The assertions of the Republican Congressman Aaron Schock that the substitution of the Honduran president Manuel Zelaya on June 28 is "legal," based on the belief that the Honduran Congress can interpret the constitution at will, is flawed because a Supreme Court verdict limited the powers of the legislative assembly in 2003.
The conclusions of the U.S. legislator, supported by a legal analysis of the United States Library of Congress, argue that although there are no mechanisms in the Honduran constitution for a political trial or impeachment, the Honduran Congress carried out an "implicit" interpretation of the constitution, thus creating the right to remove Zelaya from office.
"[T]he removal of former President Zelaya was Constitutional, and we must respect that. It’s unconscionable that our Administration would attempt to force Honduras to violate its own Constitution by cutting off foreign aid," Schock expressed in a statement.
If we are to accept this claim, it means that the Honduran Congress, upon approving the decree authorizing Zelaya’s removal, modified the article establishing that the legislature had the power to "censure the administrative conduct of the president"-a type of formal censure without further consequences-and automatically converted it into an impeachment procedure.
This legal authority is based in the supposed power of the Honduran legislative chamber to realize any interpretation of the constitution at will, following a constitutional reform approved in 1999.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court declared this power unconstitutional, in a unanimous decision on May 7, 2003 based on an appeal filed by the Commissioner of Human Rights, Ramón Custodio, because it infringed the powers of the judicial branch and affected the principal of separation of powers.
The 1999 reform "aims to change the rules governing the operation of the State, which is an excessive application of their power (…), it is flawed and null since it is unconstitutional (…) violating the limits placed on the abilities of the National Congress to reform the Constitution and also putting at risk principles of the popular sovereignty, legality and constitutionality of the form and practices of government," expressed the Supreme Court in its decision.
And even if Congress had had the power to interpret the constitution, the decree removing president Zelaya from office should have included an explicit statement that the constitutional standard was being reformed and that this created a new body of legal standards opening the possibility for impeachment, something that did not occur.