Posted by: Nathan M. | July 1, 2009

Decisions of Democracy

There has been a coup in Honduras, which deposed Manuel Zelaya as president and replaced him with the president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti. The coup was a quiet one, which essentially involved Zelaya being flown out of the country to Costa Rica, and Micheletti gaining power in his absence. It reportedly happened as a result of a referendum that Zelaya was planning on holding in regards to extended terms for Presidents in Honduras. This referendum, Zelaya claims, was not going to imagesbe taken in an attempt to actually change the constitution and allow Zelaya a longer term. In fact, Zelaya claims that he has no interest in staying on another term as President. Whether that is actually true or not cannot really be known. Enrique Ortez, the interim government’s foreign minister, has stated that Zelaya had charges pending against him for violating the constitution, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Because of this, the interim government has stated that if Zelaya returns to Honduras, he will be arrested. Zelaya is fully intending on returning to Honduras regardless of this, and will apparently be accompanied by the Argentine and Ecuadorean Presidents, as well as the U.N. General Assembly and Organization of American States chiefs. This poses an obvious dilema for international politicians who must decide if it is better to take the risk and support Zelaya for democracy, even if he could have violated the law, or if it is better to condemn Zelaya for his apparent breaking of the law, and support the coup on the condition that an election occurs in short time.

Manuel Zelaya

It is difficult for a nation like Honduras to really reach a democratic consistency. The entire political culture must be altered, and a whole unwritten constitution must be developed. This unwritten constitution, which is just as binding as the written constitution, creates norms for a government that cannot be broken. It means that coups simply do not happen, because the support of the people will inevitably be withdrawn from the illegitimate government that arises as a result of the coup d’etat. These unwritten laws also mean that a government that breaks the law will step down and call a new election immediately upon discovery. This is the reason why it is important for the international world to support a nation in their early stages of democracy-a nation at the beginning stages is very unsteady. Honduras, because of this, has posed a very difficult situation, because both possible truths concerning the coup d’etat create a politically difficult situation. What is the legitimate government when both possible governments seem to have broken laws?

Regardless of Zelaya’s actions however, I believe that the best thing for the United Nations to do is to support Zelaya’s return to power. The reason for this is because, although Zelaya’s possible breach of the law is wrong and harmful, it is crucial that the authority of the government is held in tact. The people must not be given reason to believe that a coup is a legitimate way to remove an unwanted government. The only legitimate way to do so in a democracy is through an election. If it is impossible to have an election that is legitimate and free, then a coup may be necessary-but this is not the case in Honduras. Because of this, I fully support the fact that the UN has placed their support behind Zelaya. I am also glad to see that Canada has placed its support behind Zelaya-it is the democratic thing to do (as an American would say).

Further Readings

U.N. Backs Ousted President of Honduras

Canada, U.S. join call to reinstate Honduran president

Zelaya, defying coup, plans return to Honduras

UN condemns Honduran military coup


  1. Sometimes, however, sometimes, the people need help making decisions, especially in a poor population like Honduras where much of the nation is uneducated and easily swayed by a dictatorial, beneficent looking leader who is really only in it for his own good. Castro was loved by his people right up till the end of his dominion over Cuba.

    Frankly, democracy sprung up inevitably in most of the developed countries around the world because in the end every nation must discover that the power is in the people’s hands or at least must be made to look so. It definitely cannot look as if an outside power holds the key to the government.

    The United Nations backing Zelaya may be democratic but it is not necessarily intelligent. If they are to get involved either way it should be on the condition of an election. If it is to be democracy that is.

  2. but Ryan, is it in the peoples interest to have a stable government? One without the peoples support and brought on by a coup will be very volatile.

    I don’t really have an opinion here, and um just playing devils advocate, but to me a stable, even if corrup,t government can be much better then a fair but weak and volatile government

    Just look at pre-Saddam Hussein and post-Hussein Iraq (though time will tell yet of things get much better or much much worse for their citizens once the US pulls out).

  3. To me a government that is overthrown from within can hardly be considered stable and my point is not which government is better but whether or not the United Nations’ involvement puts the power into the people’s hands. Eventually children grow up and must be let to make their own decisions.

  4. By this of course i refer to the nation as a whole, not to individual members.

  5. why is there a purple creature next to all my comments?

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