Tuesday, June 30, 2009

During the past 3 1/2 years, my country has lived through a sad satire of governance.

Influenced by the No. 1 promoter of 21st-century socialism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, our ex-president, Manuel Zelaya, took us down the road of social divide, abuse of media publicity, propaganda and the absolute void of checks and balances with one end in mind: to stay in power indefinitely.

During his last year, he embarked on a mission to carry out a total reform of our constitution, following the well-tested formula of Mr. Chavez and Equador’s President Rafael Correa so he could remain in power “constitutionally.”

Running a campaign disguised as promoting change for the people and true direct participation of the masses, he started to promote this project with all his executive might. The judicial branch deemed this project illegal, as did our electoral tribunal and the Attorney General’s Office.

Nonetheless, these institutions started to be portrayed as part of the groups of power that were afraid of change, tyrants opposed to the people of our country, who did not want people to express themselves. Whatever person or institution went against his project was also an enemy of the people. Sound familiar, Mr. Chavez?

Last week, Mr. Zelaya issued executive orders to the armed forces to carry out the first phase of the constitutional reform project. The head of the armed forces, knowing that this order was illegal and unconstitutional, said “No.” Mr. Zelaya went on national TV and fired Gen. Romeo Vasquez for refusing to carry out the order, but our nation’s Supreme Court reinstated him. The firing was a clear signal Mr. Zelaya was putting his personal ambition and interests before any genuine interest to change things and improve the quality of life of Hondurans.

He was only thinking of improving his quality of life through illegal means and at the cost of the peace of a whole country. This was the beginning of the end of a crisis in our young democracy.

This morning, the armed forces restored peace and democracy to our country, backed by all institutions: legislative branch; judicial branch; political parties, including the former president’s own party; business bureaus; and most other groups representing society. Their stance sends a clear message: No one, not even the president, is above the law.

We may not be a perfect country with perfect citizens, but we do know what we do not want. We do not want a system in which the only power resides in the hands of the president, who can be re-elected indefinitely and can change the constitution to his own purposes when he so desires. We do not want 21st-century communism.

This day, Congress accepted Mr. Zelaya’s signed resignation and proceeded to vote him out, later installing a constitutionally legitimate government, whose sole purpose is to guarantee clean and free elections in November.

Sadly, we have seen biased reporting on some international networks. What happened today was a country’s stand against populist regimes like that of Mr. Chavez, who even threatened to invade Honduras to back Mr. Zelaya’s search for continued power. The whole institutional basis of a country stood strong and steadfast against those threats.

We have been called all kinds of names and even received threats from a democratic dictator from the south, and we have received no international support until now, but we still stand strong.

We know as a people that dividing a country and turning it against itself cannot solve things. This is not about rich versus poor; it’s about progress versus poverty. The only way a country can progress is if it stands united.

As I drove to my grandmother’s house with my sister and her boyfriend, I felt the tension in the streets had diminished and one could breathe an air of peace and tranquillity that was not there before. People are at peace because they know where we are going and we know that although we have problems - poverty, crime, unemployment and many others - we also have freedom and democracy. That is still ours. A new day is born.

Even if the world and networks frown at us, we smile.

Juan Diego Zelaya is general counsel to the mayor of Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. He is an adviser to the National Party, the opposition party to former President Manuel Zelaya.

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