[JURIST] Honduran President Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] was detained and escorted from the presidential home by members of the Honduran military and transported to the airport in the early hours of Sunday morning, the scheduled day for a nationwide referendum on constitutional reform. Military leaders said they were following a judicial order [La Prensa report, in Spanish] to remove Zelaya for breaking the law in carrying out the referendum despite a Honduran Supreme Court ruling against it. The military also indicated that the judicial order instructed them to gather all the referendum ballots. Costa Rican authorities have confirmed [El Pais report, in Spanish] that Zelaya arrived in San Jose on Sunday morning, and will be requesting political asylum. In an interview [RPP report, in Spanish] with South American media, Zelaya decried the actions of the military forces and alleged that his removal was done in a violent manner. Absent the executive, the law dictates that the head of the legislative branch is in command, and if unavailable then the the head of the judiciary assumes the charge. There are unofficial reports [TeleSur video, in Spanish] that head of the Honduran legislature Roberto Micheletti, one of the main opponents to the referendum and constitutional reform, has been sworn in as provisional president of Honduras. Thousands of people in Tegucigalpa have surrounded the presidential home in protest of Zelaya's removal, despite official calls from the government for the population to remain at home. US President Barack Obama has called [Washington Post report] for Hondurans to respect democratic processes, while the Organization of American States has also asked [press release] Hondurans to respect and follow the rule of law. The European Union has condemned [AP report] the actions of the military in removing Zelaya.
Last week, Zelaya rejected [JURIST report] a Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] decision that called for the reinstatement of a military general whom Zelaya fired Wednesday. Zelaya's decision came amidst a controversy over a referendum on constitutional change [La Tribuna report, in Spanish] scheduled for Sunday at which the president hoped to gain supporters for drafting a new constitution. Although Zelaya claims that the constitution should be changed because it currently favors the rich and elite, opponents maintain that the purpose of the change is to allow him to stay in power. Absent a change allowing him to run for re-election, Zelaya's term would end in 2010. In March, Zelaya announced [JURIST report] that he would conduct a poll to determine the public receptiveness to the referendum.