Global News Journal

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The little coup that could, in Honduras

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Honduras seems trapped in the past. Radio stations play aging hits from Mexican crooner Jose Jose and cumbia dance numbers from the mid-’80s. Women’s fashions are out-of-date and guards nestling big rifles guard beauty salons and pharmacies as they have for decades.

Politics are also mired in the past in this deeply conservative country of 7 million people. While elsewhere in Latin America a new generation of leftists has taken power, putting business leaders on the defensive to some extent and to varying degrees, Honduras’ business elite flexed its muscles when a leftist prsident hinted he wanted to extend presidential term limits.

For four months Honduras has been led by a de facto leader, Roberto Micheletti, who took over after the army, Supreme Court and Congress together pulled a coup on elected President Manuel Zelaya, who was flown out of the country. Zelaya later sneaked back in to take asylum in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa. Repeated attempts at a negotiated settlement between the two have dissolved into bickering.

Micheletti has shown staying power — even after he was isolated on the global stage.  That’s because he is backed by a secretive and relatively small group of business leaders that have long wielded political power in this Central American country, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid and on its biggest trade partner, the United States. The Honduran Documentation Center think tank has documented the control that a group of intermarried families has on the country’s banks, industries such as the maquiladora factories that make clothes to export to the U.S., coffee and banana and cattle production, and power generation. The book “The Powers that Be and the Political System,” by a group of researchers, argues that the business class has increased its influence over politics since Honduras returned to democracy 30 years after two decades of off-and-on military regimes. The book says each business group owns a media outlet that helps it maintain and transfer power from the “dinosaur” leaders to the next generations of “babysaurs.”

Honduras crisis unleashes media wars

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TEGUCIGALPA – When ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya made a symbolic (and brief) return to his homeland on Friday, what could have been a potentially dangerous situation turned out to be a show for live television — a far cry from the bloody coups of the past in Latin America.

Even as he walked toward the border in sight of Honduran security forces waiting to arrest him, Zelaya, in his trademark cowboy hat, took a call from CNN’s Spanish language channel and conducted a long interview with the broadcaster.

When is a coup not a coup?

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Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was seized by the military, bundled onto a plane in his pajamas and flown out of the country. The people who took over the country last Sunday say it was not a coup.

The interim government, led by Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti, argue that Zelaya’s ouster was legal as it was ordered by the Supreme Court after the president had tried to extend his four-year term in office illegally. 
 
They say he was acting unconstitutionally and had to be removed. 
 
The rest of the world seems to disagree. From U.S. President Barack Obama to arch-U.S. rival Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, world leaders have condemned Zelaya’s removal and used the term “coup.”
 
In the days before the coup, opposition leaders said they planned to impeach Zelaya over his plan to hold an unofficial public survey to gauge support for letting presidents run for re-election beyond the current one four-year term. They said a congressional committee set up to investigate Zelaya found he had violated the Central American nation’s laws and would ask Congress to declare him unfit to rule. 
 
Does one unconstitutional act justify another? In a democracy, is it ever justified for soldiers to seize a president and spirit him out of the country? Does the fact that Congress quickly elected a successor, who will serve only until presidential elections in November, make any difference?

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