foreign policy

Electoral Hypocrisy in Latin America

Aug 06--Honduras has been violently crumbling into a state of political crisis since the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya on June 28. The disaster Honduras faces today stands in stark contrast with the political climate in Colombia, even though they have faced similar situations.

Zelaya's decision to continue with a non-binding constitutional referendum was the straw that broke the camel's back. He had no institutional support in this referendum; it had already been condemned by the Supreme Court and the Congress, and he had fired the chief commander of the military when as he decided not to support the referendum. Nevertheless, Zelaya seized the ballot boxes and moved ahead with the vote. According to the opposition, this referendum was intended to change the rules of the game and reform the constitution to include the possibility of indefinite reelection so he could run for another term in office, as others in the region had done (referring, of course, to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez). Whether or not Zelaya was seeking reelection is still unknown. However, it's clear that the opposition didn't want to take this risk and opted for a military coup.

Why isn't Colombia experiencing discord of this sort? There, President Álvaro Uribe has already changed the constitution once to get reelected for a consecutive four-year term. Colombia's congress approved that change in May 2005. Today he's trying to change the constitution again so he can be elected for a third term. Without a doubt, these two cases are difficult to compare. Yet the hypocrisy that characterizes the reactions that have been expressed — both in Honduras and abroad — in the name of democracy is striking.
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