Strengthening Our Democracy in Honduras
My country is in an unusual position this week. Former president Manuel Zelaya has surreptitiously returned to Honduras, still claiming to be the country's legitimate leader, despite the fact that a constitutional succession took place on June 28. Amid all of the claims that are likely to be made in coming days, the former president will not mention that the people of Honduras have moved on since the events of that day or that our citizens are looking forward to free, fair and transparent elections on Nov. 29.
The international community has wrongfully condemned the events of June 28 and mistakenly labeled our country as undemocratic. I must respectfully disagree. As the true story slowly emerges, there is a growing sense that what happened in Honduras that day was not without merit. On June 28, the Honduran Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Zelaya for his blatant violations of our constitution, which marked the end of his presidency. To this day, an overwhelming majority of Hondurans support the actions that ensured the respect of the rule of law in our country.
Underlying all the rhetoric about a military overthrow are facts. Simply put, coups do not leave civilians in control over the armed forces, as is the case in Honduras today. Neither do they allow the independent functioning of democratic institutions -- the courts, the attorney general's office, the electoral tribunal. Nor do they maintain a respect for the separation of powers. In Honduras, the judicial, legislative and executive branches are all fully functioning and led by civilian authorities.
Coups do not allow freedom of assembly, either. They do not guarantee freedom of the press, much less a respect for human rights. In Honduras, these freedoms remain intact and vibrant. And on Nov. 29 our country plans to hold the ultimate civic exercise of any democracy: a free and open presidential election.
Although much of the international community disagrees with our past actions, we can all agree on the necessity of ensuring Honduras's full commitment to the electoral process. Our citizens believe that the upcoming presidential election is the best way to guarantee peace and democracy. While the election will take place in little more than 60 days, the electoral process has been underway for some time. The election is being convened by an autonomous body, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, whose magistrates were selected by Congress in early 2009 and ratified by then-President Zelaya. The autonomous body began the electoral process with presidential primary elections -- which were supervised by the Organization of American States -- in 2008 also during Zelaya's tenure. The upcoming election will include Honduras's first independent presidential candidate -- a rarity in all of Latin America.
The winner of the November election will take office as president of Honduras in January 2010. At that moment my transitional administration will cease, and the newly sworn-in president will hold all the authority vested to him by our country's constitution.
Our whole country -- whether members of political parties, youths, students or members of civil society, government, parental organizations or private businesses -- is committed to guaranteeing transparent elections. Voter turnout will be a constitutional expression of self-determination and a demonstration of national sovereignty. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has invited independent observers from around the globe to observe our voting process. Our country is open to the world. All organizations -- churches, universities, think tanks, nongovernmental organizations -- that wish to witness firsthand this great exercise of self-determination and democracy are welcome.
We are, of course, disappointed with the position of the United States and the European Union, both longtime friends. We look forward to continuing dialogue with the United States, the European Union and the rest of the international community to prove our commitment to democracy and the Honduran people's love of freedom. Coercive action directed at our nation will only harm less fortunate Hondurans, whose hospitals, schools, roads and other institutions rely greatly on our friends' generous assistance, for which all of our citizens are immensely grateful.
I have said from the moment I was sworn in as president of Honduras that I do not intend to remain in office one second more than what our constitution mandates. On Jan. 27 I will hand over leadership responsibilities to the ninth president of our 27-year-old democracy. Such actions are in keeping with the desire of the majority of our people: the strengthening of our democracy.
The writer is president of Honduras.