Friday, June 26, 2009

Honduras Lurches Toward Crisis Over Election

Honduras's president dismissed military chief General Romeo Vasquez, center, who refused to distribute ballots aimed at rewriting the constitution.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya's push to rewrite the constitution, and pave the way for his potential re-election, has plunged one of Latin America's poorest countries into a potentially violent political crisis.

A day after Mr. Zelaya fired the head of the country's armed forces, hundreds of troops on Thursday deployed around the Congress, presidential palace and airport in Tegucigalpa, the country's capital. It wasn't clear whether the troops were responding to orders from Mr. Zelaya, or Honduras' other civilian and military powers, all of which oppose the president.

Mr. Zelaya, a populist and close ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Cuba's retired dictator Fidel Castro, wants to hold a referendum on Sunday aimed at allowing voters in the country's November presidential election to also vote on rewriting the constitution. Mr. Zelaya says the current constitution favors the country's elites.

Retired dictator. Just the sound of the phrase is strange. Dictators don't retire. Then again, Fidel is unique.

The country's Supreme Court, top electoral body, and human-rights ombudsman have all declared the planned referendum illegal. Many in the country fear the president primarily wants to change the constitution to end its ban on re-election, and use that to stay in power when his term ends in January.

Just as Chávez, Correa and Morales have done (in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia), he wants to perpetuate his power through 'legal' means, by amending the constitution.

Mr. Zelaya has few supporters among the country's politicians, but is popular among the poor for his ramped-up social spending. His own Liberal Party has already chosen another candidate for the November election and asked the president to step aside.

He hasn't.

Honduras vive riesgo de golpe militar: OEA
Fidel Castro sale en defensa de Zelaya en crisis hondureña

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