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Honduran Presidential Crisis Raises Questions about LatAm Democracy Warns US Expert


As protesters in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa clashed with security forces Monday, world leaders condemned Sunday's ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.

U.S. President Obama Monday said Mr. Zelaya's forcible removal to Costa Rica was "not legal." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday's events amounted to a coup.

President Zelaya is in Nicaragua to meet with other Latin American leaders and is expected to address the United Nations Tuesday.

His replacement, parliament leader Roberto Micheletti said Mr. Zelaya's removal from office was not a coup, but a legal transition.

Honduran soldiers detained Mr. Zelaya and sent him to Costa Rica early Sunday -- the day he had set for a referendum on changing the constitution to allow him to run for another term. Mr. Zelaya said he is a "victim of kidnapping" and will not recognize any government replacement. He pledged to serve out his term as president.

The Supreme Court said it ordered the army to arrest President Zelaya because of his attempt to hold a vote on the referendum, which the court ruled was illegal. The Honduran military had refused to help organize the balloting. The president fired the armed forces chief of staff last week for failing to support him.

“President Zelaya did not implement the injunction of the Supreme Court,” said Robert Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University in Washington. “But, the military also exercised extra-constitutional responsibilities by deposing him and putting him on a plane to Costa Rica.”

Pastor, who earlier served as director of Latin American and Caribbean affairs on the U.S. National Security Council during the Carter Administration, said “The (Honduran) constitution was clearly not fully enforced and (was) also violated in some ways. It’s an unusual case.”

President Zelaya was elected in 2006 to a four-year term. The 1982 constitution bans re-election. The Honduran president has the support of leftist Latin American leaders, including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro. The United States has said it will recognize no other government in Honduras.

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Interview with Professor Robert Pastor:

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