[Guest post by DRJ]
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a close ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, has been removed by the Honduran military with the support of the country’s Supreme Court. The Honduran Congress claims Zelaya submitted his letter of resignation and it was accepted, but Zelaya disputes that the letter was his.
The action occurred hours before a scheduled constitutional referendum designed to extend Presidential term limits. Zelaya’s term as President ends in January and he wanted to extend it. The Supreme Court had ruled the proposed changes illegal and the referendum was opposed by Congress and members of Zelaya’s own party. Zelaya’s legal successor, the Congressional President, will be sworn in as President:
“The Supreme Court said it was supporting the military in what it called a defense of democracy, and the Honduran ambassador to the Organization of American States said the military was planning to swear in Congressional President Roberto Micheletti — who is next in line to the presidency — to replace Zelaya.”
Nevertheless, Zelaya plans to attend a meeting of Central American leaders on Monday. He said his friend Hugo will give him a ride.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama promptly responded with deep concern:
“President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” by Zelaya’s expulsion and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the arrest should be condemned. [Note from DRJ: Other reports indicate Zelaya was released and may be in Costa Rica.]
“I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Obama’s statement read.”
Or, as Dan Collins aptly sums up Obama’s position: “Obama calls on everyone in Honduras except Zelaya to respect the law.”
UPDATE 1: According to Hondura’s La Prensa news translated by Fausta’s blog, this was not a coup but action taken pursuant to court order:
“An official statement of the Supreme Court of Justice explained that the Armed Forces acted under lawful grounds when detaining the President of the Republic, and by decommissioning the materials to be used on the illegal poll which aimed to bring forth Executive Power against a judicial order.
Other sources verified that the president of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, will assume the presidency of the republic in a few hours.
Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was detained this morning by the military in compliance with an order of the courts of law.“
UPDATE 2: The Obama Administration tried to stop the Honduran government from ousting President Zelaya.