Saturday, September 11, 2010

Honduras Is A Democracy, Isn't It?

"It is unacceptable and inadmissible to look for a solution to an act by violating the laws of the country"

(Article lead in El Heraldo on August 9, 2010)

We agree. However, the Unión Cívica Democrática (UCD), which promulgated this view in its protests in support of the Honduran Supreme Court Wednesday, revealed a very selective understanding of Honduran law.

The UCD based its protests Wednesday in support of the Supreme Court on the alleged "disrespect" of the Judicial Branch by the Legislative and Executive branches.

The evidence for this "disrespect": a bill approved by Congress that orders CONATEL to use its authority under Honduran and international telecommunications law to migrate Teleunsa S.A. from television channel 8 to another frequency.

According to the UCD this legislation, and the executive action it requires, violates the previous actions of the Judicial branch, which previously delivered a judicial decision that the UCD feels needs to be respected. That court decision ruled that Elias Asfura's Teleunsa company had the right to analogue television channel 8. Notice that Teleunsa isn't losing rights to a television channel-- just to this specific frequency.

The UCD muddies the water about the actions of Congress and the Executive branch, referring to the decision as "the virus of Chavez".

In Honduras, the UCD and business owners have forgotten that in a constitutional democracy, the legislature legislates, the court adjudicates, and the executive branch manages.

In the United States, Congress frequently writes laws to override judicial decisions. In fact, this is so common, there are books on the topic. These books point out that this process often serves the useful function of refining the federal legal code, removing ambiguity in the laws as passed by Congress, and reversing errant judicial interpretations through new legislation.

In short, this is part of the system of checks and balances in a democracy.

The Honduran constitution is not that different in this regard.

It is equally true that legislatures sometimes pass laws that are not in harmony with the constitution of their country. Such laws stay in effect until a court reviews and overturns them.

This seems to be what the UCD, the business interests, and even some legislators in Honduras have conveniently forgotten about democracy.

As Porfirio Lobo Sosa said in an interview in the August 10, La Tribuna,
"My friend (Elias Asfura) has the right, if he feels his rights have been violated, whether it's true or not; he has the right to appeal; the Court will know how to resolve it."

And Lobo Sosa is precisely correct.

Under the laws of Honduras, if Elias Asfura believes his rights have been violated, or that the law transferring his TV station (which is not yet on the air) to another channel is unconstitutional, then he has recourse to the courts.

Of course, the call by the UCD is deliberate forgetting, or better, an attempt to deepen the imbalance between the branches of Honduran government, building on the success of right wing and business interests in setting aside the entire judicial branch and replacing it with the former leadership of the Congress in 2009.

But it is not democracy.

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