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News > Latin America

Hillary Clinton-Ousted Manuel Zelaya Seeks Honduras Reelection

  • Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya waves among protesters during a demonstration in the capital city Tegucigalpa, April 19, 2012.

    Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya waves among protesters during a demonstration in the capital city Tegucigalpa, April 19, 2012. | Photo: EFE

Published 25 May 2016

Right-wing hypocrisy has been laid bare in Honduras after a lengthy debate on presidential term limits has showed a double standard for right and left-wing leaders.

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup, has announced his interest in running for the country’s top office in the next election, reigniting a debate on presidential term limits that has proven to be a hotly contentious issue and hallmark of conservative hypocrisy in the Central American nation.

Honduran Democracy Still in Crisis Years After Coup

Zelaya announced that the left-wing Libre party, founded in the wake of the 2009 coup, has given the green light to asking members at the party’s internal elections whether they support the ousted president’s bid for another term if the right-wing National Party puts President Juan Orlando Hernandez forward as its candidate.

The internal process is scheduled to take place Oct. 30, just over a year ahead of the 2017 general elections. The process will decide the party’s leadership for the election year.

Though not confirmed, the ruling National Party suggested in March that Hernandez would be their presidential candidate in the next election. It was the first time a sitting or former president could propose running for a second term, given that the constitution limited the presidency to a single term until the Supreme Court overturned the ban on reelection last year.

The move was highly controversial.

When Zelaya was ousted on June 28, 2009, coup backers accused him of attempting to manipulate the constitution to extend his presidency beyond the one-term limit. Zelaya, then of the Liberal Party, had showed a progressive turn during his time in office, which included opening a debate on a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Disaster Capitalism and Outrage in Post-Coup Honduras

The ousted president had scheduled a non-binding poll on whether to hold a referendum in the upcoming 2009 election on organizing the constituent assembly. Despite allegations that Zelaya was trying to strong-arm his way into staying in power, accusations that were used as a key justification for the coup, the non-binding poll would not have changed the fact that he was barred from running for reelection.

Controversially, while Zelaya’s proposed process would have asked the Honduran people to convene a popular constituent assembly to modify the constitution, which could have included eliminating presidential term limits, the Supreme Court changed the constitution last year to allow for reelection without consulting the Honduran voters.

Zelaya and his Libre party slammed the Supreme Court move as illegal, arguing that only the Honduran people have the power to make changes to the constitution.

But the Supreme Court rejected appeals filed against the constitutional changes, including by Zelaya and his allies, paving the way for presidential reelection.

Washington Complicit in Honduras' Corruption Scandal

In the 2013 presidential race – the first time Hondurans went to the polls after the widely-boycotted and condemned 2009 so-called election that ushered the right-wing National Party to power under the coup regime – Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro ran for president as Libre’s inaugural candidate.

Hernandez won the election over Castro amid widespread cries of electoral fraud, political repression, and corruption in the electoral system.

Since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup, for which then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come under fire for supporting, the human rights situation in Honduras has deteriorated drastically with the help of rampant impunity.

According to human rights organizations, repression and assassinations of progressive political leaders, journalists and social activists are commonplace in Honduras, epitomized perhaps most clearly by the recent murder of renowned Indigenous leader Berta Caceres.

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