Honduran lawmakers fire four Supreme Court judges

The Honduran Congress ordered the removal of four Supreme Court judges who ruled a police vetting law unconstitutional. The constitutionality of whether Congress can do this is at question.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

The events in Honduras over recent weeks have created a renewed serious institutional crisis in which President [Porfirio] Lobo, the Congress, and the Supreme Court are all vying to show their power over the other branches. Tensions are high as the Congress is trying to remove four Supreme Court justices who had ruled a law unconstitutional.

In late November, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled 4-1 that the controversial and poorly implemented police reform law is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the right to due process for police officers. President Lobo and the Congress rejected that decision.

Last weekend, Lobo claimed that the same forces that caused the 2009 coup were out to overthrow him, pointing specifically at the publisher of newspapers El Heraldo and La Prensa.

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Yesterday (or early this morning), the Congress approved a bill to hold a referendum on the police reform law, though whether that referendum process or the resulting bill are constitutional is certainly up for debate.
More importantly, earlier this week, the Congress formed a commission to investigate the four Supreme Court judges who ruled the original bill unconstitutional. Early Wednesday morning, the Congress used the commission's report delivered in 24 hours (fastest commission ever) to order the removal of those four judges. Again, the constitutionality of whether the Congress can do any of this is at question, which is why this is an institutional crisis.
Several media outlets, including El Heraldo and La Prensa (both of which supported the 2009 removal of President Zelaya), are calling the Congress's vote a "technical coup" against the judiciary. Not helping, Army soldiers deployed near the presidential palace and Congress to "protect" those branches create the image of the military taking sides.
So that's the basic info of a complex and rapidly developing situation.
In the background, the legacy of the 2009 coup still haunts the country and will lead to many comparisons and contrasts with the current situation. Honduras remains one of the most violent countries in the world. Organized criminal networks are deeply infiltrated in a number of institutions, particularly the police. The country can't solve its security challenges until it cleans up the corruption within the police force and deals with impunity for crimes. The political class and business elite within the country are constantly jockeying for position, power, and influence in a political game that usually doesn't represent the country's best interests or immediate needs. And there are elections next year.
The last thing the country needs is another institutional crisis.

– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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