Prominent cardinal backs coup and rule of law in Honduras

July 10, 2009

ormMen touted as a possible next pope of the Roman Catholic Church rarely get involved in public debates over a coup d’etat or wars of words with heads of state. But that’s what Tegucigalpa Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga has done recently in the the political crisis in his country, Honduras. Before the overthrown President Manuel Zelaya made his failed attempt to return home, Rodriguez issued a statement in a televised address declaring his ouster legal and warning Zelaya could spur “a bloodbath” if he came back to Honduras.

(Photo: Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, 16 April 2005/Kimimasa Mayama)

The July 3 televised statement, signed by the 11 bishops of Honduras, exhorted Hondurans to seek a peaceful solution to the political crisis and rejected international criticism of Zelaya’s ouster even as it condemned the manner he was kicked out of the country.

Rodriguez, one of the Latin America’s most prominent Catholic leaders, was frequently mentioned as a possible next pontiff in 2005 when he and his fellow cardinals gathered to elect a successor to Pope John Paul. There was much talk at the time that a cardinal from the developing world, where the majority of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics live, took over at the Vatican. When the conclave opted for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the German was called “the last European pope.” The Latin Americans could win the next conclave if they could only rally behind one candidate, the Italian media speculated. Rodriguez, then a young 62, was often mentioned as the man with the best chances.

In the meantime, Rodriguez, a former president of the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), has taken over as president of Caritas Internationalis, the worldwide Catholic charity organisation. That gives the polyglot prelate an international profile bound to boost his name recognition among other cardinals.

Like Roberto Micheletti, who was appointed president by Honduran lawmakers after the June 28 coup, Rodriguez argued that kicking Zelaya out of office was fully backed by Honduran law. Rodriguez said Zelaya’s bid for a nationwide referendum that could have extended presidential term limits violated an article in the Honduran constitution, which states that anyone who seeks to change a prohibition on presidential reelection immediately loses any office they hold.

zelayaBut Rodriguez also backed off from supporting the staging of the coup, noting that the government’s move to forcibly deport Zelaya was blatantly illegal. He went on to scold the Organization of American States for not paying closer attention to the crisis brewing in Honduras as Zelaya prepared to hold his referendum. He also took a veiled swipe Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was building a growing alliance with Zelaya.

(Photo: Ousted President Zelaya, 6 July 2009/Luis Galdamez)

“The Honduran people ask why there has been no condemnation of the warlike threats against our country. If the inter-American system is limited to protecting democracy at the ballot box but not in fostering good government, the prevention of political, economic and social crisis, it doesn’t do any good to react tardily in the face of them,” the bishops statement said.

In an interview this week with CNN en Espanol, Rodriguez took the direct approach to addressing Chavez: “I want to take this opportunity to say that we totally reject the meddling of the Venezuelan president. We are a small country, but a sovereign one.”

Rodriguez and Chavez had traded barbs in the past after verbal attacks by the Venezuelan leader on the church in the Andean nation, as well as swipes at the Pope, with Chavez calling Rodriguez an “imperialist clown.”

Prior to the coup on June 19, Honduran bishops led by Rodriguez had issued a call for dialogue between the countries political forces, warning that upcoming elections, Zelaya’s referendum and “rumors of a coup” were dangerously polarizing the country.

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For the first time in Latin America, the people revolted without bloodshed and violence against a constitutional and democratically elected President for violating laws in their country. For more on this topic, please read the article titled “Obama Manifesto” posted at

Posted by cliffyworld | Report as abusive

It is impossible to argue with Rodriguez’s reasoning. He makes more sense than anyone I’ve heard or read. If it was up to the the liberal, leftist leaning Obama-Clinton administration and our misguided fellows down at the Carter Center, Honduras would be hung out to dry.

Posted by Mark Combs | Report as abusive

Interestingly, the Honduran Constitution of 1982 does provide for loss of citizenship for those who “incite, promote or aid in the continuation or re-election of the President”  /Honduras/hond05.html (article 42):ARTICULO 42.- La calidad de ciudadano se pierde: 5. Por incitar, promover o apoyar el continuismo o la reelección del Presidente de la República.Further, Article 239 indicates that anyone who has held the office of chief executive cannot be president or vice president and anyone who proposes reform to that prohibition can be barred from holding public office for ten years: ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Vicepresidente de la República. El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos y quedarán inhabilitados por diez años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.My educated guess on that provision is that it is aimed move at banning past military dictators from pursuing the office than it is a stricture contra re-election, per se.Additionally, Article 374 bars any amendments regarding the length of the presidential term (amongst other things:ARTICULO 374.- No podrán reformarse, en ningún caso, el artículo anterior, el presente artículo, los artículos constitucionales que se refieren a la forma de gobierno, al territorio nacional, al período presidencial, a la prohibición para ser nuevamente Presidente de la República, el ciudadano que lo haya desempeñado bajo cualquier título y el referente a quienes no pueden ser Presidentes de la República por el período subsiguiente.As such, it is pretty clear why the Supreme Court of Justice ruled against Zelaya’s plebiscite proposal in the first place. It also means that if the vote had been allowed to happen it would have had no legal standing.

Posted by brainfood | Report as abusive

I work as a consultant in Central America and what Cardinal Rodriguez has expressed is absolutely correct.For reasons too long to explain Latin America seems to be politically motivated to place in power populist demagogues that, at times, seem to be better placed as clowns in a circus. Chavez and his inmature behavior and insulting speech, Ortega who had the best opportunity to make something out of Nicaragua and blew it, the argentinian lady heir who, thank God, seems on her way out and now this cowboy hat clown who was not able to gain the least bit of political stance without submitting to the Venezuelan demagogue. Thank God we have others like Lula da Silva, Bachelet, Arias, Uribe. After this experience in Honduras, even Morales and Correa seem more pallatable.

Posted by Joaquin Glaesel | Report as abusive

The ouster was not legal at all. What it was ws an effort to maintain the status quo. The following clarification from John Ross is helpful:’Mel Zelaya’s forcible removal from power was set in motion by a proposed popular consultation asking voters whether or not they favored rewriting the Honduran constitution, a document that heavily serves the interests of the oligarchy. If the yes vote carried, the measure would have been placed on the upcoming November 29h ballot’ 7102009.htmlNow we have roman catholkoc cardinal backing a coup! And he expects to be the next pope…miught be embarrassing for a future pope to back aracist govt:\'”He negociado con maricones, prostitutas, con ñángaras (izquierdistas), negros, blancos. Ese es mi trabajo, yo estudié eso. No tengo prejuicios raciales, me gusta el negrito del batey que está presidiendo los Estados Unidos.”——–“I have negotiated with queers, prostitutes, leftists, blacks, whites. This is my job, I studied for it. I am not racially prejudiced. I like the little black sugar plantation worker who is president of the United States.”Here’s how ambassador Llorens responded:As the official and personal representative of the president of the United States of America, I convey my deep outrage about the unfortunate, disrespectful and racially insensitive comments by Mr. Enrique Ortez Colindres about President Barack Obama.Statements like this are deeply outrageous for the American people and for me personally. I am shocked by these comments, which I condemn in the strongest terms. ‘ 7/9/751548/-US-aid-to-Honduras-cut;-raci st-FM-removed

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

a cardinal backing a coup…this should immediately disqualify him for any public role at all in the church.Backs a coup and the rule of law. Thats a contradiction ,unless we see the LAW as being a creation of rich elite whites.

Posted by brian | Report as abusive

What is your opinion on the situation in Honduras? Give your vote either for or against Zelaya – ras-crisis-434/

Posted by VoteTheDay | Report as abusive

Not surprising that the Cardinal backs the conservative Capitalists and will not support those who make life better for the poor in their society. The Vatican seems to prefer to have their priests who support the cause of the poor murdered by military gangsters rather than offend the rich and powerful. This has been the tradition in Latin America.

Posted by Hya | Report as abusive

Honduras has drawn a line for democracy and rule of law.Hya says:”The Vatican seems to prefer to have their priests who support the cause of the poor murdered by military gangsters rather than offend the rich and powerful. This has been the tradition in Latin America”…I’m not Catholic but I do remember much discussion of “liberation theology” emanating from Rome; It’s soft Marxism.  /pages/ratzinger/liberationtheol.htm~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~B TW…just how did Zelaya, a very wealthy man, make life better “for the poor”? Has Chavez improved life “for the poor”?Christ said the poor will always be with us, the best human government can do is to educate (not indoctrinate) and codify law that is equally and justly enforced while protecting all.

Posted by Folklight | Report as abusive

If anything resists change long enough, it will destroy itself. If the goal of the spiritual life is transformation, why does the Church side with conservatives? For an eye-opening look into how far the Church will go to serve the right, read, ” Hitler’s Pope,The Secret History Of Benedict XIII”.

Posted by Kirk Hamilton | Report as abusive

Honduras stood up against the coup plotter Mel Zelaya, who got his support from the entrenched super-rich and super-powerful and of course robbing millions from the programs for the poor. This International Socialist Mafia cynically pushing so-called “socialism” in the name of the poor to make sure the poor can never overthrow their tyranny.And of course these socialists hate the “petit bourgeousie” most of all because they show that the best thing to do for the poor is to make sure these oppressors stop harassing small businesses and hanging them with too much government.–Socialism is a rich man’s trickk to oppress the poor, just like Zelaya screwed the poor in Honduras, and Chavez in Venezuela.And like the super-capitalists like Armand Hammer and the Rockefellers and the Warburgs who made back-alley deals to make sure the Bolsheviks didn’t collapse from their abuse of the workers and the poor.–Now comes super-billionaire Chavez ally George Soros who never saw an oppressive dicatorial tyrant he didn’t give gobs of money to with strings..–aec

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive