Monday, June 29, 2009

A Coup For Democracy in Honduras

The recent coup d'etat in Honduras is not a coup against democracy, but one in defense of it, even though it was against an elected president. The Honduran President had violated the Constitution in undertaking to conduct an illegal referendum in order to rule for another term beyond the constitutional limit. In circumventing the constitution, he was emulating his left-wing comrade, the authoritarian Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has been trying to spread his style of socialist/communist dictatorship accross Latin America.

The Honduran military was not acting on its own in overthrowing the President, but on the orders of the Supreme Court, with congressional support. The President's moves had also been opposed by his own attorney general. Elections remain on schedule for later this year.

The Honduran coup is like the coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 2002. At that time, liberals criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for appearing sympathetic to the coup against an elected leader. Bush and other conservatives have been vindicated by the subsequent flagrant authoritarianism by Chavez. Yet the Obama Administration is repeating the same mistake that liberals made in 2002 in regard to Venezuela by condemning the coup in Honduras.

Indeed, the pattern is recognizable at least as far back as the early years of the Clinton Administration, after the overthrow of Haiti's elected left-wing president, Aristide. Bill Clinton demanded the restoration of Aristide, and backed up his demand by sending troops to keep peace after his restoration. Aristide turned out to be authoritarian and had to be forced from power once again during the Bush Administration. By that time, there were few complaints about Aristide's departure, as it had become obvious that he was not democratic. Indeed, his departure has permitted Haiti to become a relatively peaceful representative republic, which makes it an extraordinary event in Haitian history.

Liberals must put aside their sympathy toward left-wing anti-American leaders just because they are democratically elected and remember that history shows that such a leader can be become a dictator, like Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolph Hitler. Thus, a coup that prevents a representative democracy from becoming a dictatorship is not anti-democratic, but pro-democratic. In short, it is not so much how a government came to power that matters but whether that government protects the freedom of its people.

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