Honduran Congress approves impeachment tool after Zelaya debacle

Tegucigalpa Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:46pm EST

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya attends a news conference after casting his vote during primary elections in Tegucigalpa November 18, 2012. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya attends a news conference after casting his vote during primary elections in Tegucigalpa November 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jorge Cabrera

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Tegucigalpa (Reuters) - Honduras' Congress on Tuesday approved a measure that allows senior political officials including the president to be prosecuted and removed from office, lawmakers said.

The impeachment mechanism is aimed at avoiding crises such as the one that erupted in the Central American country in 2009, when former President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup.

"Impeachment keeps us from falling into a terrible conflict like the one in 2009, whose consequences were devastating not only economically, but socially," said National Congress president Juan Hernandez.

In 2009, Congress removed Zelaya after the military arrested him at his home and sent him to Costa Rica. Zelaya's critics said he was maneuvering to remain in power beyond his term in office.

Congress, which was dominated at the time by the conservative Liberal and National parties, supported the military coup against Zelaya, and approved a no-confidence vote, but lacked an authorization procedure for his dismissal.

Legislation authorizing impeachment must still be approved by the incoming Congress, which will begin on Friday.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; editing by Christopher Wilson)

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