08.31.2009 0

Honduras: A Victory for Term Limits and Democracy

  • On: 09/10/2009 09:17:54
  • In: Term Limits
  • By Philip Blumel

    Most Americans are by now familiar with the recent turmoil in Honduras resulting in the ouster of former President Manuel Zelaya. What many do not realize, however, is that the entire episode occurred because Zelaya attempted to violate that nation’s Constitution by gutting its highly cherished term limit laws.

    Unfortunately, the stubborn insistence by U.S. President Barack Obama to continue backing Zelaya’s attempted coup – coupled with Obama’s equally adamant support of the moves by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega to gut their countries’ term limit laws – may say more about the Mr. Obama than many Americans want to know.

    In 1982, Honduras adopted a new Constitution establishing a representative democracy. This new Constitution has stood for 27 years, largely because it has garnered the rock-solid support of the Honduran people.

    One reason it has garnered such support is that, out of its 365 articles, it includes seven “unalterable articles” that cannot be repealed or amended. Those deal with the form of government, the extent of its borders — and the number of years of the presidential term.

    Under Article 239, a president may serve only one four-year term. He cannot run for re-election – ever. For the people of Honduras, it is a vital safeguard against any attempt by any leader, no matter how popular, to return the nation to its former status as the original “Banana Republic.”

    Mr. Zelaya swore to uphold Article 239 when he took his oath of office. But, that was before he became enamored of Hugo Chavez. Once that occurred, Zelaya published a decree declaring his intention to stage an “Opinion Poll” aimed specifically at amending the unalterable articles of the Constitution prohibiting the reelection of a president and of the extension of his term.

    He was immediately informed that his actions were unconstitutional and that if he continued to press forward, he would be removed from office. These warnings came from the Honduran Supreme Court, the Honduran legislature, his own attorney general, and the ranking members of his own party.

    Zelaya ignored all such warnings and proceeded with his plans to gut term limits and position himself to continue in office. He did so knowing full well what Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution prescribed for those who violated the term limits law:

    “No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”

    On June 28, 2009, on direct orders of the Supreme Court and Congress of Honduras – in accordance with Article 239 – Manuel Zelaya was forced to “immediately cease in [his] functions.”

    It’s just that simple. Which makes one wonder why Barack Obama has such a difficult time respecting the will of the Honduran people and the dictates of that proud republic’s democratic Constitution.

    Earlier this year, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) introduced HJ Res 5 to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In view of Mr. Obama’s disdain for term limits, perhaps it’s time for him to make it clear that he rejects any such attempt to gut the term limits law in this country. He could start by recognizing the duly emplaced government of Honduras and showing his respect for the term limits law the people of that country so courageously defended.

    Philip Blumel is the President of U.S. Term Limits and a guest Liberty Featured Syndicated writer.

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