Monday, June 29, 2009

Blow Me Away

You know, the more I read about Hugo Chavez, the more I'm convinced that he doesn't so much dislike "imperialism" as he is jealous of it. His forays into naked authoritarianism are well documented, but the implied threat to invade nearby countries (in this case, Honduras) is a different animal.

To be sure, I oppose the coup in Honduras -- even though the President appeared to be breaking the law (as interpreted by the Supreme Court) in forcing through a referendum on whether to amend the constitution to allow him to run for subsequent terms. Most other governments rightly have come out against it, and Chavez -- who was nearly the victim of a coup himself in 2002 -- certainly is quite proper to join them (of course, the fact that he attempted to launch a coup to come to power back in 1992 shows he resides in quite the glass house). Coups aren't the way modern democracies do business. But I was under the impression we had all learned a valuable lesson about getting too trigger happy in trying to convert or revert regimes to the styles and behaviors we preferred.


ansel said...

It doesn't look to me like Zelaya was breaking the law. More info:

David Schraub said...

I never realized you were such a judicial minimalist, ansel. Scalia would be so proud. But in a system of laws, the Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to determine what does and does not contravene the constitution.

Neither of the two articles (particularly the first, which is extremely light on legal analysis and heavy on sweeping generalizations about "elites" the world o'er) you quote leads me to think that the Supreme Court's interpretation of the relevant clauses is so unreasonable as to warrant nullification. Obviously, the clauses admit to multiple interpretations -- the second post would have made a perfectly valid dissenting opinion -- but the court's interpretation doesn't seem to be beyond the scope of what I would consider reasonable textual interpretation. The President, like all government officials, is obliged to follow the rulings of the Supreme Court -- and bad things happen when they don't feel constrained. Just ask the Cherokee.

In the words of the great jurist John Marshall, "it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is." Good enough for the American goose, good enough for the Honduras gander I think.

I don't think one properly responds to this by a coup -- there are civil remedies for officeholders who break the law -- but the Virginia & Kentucky resolution-style nullification arguments your links point to are supremely unconvincing for anyone who broadly believes in judicial review in a democratic system. They have a long pedigree in the United States, but a extremely undistinguished one that has mostly promoted lawlessness, oppression, and executive authoritarianism.