Newswise — “There is a great deal at stake for the inter-American system in how the crisis in Honduras is resolved,” says Shelley McConnell, assistant professor of government at St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY) and a former Latin American policy analyst for the Carter Center. “If ousted President Zelaya is not restored to office despite a region-wide condemnation of the coup, it will call into question the utility of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and indeed the concept of collective protection of democracy through the Organization of American States.”
Among the issues McConnell has studied and can discuss are: * The norms and agreements for the collective protection and promotion of democracy in the Western Hemisphere that have developed since 1990 and framed the OAS response to the coup * The reform of constitutions across Latin America to permit the immediate re-election of a president, and in some countries even unlimited terms, in the historical context of hyper-presidentialism and “continuismo” (the tendency of presidents to stay in power through undemocratic means) * Why the suspension of Honduran membership in the OAS represents a failure for that organization, especially if multilateral diplomacy gives way to bilateral efforts and an outdated and much-criticized practice of relying on the United States to manage politics in its “back yard.” * Whether international election observation can and should be provided if the elections scheduled for November are held without first restoring Zelaya to power, at least nominally. * What next? Even supposing that clean elections are held and a new government is elected in a way that satisfies the international community, what further steps will need to be taken for Honduras to be and be seen as fully democratic? For example, should the military officers who participated in the coup be fired and prosecuted? What about the coup government’s civilian leaders? * Beyond Honduras, is regional support for democracy waning as ideological tensions between left and right-wing forces rise? For example, what might El Salvador’s left-wing president conclude if military overthrow of an elected president goes essentially unpunished?
McConnell teaches comparative and Latin American politics and contributes to the Caribbean and Latin American Studies program at St. Lawrence. She earned her Ph.D. from Stanford University, taught at Bard College and then conducted policy work at The Carter Center before returning to academia in a visitor's post at Hamilton College. She publishes on democratic development in Nicaragua and on inter-American relations.