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Honduran ex-president ousted in coup could run again

May 8, 2015

Former Honduran President Manuel “Mel” Zelaya said Thursday that he was considering another run for president after Honduras’ highest court paved the way last month for him to seek re-election.

The announcement from the controversial ex-president, who was ousted in a military coup in 2009, came during a visit to Costa Rica where he met with lawmakers and journalists at the Legislative Assembly.

In an ironic twist in Honduras’ turbulent politics since Zelaya’s time in office, in April the country’s Supreme Court of Justice struck down a provision of the constitution that prohibited former and sitting presidents from seeking re-election.

Zelaya was ousted by political foes after he announced his intention to hold a popular referendum on whether the country’s constitution should be changed — including, critics said, to allow presidential re-election.

Zelaya is now a congressman with the leftist Liberty and Refounding Party (LIBRE), which he co-founded two years ago and currently leads.

During his meeting in Costa Rica on Thursday, Zelaya said the high court’s ruling was illegal, and that it was made under pressure from current Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Still, Zelaya said he had the most to gain from the ruling.

“I’m the one who’s most benefitted in this, because I’m ahead in all polls now,” Zelaya said. It’s unclear which polls he was referring to.

“But I haven’t made my decision,” he continued. “I’ll make it public once I make it, and it’s going to be in no more than 60, 90 days,” he told reporters.

The constitutional ban on presidential re-election dates back to 1982. The Supreme Court’s ruling to strike the ban came in response to petitions from several legislators and former Honduran President Rafael Leonardo Callejas (1990-1994).

A five-judge panel of the Supreme Court voted unanimously on April 22 to void the ban against re-election. One of the judges tried to reverse his decision afterwards, but the change was denied.

Following the high court’s decision, opposition politicians immediately cried fowl, saying the ruling party had influenced the judges.

President Hernández defended the court’s decision, telling reporters that Honduras was simply catching up to other respectable countries that allow their leaders to run for second terms.

“Re-election is a rule worldwide,” Hernández told reporters in April. “Its ban is the exception. Honduras must go forward. We’re a democracy and the people have to decide whether they want a former president, or someone who’s never been president.”

In Costa Rica, Zelaya railed against Hernández’s presidency, saying the government was passing laws “to favor the country’s militarization.”

“The military are good for guarding the border, but not for running the government,” he said.

Zelaya also said the current government was being “held hostage” to U.S. interests.

Zelaya was invited to Costa Rica by the Federation of Students of the University of Costa Rica. He gave a lecture at the university on Thursday evening.

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