Ousted By Honduran Military Coup, Manuel Zelaya Considers Running For President Again

Former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted by a military coup in 2009, says he’s thinking about running for president in the next election.

Zelaya says the decision would depend on whether he could get the support of his party to take back the country’s top office. The announcement has breathed new life into the debate around presidential term limits, a highly contentious issue in the Central American nation. Currently, serving more than one four-year presidential term is illegal in Honduras, as TelsurvTV reported on Wednesday.

“Zelaya announced that the left-wing Libre party, founded in the wake of the 2009 coup, has given the green light to asking members at the party’s internal elections whether they support the ousted president’s bid for another term if the right-wing National Party puts President Juan Orlando Hernandez forward as its candidate.”

The internal debates of choosing the party’s leadership is scheduled to take place October 30, just over a year before the presidential elections in 2017. A Hernandez re-election bid has not been officially confirmed, though the ruling National Party suggested in March that Hernandez would likely be their choice for the next election. The irony was not lost on Honduras observers, who knew that a sitting president proposing running for a second term was the original rationale for removing Zelaya from office.

Manuel Zelaya was elected president of Honduras in 2006. Originally elected as a Liberal Party candidate with center-right credentials, the former logging and ranching businessman moved to the left during his presidency, moving Honduras away from alliance with the United States and forging close ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and other left-wing Latin American leaders.

In 2009, a political dispute erupted when Zelaya scheduled a non-binding poll on whether to hold a referendum on organizing the constituent assembly to change the Honduran constitution to allow presidential re-elections. President Zelaya was ousted in June of 2009 when the Honduran Army, on orders from the Honduran Supreme Court, seized him and sent him on a plane to Costa Rica in what was widely condemned by the international community as a military coup. The coup’s backers, including the U.S., argued that Zelaya was attempting to manipulate the constitution to extend his presidency.

Since that time, conditions in Honduras have rapidly deteriorated, as the International Business Times noted.

“The situation in Honduras hasn’t exactly been rosy in the interim. The country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. The violence has been carried out primarily by rampant gangs throughout the country that have consistently given Honduras the title of ‘murder capital of the world.’ In the first half of 2015, for instance, there were 2,720 murders in the country, a 16 percent drop from the same period a year before. There are just over 8 million people in Honduras. In contrast, New York City, which has slightly more people, had fewer than 400 reported homicides for all of 2015.”

Notably, the Honduran Supreme Court overturned the ban on re-elections last year in a highly controversial decision without consulting voters at all, theoretically leaving the door wide open for both Zelaya and Hernandez to run again, though Zelaya and his Liberal Party slammed the court’s move as illegal and undemocratic. In the 2013 presidential race — which was heavily criticized for electoral fraud, corruption, and political repression — Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro ran for president for his old party, but was defeated by Hernandez.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come under fire during her campaign for supporting the Honduran coup in 2009 during her time in office, and the subsequent poor situation of human rights in the country. Repression and assassination of political leaders, journalists, and activists remains rampant, epitomized for many by the recent murder of Indigenous leader Berta Caceres.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]