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Originally published July 17, 2009 at 3:46 PM | Page modified July 17, 2009 at 8:01 PM

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Guest columnist

U.S. must support the rule of law in Honduras, not President Zelaya

When it comes to Honduras, the United States should support strengthening the rule of law and democracy in Latin America rather than join a Marxist bandwagon, writes Washington state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn. She recently returned from a humanitarian mission to the country.

Special to The Times

LATE last month, the freedom-loving people of Honduras did what they were proud to do. They constitutionally removed from office their elected president and Marxist despot-in-the-making, Manuel Zelaya.

For several months a showdown brewed when Zelaya announced he would hold an illegal election. If passed, the fine print would have allowed an unconstitutional extension of his four-year term ending in January 2010. The United States, according to Honduran nationals and U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., appeared to unconditionally embrace Zelaya's plans.

The Honduran Supreme Court, the administrative courts, the attorney general, the commissioner for human rights, the Electoral Tribunal, and the National Congress (a majority of which are members of Zelaya's own party) all declared the referendum to be illegal.

Working closely with Marxist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, Zelaya's attempt to take control of Honduras was foiled when Honduran officials removed him from office through constitutional process. Other Chávez protégés — in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua — have been successful in refusing to accept checks on their power, making use of mobs and seeking to undermine institutions.

Zelaya's own party controls Congress. They voted him out but not before Zelaya fired the commanding general for following orders of the Supreme Court and refusing to administer the election. When the general was fired, other military leaders walked in support of the general. The Supreme Court ordered reinstatement because the firing was without cause.

Hondurans expected the praise of the world for peacefully removing a man who had violated the tenants of the constitution he was sworn to uphold. With the help of Venezuela's Chávez, a quick media blitz sent out information that a military coup had occurred. Zelaya was hurriedly flown to the United States, where the Obama administration, which did not lack knowledge of the events, gladly received Zelaya and supported his quick endorsements from the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Honduran nationals have gone to e-mail to stem the tide of misinformation. Hondurans, U.S. charity workers and expatriates are getting the word out. Only last weekend, small segments of the media have picked up the truth.

Yes, the military removed Zelaya from his palace during early morning hours. But that occurred after his constitutional removal. Zelaya would hardly have gone on his own. The military has not taken control in Honduras. It acted under the legal direction of elected officials who were responding to their duty to protect Honduran freedom and democracy.

While Hondurans fight to save constitutional government, Nicaragua has sent troops to the border and more than 800 Venezuelans were placed in Honduras to help Zelaya with his attempted election coup. More have arrived.

I have been to Honduras many times with humanitarian relief. Recently my good friend Teresa, who lives San Pedro Sula, e-mailed, "Please, we don't want this to happen to us. Chávez is ruling Latin America!"

Zelaya has been bad for Hondurans. Without a word, he ceded traditional fishing grounds in the devastatingly poor Mosquite area to Nicaragua. Honduran fishing boats were seized by Nicaraguan military. Crime is up and drug trafficking has skyrocketed. Even before the attempted election coup, Teresa said, "The people do not support him anymore."

Hondurans are waging an information battle. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked that Zelaya not try to return to Honduras at this time. The president of the Honduran Congress is acting president and will have Zelaya tried for treason if he re-enters.

The United States should support strengthening the rule of law and democracy in Latin America rather than join a Marxist bandwagon. Hopefully, Clinton may now see that.

Washington state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, recently returned from Honduras where she heads the humanitarian efforts of La Escuela de Esperanza (School of Hope), a nonprofit organization she founded.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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