The Honduran Constitution’s Checks on Executive Power
This was CNN’s description, from June 25, of the events that led to the ouster of Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales…
The Honduran Supreme Court ordered Thursday that the military’s top commander be returned to his job immediately, a little more than 12 hours after President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales fired the general for saying the armed forces would not support a constitutional referendum scheduled for Sunday.What this, and other MSM coverage of events in Honduras neglects, is the fact that the nation of Honduras has a Constitution — a Constitution that is very, very serious about its term-limit on the chief executive.
Gen. Romeo Vasquez Velasquez had said the military was caught in a difficult position because the Supreme Court had ruled earlier that the referendum is illegal but Zelaya was going ahead with the vote and instructed the armed forces to provide security.
The heads of the army, navy and air force had resigned to show their support for Vasquez….
The court ruled 5-0 that Zelaya violated the general’s constitutional rights by firing him without cause, said magistrate Rosalina Cruz.
The referendum asks voters to place a measure on November’s ballot that would allow the formation of a constitutional assembly that could modify the nation’s charter to allow the president to run for another term.
Fortunately, the blogosphere has been picking up the slack. Brad
- Article 239, which makes it illegal for the President to propose to extend his tenure in office beyond a single term, with penalties of 1) immediate removal from office and 2) a 10-year ban on public service. (“El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma…cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos, y quedarán inhabilitados por diez años para el ejercicio de toda función pública”; any term limits supporters in the US feeling wimpy right now?), and
- Article 272, which makes defending the “alternation” in office of Presidents an enumerated duty of the Honduran military (“Se constituyen para defender… la alternabilidad en el ejercicio de la Presidencia de la República.”)
Actually, we in Rhode Island should be able to relate, just a little bit, to the initial events that fomented the crisis in Honduras. In 2006, Rhode Island’s legislature stripped the power the Governor previously had to place non-binding questions on the general-election ballot. If the Governor had declared that he was going to ignore the change in the law and ordered the Secretary of State to put his questions on the ballot, would that have been considered legitimate?