Furthermore, even the LLC report concedes that the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress lacked the authority to remove Zelaya from the country. Micheletti supporters have conveniently overlooked this point, preferring to cite the report's conclusions selectively. Even if Zelaya could have been constitutionally removed from power, just cause does not justify unconstitutional expulsion.
Refusing to concede this elementary point, many conservatives argued that the only solution would be to recognize the upcoming elections without Zelaya's restitution. But allowing the coup to stand would have signaled to would-be coup plotters in the region that election years offer opportune moments to overthrow democratically-elected presidents. U.S. acceptance of the elections results would have revealed a troubling willingness to allow elected leaders to be removed as long as reasonably fair elections follow.
This posture would have mirrored the United States' foreign-policy blunders in Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. During this period, the United States supported façade democracies -- deadly authoritarian regimes that held civilian elections to legitimize their rule -- to pursue questionable geopolitical aims. This position cheapened elections and weakened nascent democracies.
Fortunately, the Obama administration has not repeated the errors of the past. Last week's high-level delegation of U.S. diplomats proved instrumental for getting Micheletti and Zelaya to agree on a deal. The agreement sets the stage for Zelaya's potential return, with constraints, before the upcoming elections. Although the Honduran Congress has yet to approve Zelaya's return -- notably, this body approved his removal in June -- Zelaya and international negotiators are banking on lawmakers' desperation to secure international legitimacy for the upcoming elections. And turning the issue over to the Congress -- as opposed to the more ideological and intransigent Supreme Court -- offers the opportunity to unwind the spurious claim that the June coup was constitutional.
But most importantly, the prospective settlement sets the stage for internationally recognized elections that will transfer power to a new president and help the country move forward. Zelaya and Micheletti both represent the past. The country needs to move on.
So too must those American pundits who proved so willing to support the sophistry of coup-revisionism. If adopted by policymakers, their views would risk throwing Latin America back to the dark days of military governments and sham elections of the 1970s and 1980s. It is not a road that the region can afford to go back down.
*Corrected: The original version of this piece misattributed a Law Library of Congress Report to the Congressional Research Service. FP regrets the error.