Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Manuel Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti

Historians won't locate any heroes in the political crisis that shook Honduras and the Americas this year. Instead they'll find two men who could have bucked Latin America's worst impulses but succumbed to them in ways that exposed how vulnerable the region's fledgling democracies still are. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya wanted to help his country's vast poor, but like so many Latin leaders even today, he thought populism trumped constitutionalism, and he defied a high-court order not to hold a reform referendum. Rather than address that offense legally, Zelaya's foes — including the head of the country's Congress, Roberto Micheletti — let the army stage a coup that exiled Zelaya at gunpoint. (He later snuck back into Honduras but is holed up in the Brazilian embassy.) As Zelaya's authoritarian replacement, Micheletti thumbed his nose at worldwide condemnation — and got away with it. Fortunately, he'll step down on Jan. 27, 2010, when newly elected President Porfirio Lobo takes office. Unfortunately, Honduras will still be a dysfunctional banana republic.

— Tim Padgett