Honduras gives us so many reasons to cry. The world’s worst murder rate. Grinding poverty. All those desperate, unaccompanied child migrants who poured into the U.S. last summer — and who just might come knocking on our border again this summer.
These days Honduras is giving us some good laughs, too. As in: I’m laughing so hard I’m crying, because the Honduran hilarity makes me nervous about the fate of the $1 billion the Obama administration wants to send Honduras and Central America this year.
Consider Honduras’ Supreme Court, which recently annulled the rule — Article 239 — that limited the country's presidents to one, four-year term. Fine. A lot of Latin American countries are relaxing presidential re-election bans these days. But Article 239 was considered, at least until now, the sacrosanct core of Honduras’ 1982 Constitution — a shield against the kind of dictators who litter the country’s banana-republic past.
It was so revered that if you wanted to witch-hunt people in Honduras you’d call them re-electionists instead of communists. In fact, Article 239 said that if presidents so much as mentioned to their spouses over breakfast that the constitution should be changed to allow a second term, they automatically forfeited the office.
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And that’s why Honduras’ National Congress evoked the rule six years ago this month, during the shameless coup that ousted then President Manuel Zelaya. Under pressure from Honduras’ conservative oligarchy, the legislature decided Zelaya was too liberal and had to go. So it slapped him with a 239.
Just one problem: The charge was bogus. Zelaya could certainly be accused of dopey demagoguery, but he hadn’t proposed presidential re-election.
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Tim Padgett is WLRN’s Americas editor.