Sunday, 28 June 2009

The coup in Honduras

How depressing. The conventional wisdom was the coups in Latin America were a thing of the past. Aníbal Perez-Liñan explained why. And yet, here we are again.

Coups are never justified, because institutions matter. But what if the president doesn't respect the institutions? What if a president simply refuses to give up power? What if the last few months of a presidency are devoted to setting the stage for remaining in power?

This is the situation in Honduras. And yet, it all sounds so familiar. The accusations, the paranoia. The right in Chile said that Allende was setting the stage for for a Communist dictatorship. That is was Allende, not Pinochet, that broke with the country's institutions. The truth is hidden in the mists of time and ideology, and in Chile although democracy and rule of law were regained, the truth is still out there, somewhere.

In the end, it's the institutions that matter. So when the institutions -- the courts, the military, the electoral tribunal, Congress -- all rule against a president's ambition to remain in power, it is a pretty good sign that something is wrong. This is what has happened in Honduras.

Next stop, Nicaragua.

1 comment:

Benjamin N. Gedan said...

The unanimous, global repudiation of the coup in Honduras has been heartening.

As you point out, not all democratically elected leaders govern democratically, and coup plotters often come up with legitimate criticisms of elected leaders who try to manipulate institutions to concentrate and perpetuate their power. (Ni hablar, as they say, of the antidemocratic and generally problematic behavior of elected regimes in places like Gaza.)

There is also the question of whether kicking a president out of office through violent street protests (see Bolivia) is far better than a military overthrow.

Nevertheless, having the military shoot up the presidential palace, kidnap the president, and deposit him, in his night clothing, on a foreign airstrip is hardly the way to resolve a legal dispute.