The Coup in Honduras

Expressing concern for fractures in Honduran society between the poor and the powerful, a group of faith leaders in the U.S. condemned the coup that deposed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales and called for a return to constitutional law.

The President, still in his pajamas, was forced from his home and transported to Costa Rica by military officers in a move to prevent a non-binding referendum to repeal a constitutional term limit for the presidency. Honduran presidents are allowed only one four year term.

The faith leaders’ letter says U.S. law requires a suspension of military aid in the event of a coup and they call on the Obama Administration to halt such aid until constitutional rule has been restored.

A resolution passed today by the UN General Assembly called on world leaders to recognize only Zelaya. The World Bank paused lending to the country and said it is working with the Organization of American States as it seeks to restore Honduras’ "democratic charter."

The coup was a shock to modern governance in Central America because it hearkens back to an era when military takeovers were engineered by political elites, corporate executives in the U.S. and elements of the U.S. government. The phrase "banana republic," coined by the novelist O. Henry, came to describe governments such as Honduras and Guatemala, ruled by  a military junta under the influence of a small power elite dependent on agricultural exports such as bananas.

Despite gains under modern democratic government, Honduras remains a society of extreme wealth and grave poverty. President Zelaya has gained popular support by appealing to  activists and advocates for the poor.

The faith leaders say they are concerned about "the safety of social and political activists, including trade union leaders, heads of organizations of small farmers and the rural poor, indigenous leaders, opposition politicians, and others.  Many leaders, fearing arrest, are in hiding.  Many media outlets were shuttered yesterday.  We call on Honduran security forces to respect human rights and basic freedoms for all citizens."

While pentecostalism has been growing rapidly across the southern hemisphere, so too, has a United Methodist community. The United Methodists have addressed the need for housing, education and social development in addition to traditional expressions of a faith community such as worship and pastoral care.

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