Best Drupal HostingBest Joomla HostingBest Wordpress Hosting
WORLD POLICY ON AIR

World Policy Journal is proud to share our weekly podcast, World Policy On Air, featuring former Newsweek On Air host David Alpern with timely insights from global affairs analyst Michael Moran of Transformative.io, risk and geostrategy consultants. Click here to subscribe on iTunes!

THE LATEST

AddToAny
Share/Save

THE BIG QUESTION — August 4, 2009

THE BIG QUESTION is a new multimedia project on the World Policy Blog.

Henry "Chip" Carey: A Constitutional Crisis in Honduras

If it succeeds, the universally condemned Honduran military coup could send a disastrous signal to Latin America and beyond that the long slog of democratization can be interrupted on a moment's impatience. Deposed President Manuel Zelaya’s past performance leaves much to be desired, but so do the nation's institutions, which need democratic reform, not military mentorship. Honduras represents an archetypal "Tier-II" category of democracy. As a nation, it has underperformed in forming a broad democratic alliance, and often bent the rules to build the rule of law. It needs time, patience, and nurturing—even when democratically elected leaders govern undemocratically. The unpopular, populist President Zelaya built a narrow coalition, alienating the business community while attempting to overturn single-term limits on the executive office. Zelaya had damaged his democratic credentials by failing to respect judicial independence in disagreeing with the Supreme Court decision to strike down his planned plebiscite that sought to allow him to run for president again. The vote (which would have amended the constitution) was planned for this past Sunday—though it is not clear he intended it to be binding. Things heated up even further when the chief of the army, Gen. Romeo Vasquez, refused to allow the army to provide logistical support for the referendum. Zelaya promptly fired him, and the Supreme Court jumped back into the fray, demanding he be reinstated. In the end, the military, legislative leaders, and the president failed to work out compromises, even with some mediation from the U.S. ambassador, to prevent the breakdown of democracy. The new ruling authoritarian coalition claims to be using a constitutional solution to the crisis by protecting the new president, Roberto Micheletti, who was previously head of the legislature. Indeed, many Hondurans have argued that a coup did not actually occur, since the legislature and Supreme Court had declared Zelaya's referendum and various other acts to have been unconstitutional. In response, the court played its own constitutional card, by ordering the armed forces to reestablish a "democracy." Thus, Micheletti's constant public refrain: “democracia, democracia, democracia." Barring the chorus of claims from both sides over what is "constitutional" and what is not, it is important to note that, most likely, this was a classic middle-class coup—a Brumarian moment of relief for the privileged, bolstered by constitutional distortions to correct constitutional distortions. Zelaya had won office on a conservative, law-and-order ticket but increasingly had adopted the populist tendencies of many of his fellow Latin American leaders, alienating broad swathes of the legislature and the business community. Perhaps the new regime (if it remains in power) may actually keep its word and reconfigure itself democratically, as it claims. Occasionally, when democratic leaders govern undemocratically, a new authoritarian alliance can put things right. But, in practice, it is usually the exception to the rule and a pretext for other aims—all too often, it is might that makes right. Worse, coups signal that the military is to be the arbiter. But in Honduras, the “man on horseback,” as the military is depicted, often governs in nineteenth-century, caudillo ("strongman") fashion, making order by giving orders.

FALL FUNDRAISER

 

Around WPI

Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa 

This paper, “Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenging the Narratives of the War on Terror,” examines the history of Islamic movements in Africa's Sahel region to contextualize current conflicts.

World Economic Roundtable with Vicente Fox 

In this World Economic Roundtable, former Mexican President Vicente Fox discusses his current quest to make his country a hub for technology. 

Intern at World Policy


Want to join our team? Looking for an experience at one of the most highly sought-after internships for ambitious students? Application details here.

 

Al Gore presides over Arctic Roundtable 

As the United States prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this inaugural convening of the Arctic Deeply Roundtables launches a vital conversation for our times. 

SPONSORED

When the Senate Worked for Us:
New book offers untold stories of how activist staffers countered corporate lobbies in the U.S.


Are the U.S. and China on a collision course?
Get the facts from Amitai Etzioni in “Avoiding War with China.”


MA in International Policy and Development
Middlebury Institute (Monterey, CA): Put theory into practice through client-based coursework. Apply by Nov. 30.

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

To learn about the latest in media, programming, and fellowship, subscribe to the World Policy Weekly Newsletter and read through our archives.

World Policy on Facebook

FOLLOW US