UF scientist likes result in her native Honduras

But Maria Paz says she doesn't like the way it was done.

Published: Wednesday, July 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 7:32 p.m.

Maria Paz was glad to see the president ousted in her native Honduras, even if she didn't like the way it was done.

Paz, a biological scientist at the University of Florida, said the military's ouster of Honduran President Manuael Zelaya last week was reminiscent of past coups. But she said someone had to stop Zelaya's attempted power grab.

"It needed to be done," she said. "They just didn't do it through the proper channels."

Zelaya was trying to hold a nonbinding referendum that critics said would pave the way for him to run for a second term. After the country's Supreme Court ruled the referendum illegal and he still attempted to hold the vote, he was seized Sunday by the Honduran military and sent to Costa Rica.

The U.S. and other countries condemned the action. The U.S. is trying to avoid setting the precedent that the military can be the final arbitrator in a constitutional crisis, said Phillip Williams, incoming director of UF's Center for Latin American Studies.

"This seems kind of like a relapse to the past," he said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez criticized the U.S. for its supposed support of the military. But Williams pointed out that the Obama administration had worked to try to avert the coup, while now trying to work through the Organization of American States for a solution.

Paz drew a parallel between Zelaya and Chavez.

The Venezuelan president abolished term limits in his country as part of a consolidation of power.

"Zelaya was just taking Honduras down the Venezuelan path, following Chavez' game plan," Paz said.

Zelaya had allied himself with Chavez and other leftist Latin American leaders, while taking steps such as raising the minimum wage in his country. But Paz said he has not improved the lives of many people, using Hurricane Felix's destruction of the country in 2007 as an example.

"He hasn't helped anyone ... There are still people living without homes," she said.

Paz moved to the U.S. in 2000 and last visited Honduras in 2007. She still has family and friends there, so she's worried about the effect of the crisis on them.

"I hope it gets solved for the better of Honduras," she said.

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