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The 'Coup' in Honduras: a Primer

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jul 30, 2009

 How much do you know about the June coup in Honduras?

Well, the first thing you should know is that it wasn't really a coup. President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office legally, by the country's attorney general, acting on an order from the nation's highest court. The president's arrest was an appropriate legal response to his constitutonal violations.

By the time he was ousted from power, Zelaya's autocratic governing style had lost him the support of nearly every major institution in Honduras. Congress supported his removal, as did the courts. Every major political party supported it. The country's Catholic bishops did not endorse the ouster, but they made a point of noticing that the president's removal was done in accordance with law, and they encouraged the world to notice "all that was happening outside the law in Honduras" before Zelaya's removal. Pope Benedict, when he mentioned the turmoil in Honduras during a public audience, spoke pointedly of the need for "authentic democracy"-- thereby sending the message that Zelaya's high-handed approach was not the real thing.

The Honduran bishops said unequivocally that Zelaya should not be returned to power. The country's interim government agrees. The folks who removed him from office certainly don't want him back. So who does?

The answer to that question is clear: Venezuelan leftist leader Hugo Chavez, who had become Zelaya's strongest ally, wants his friend returned to office. Since Chavez has made a career of attacking the Catholic Church in his own country, it's not too surprising that the Honduran bishops are worried about his influence there.

That's the story in a nutshell. Now ask yourself: Why is the Obama White House pushing for the restoration of Zelaya at the helm of the Honduran government? If the US is committed to advancing democracy-- authentic democracy-- that goal can't be reached by supporting an autocratic rule in Honduras, nor by enhancing the regional power of another autocrat in Venezuela. 

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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