Manuel Zelaya

The ouster of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has provided Latin America with a revelatory moment. Beginning with the Monroe Doctrine--and extending through countless invasions, occupations, and covert operations--Washington has considered the region its backyard. So where was this superpower these past few months, as Honduras hung in the balance? More or less sitting on its hands. The fact is that the United States is no longer willing, or perhaps even able, to select who governs from Tegucigalpa, or anywhere else in the region for that matter.

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When Manuel Zelaya was deposed as president of Honduras with the support of the Supreme Court, the National Congress, the attorney general and most of his own party, much of Latin America went into conniptions about safeguarding the constitution. Of course, that was precisely the issue. Zelaya was about to traduce the constitution, which forbade extension of the chief executive's term, precisely his intention. This is common in the lower part of the Western Hemisphere, and it is the opus operandi of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Zelaya's chosen instrument was a referendum, the tool of tyrants.

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Ousting Zelaya

On September 12, the United States government revoked the visas of de facto Honduran President Roberto Micheletti and 14 of the country’s Supreme Court justices. Days earlier, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S.-government body, voted to cut off $11 million in aid to the cash-strapped Central American country.

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David Fontana is associate professor of law at George Washington University. Here in the United States, the removal of President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras has prompted disparate reactions from the political right and political left. Conservatives (fearing the influence of Hugo Chavez and his authoritarian brand of politics, with which Zelaya had aligned himself) have tended to side with the coup leaders.

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