Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Voices against the coup from within the Congress

There is a rising number of statements from members of the Honduran Congress disavowing the military coup of Sunday June 28, and the appointment by voice vote of the head of Congress as de facto president. Thirteen members of the dominant Liberal Party have recently disclaimed their assent, repudiating the coup d'etat. They join the six Congress members from the UD party that did not attend the Sunday June 28 session. Thus at least 19 of the 128 members of congress have now clearly indicated that, despite the claims of unanimity, they did not support these actions. El Tiempo in Honduras, which has been consistent in reporting all aspects of the political crisis, published the story when there were only seven Liberal congresspeople who had agreed to be named publicly in support. Those named in this story were Erick Mauricio Rodríguez (Lempira), Elías Arnaldo Guevara (Lempira), Javier Polío Hall (Yoro), María Margarita Zelaya (Cortés) Elvia Argentina Valle (Copán), Carolina Echeverría (Gracias a Dios) and José Rodrigo Tróchez (Santa Bárbara). Follow-up stories add the names of José Azcona Bocock (son of a former president); Norma Ivette Calderón; Gladys Del Cid; Javier Pulido; and Eliazar Juárez.

Among the most interesting of these expressions, is a letter signed by Angel Edmundo Orellana Mercado, the former Secretary of Defense under President Zelaya, whose resignation on June 24 was one of the actions that marked the beginning of the coup. Dated June 29 and addressed to the person who replaced Micheletti as head of Congress, it is worth translating here in full. But for those who want to know the bottom line: speaking as a university professor and lawyer, dissenting from some of Zelaya's actions, he repudiates the actions of Congress, and expresses his intention to refrain from attending congress (to which he was reappointed after stepping down from his Cabinet post) until they are reversed and President Zelaya is reinstated. The details he rehearses in his letter are worth taking time to read, and I offer them here in translation. I omit only the salutations at the beginning and end of the letter. I highlight in bold face some key opinions of this very well qualified commentator:

As you know, on the 24th of this month I presented my resignation to the President of the Republic, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, owing to very special circumstances, generated by the decision to carry out a poll that was prohibited by a tribunal of the Judicial branch. The poll was not declared illegal; nonetheless, it was ordered judicially that it not be carried out, in virtue of the fact that in an incidental ruling the suspension of the effects of the law was declared and, in a clarification-- that, unusually, resulted in a new ruling-- all the future acts of the Executive Power to that end were included.

Judicial communications were delivered, unusually, to the institutions that could be involved, but not to all of these. Among the first, was included the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs, who were not part of the case, and could not be, since this is only a process subject to the Attorney General, and in any case, the State, by means of the Executive Power, as a whole, as defendant, in keeping with article 17 of the Law of Jurisdiction of Administrative Disputes.

Despite the fact that the judicial decision involved a legal absurdity, derived from a total lack of knowledge of elementary concepts of procedural law, my recommendation was to carry out the poll only if the revocation or nullification of the incidental ruling was achieved. This was not achieved nor was it decided to suspend the poll, so that decisions were made that obligated me to submit my irrevocable resignation, which President Zelaya accepted and this was released the same day.

Last Sunday, in the National Congress decisions were taken that in my judgement were glaringly contrary to the Constitution of the Republic. First, a supposed resignation of the President of the Republic was read, when it is well known that he was taken violently from his house and sent against his will to the brother Republic of Costa Rica; second, a legislative decree was adopted by means of which the President of the Republic was dismissed, alleging supposed criminal deeds, which if they exist should be specified and judged by competent tribunals, not by the Legislative Power, in respect to a basic principle of the division of powers, that our Constitutions always have recognized; and, finally, that the dismissal of the President was adopted without the Constitution recognizing any power for the National Congress to take a decision of this nature.

Without judging acts after this resolution, my position in the face of the acts described is that they violate the Constitution of the Republic and they perpetrated a Coup d'Etat, despite wishing to give the impression that they dealt with something else; which has still not been clarified. It is an opinion, true, but it is my opinion and I have the right to defend it and make it known to you and, by means of you, to the entire National Congress, and the people that elected me, towards whom I have fundamental duties.

I resigned the post of Secretary of Defense because there was an intention to ignore a legal order, and, with that, place the State of Law itself in a precarious state. On that occasion it was merely a threat. But the acts by the Legislature described, constitute the execution of a violation of the Constitution of the Republic that involves an undeniable Coup d'Etat. That is to say, we are in the presence of a fait accompli. In the face of this incontrovertible reality, in my status as Lawyer, as Professor of the Faculty of Law of the National University, and as a citizen, my position must be consistent.

For all the above, I have decided not to attend the sessions of the National Congress until this is rectified and the restoration of the post of President of the Republic to Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, who was legitimately elected by the people and invested by the same by the competent authority, is permitted. To this end, I invoke the Magna Carta to rely on the right that as a congressperson is recognized in No. 6 of constitutional article 205, when it recognizes among the legitimate reasons not to attend sessions and incorporate alternates, in addition to absolulte or temporary default or legitimate impediment, the following: :when they (the congressmembers) decline to attend; recalling, finally, that the Constitution of the Republic in its article 275 stipulates that the same will not lose the validity in any case, including the one that I have related.

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