted a political coup of the government that, while unpopular among the middle class, was nevertheless elected by the people at large.

The King’s role in recent events has been a particularly hot topic. The country’s revered symbol did not intervene in the stalemate between the PAD and the PPP. His silence spoke volumes with many interpreting this as tacit approval of the PAD demonstrations. Sharing this point of view, the Economist magazine of this week featured a story entitled ”A Right Royal Mess” that discusses the critical and controversial role that King Bhumibol Adulyadej has played in Thailand’s modern political development and the recent “yellow-shirt” protests.

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