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A Blow To Democracy in Honduras

A Blow To Democracy in Honduras
A Blow To Democracy in Honduras

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After many years of progress on civilian rule in the Americas, top military officers have assisted in the ouster of the democratically elected leader of Honduras.

The move culminated weeks of intense political controversy surrounding a proposed June 28 poll that would have asked voters whether to include a provision in the November elections to call for a constituent assembly to rewrite the Honduras constitution and allow re-election of the president. The Congress and the courts declared the poll illegal and unconstitutional and, as a result, the military refused to provide security or logistical support for it.

That dispute, however, in no way justified President Manuel Zelaya's removal and forced exile from the country. The United States recognizes him as the President of Honduras and calls for a dialogue leading to the immediate, full restitution of democratic order there. President Zelaya should return to Honduras and complete his term, which ends in January.

President Barack Obama expressed his concern about President Zelaya’s expulsion from Honduras at the White House on June 29, saying "All of us have great concerns about what's taken place there. . . .We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the President of Honduras, the democratically elected President there. In that we have joined all the countries in the region . . . and the Organization of American States.”

The President further underscored that “it would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections. The region has made enormous progress over the last 20 years in establishing democratic traditions in Central America and Latin America. We don't want to go back to a dark past.”

The U.S. has been working for weeks to fashion a consensus resolution to the dispute. It will continue to work with partners in the OAS and elsewhere to encourage dialogue to resolve the current situation in a way that supports the rule of law, respect for democratic institutions and constitutional order, and upholds the democratic political institutional process and the legitimate exercise of power.