Why are We Backing Zelaya, the Former President of Honduras?

Dan Miller has a seemingly careful account of the situation in Honduras, claiming that there was no military coup:

As most already know, the Honduran Supreme Court was in the midst of a ongoing clash with President Manuel Zelaya on June 28 when an order was issued for President Zelaya’s arrest. The order was executed by the Honduran military, which, it appears, exceeded its authority and not only arrested him but took him to Costa Rica. It did so to prevent internal violence.

The crisis was due to a number of things, including Zelaya’s efforts to amend the Honduran constitution in ways both procedurally and substantively prohibited by that document. The congress then followed the Honduran laws of presidential succession and appointed the (civilian) president of the Congress, Roberto Micheletti, to be the interim president until elections could be held, as scheduled, in November.

While claimed by many to have been a coup by a military junta, it was not. The civilian government remains in power, and the military remains subordinate to it. (A more detailed account is provided in an article I wrote on June 30. A certification by Honduras of its bases for removing Mr. Zelaya from the presidency is provided here.)

Since the departure of Mr. Zelaya, Honduras has been a focus of much unwanted international attention. President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has been adamant in demanding that Mr. Zelaya be reinstated as president; the United States Government, while less acerbic, has demanded the same. The Organization of American States (OAS) and the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), largely under the leadership of President Chávez, have demanded Zelaya’s return, and so has the UN.

Publicly, at least, Honduras stands alone with the sole exception of the government of Panamá, which, on July 6, asked the various governments to keep their noses out of Honduras’ internal affairs. President Ricardo Martinelli, who recently won the presidential election in Panamá by an unprecedented sixty plus percent with very high voter turnout, stated:

Panamá has to be a leader of freedom and justice, not only here in our home, but in our region and our continent. As president, I will do everything within my power to advance the ideals of a free economy, defying the ideological pendulum in Latin America.

News coverage in Panamá of the Honduran mess has been less biased than most coverage in the United States and elsewhere, and the return of Mr. Zelaya is favored by very few here. . . .

On July 6, he departed Nicaragua for Washington, D.C., where he is to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to his anticipated attempt to return to Honduras on July 8 or 9. Previous meetings subsequent to Mr. Zelaya’s removal from the presidency had been with lower ranking officials.

Also on July 6, an unofficial mission representing the interim Honduran government left for Washington, even though the United States government has not recognized it. According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, “a spokesman for the State Department said Monday that no U.S. officials would meet with representatives of ‘the de facto regime’ in Tegucigalpa.” . . .

What happens next? Mr. Zelaya has threatened to make a second attempt to return to Honduras. Through a spokesman, he stated that “it could be by air, sea or land. … We are not going to say where.” The main Honduran airport remains closed, and it seems unlikely that Mr. Zelaya will be able to land there. Assuming that he nevertheless tries to return, the options would appear to be by land or sea — unless, of course, he decides to bring a parachute. When his aircraft was prevented from landing on July 5, he said that if he had brought a parachute, he would have used it. . . .

It would not be surprising, however, if Mr. Zelaya attempted to return via Nicaragua accompanied by Nicaraguan troops.

In these circumstances, it seems unlikely that either side would back down. This would set the stage for a military confrontation at the border, during which it is conceivable that Mr. Zelaya and others would be killed.

That’s what may happen. What I think should happen is rather different. Panamá has it right, and foreign countries should keep their noses out of Honduras’ internal affairs. The early elections proposed by the interim Honduran government would very likely defuse the explosive situation there and, like the vote a few years ago when Mr. Zelaya was elected, would be fair and transparent.

If Miller is correct, then it appears that the initial reporting of a military coup was grossly mistaken. Manuel Zelaya was not removed from office by the military. After he he was legally removed from office by the Honduran Supreme Court, the military arrested him and removed Zelaya from their country rather than simply arrest him as they were ordered to do. According to Miller, the military is not running the country; the constitution remains in effect and the civilian constitutional successor is in charge.

Why hasn't the US recognized the constitutional successor to Zelaya?

As yet, I have seen no coherent argument from the US government regarding why we are backing the former president, Manuel Zelaya.

(click to enlarge)

"Secretary Clinton holds talks with Honduran President Jose Manuel Zelaya at the State Department."

UPDATE: Note the State Department's caption for the picture. It should be former Honduran President Zelaya.