Did the U.S. Embassy Prevent Zelaya's Legal Removal?

Monday, July 6, 2009
President Barack Obama has declared that the June 28th "coup" against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was "not legal." Frankly, President Obama is probably correct.

Keeping ideology aside, and as unpalatable as Zelaya is, it's tough to argue that what took place in Honduras did not usurp due process of law in some fashion. At the very least, it is clear that the Supreme Court ordered Zelaya's arrest, but it did not order his forced expulsion from the country. As a result, Zelaya was forced out of the country in lieu of being able to mount a legal defense for the violations he was accused of -- perhaps Zelaya should count his blessings for that.

One can argue whether this fits the definition of a "coup," and whether it was political or military, but at this point those are semantics.

However, here is the million dollar question (and a follow-up).

In Friday's Washington Post, columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner writes:

"The United States Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, an extremely competent diplomat, tried very hard to keep Honduras's Congress from ousting President Manuel Zelaya. After his arguments and pressures were exhausted, and faced with something that seemed inevitable, he did what he could: he sheltered the president's son at his residence to save him from any violent outcome."

If true, why did the U.S. Ambassador work very hard to keep the Honduran Congress from legally ousting Zelaya?

It seems this would create a policy inconsistency, for how can the U.S. condemn the illegal removal of Zelaya, when it allegedly worked very hard to prevent his legal removal?

Was U.S. policy for Zelaya not to be removed from office, legally or illegally? In other words, for Zelaya to stay in office and serve out his full term -- regardless of his violations of law -- at all costs?

The U.S. Congress should ask these questions of Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Tom Shannon, and U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.