Archive for the ‘Elections in Honduras’ Category
Aquilina Guerra is released on Feb. 26 after she was charged, fraudulently say supporters, with “storing weapons of war.” Photo by Louis Bockner.

In the months since the widely criticized elections in November, threats and harassment against social and political activists have ramped up in Honduras, according to the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights.

The report, “Human Rights Violations in the Context of the 2017 Honduran Elections,” published on March 12, outlines how the parameters of the state of emergency ordered by President Juan Orlando Hernández in the days following the elections were too broad and imprecise, “leading to massive and indiscriminate arrests, resulting in limiting the right to peaceful assembly and association.”

The report documents cases of extrajudicial murders committed by police, illegal house raids and threats and harassment against journalists and social and political activists since the end of November 2017 within “the context of a political, economic and social crisis inherited since the 2009 military coup.”

The U.N. report confirms what social movement organizers and civil society groups on the ground have been saying for weeks. On Feb. 26, the Center for Justice and International Law and the Coalition Against Impunity in Honduras, made up of 58 civil society organizations, denounced the Hernández government at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights Public in Bogota. They cited widespread “repression and militarization exercised against the Honduran population during the past months.”

In addition, the organizations charged that “the government has implemented other practices to identify and sanction opposition, resulting in house raids, improper searches and the improper use of criminal law to criminalize social protest.” They offered evidence of acts of repression at close to 200 peaceful protests and over 1,200 instances of illegal detention, torture, extrajudicial murder, internally displaced people, threats and intimidations.

The U.N. report documents cases of extrajudicial murders committed by police, illegal house raids and threats and harassment against journalists and social and political activists.

The north coast of Honduras is rich in natural resources sought by powerful mining and other development interests, resisted by local people. A series of violent attacks like those outlined in the U.N. report and at the I.A.C.H.R. have targeted community members who have been organizing to defend their rivers and mountains.

According to the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (M.A.D.J.), on Jan. 22, in the days leading up to the inauguration of President Hernández, Ramón Fiallos was targeted and shot by police at a protest in Arizona, Atlantida.

Six hours later, following another protest nearby, Geovany Diaz, a 35-year-old father of five and member of M.A.D.J. was executed by Honduran police who shot him 40 times after dragging him outside of his home at 4 a.m., according to family members who spoke to America on Jan. 26.

“It’s logical to see that the reason for these murders is their struggle,” said a source from the Jesuit Reflection, Research and Communications Team, who has been closely following the cases. Mr. Fiallos was a well-known community leader who was working to protect the Jilamito River from a proposed hydroelectric project. In Pajuiles, where Mr. Diaz lived, the community has spent a year protesting proposed mining and hydroelectric projects.

Luis Garcia, a longtime friend who had worked for years with Mr. Fiallos, saw the violence happen. “Luis knew he could be next,” said Osman Orellana, a community health promoter at the Claret BioHealth Centre in Arizona. “He was in the last roadblock when they murdered Ramón.”

In the weeks after the killing of his friend, Mr. Garcia felt the pressure mount as community leaders across the country were targeted and arbitrarily detained. “He told us that in the last two weeks an unknown car had been circling his house,” said Mr. Orellana. “Different organizations and the parish told him it would be best to leave the country.”

In the past, Mr. Garcia had received death threats for his activism, and he ignored the advice to leave. This time he did not. He left Honduras on Feb. 21—the next day, the national police raided his home.

“The police arrived at my parent’s house at 5:30 a.m. with a search warrant in my father’s name,” said Luis Garcia Jr., in an interview with America on Feb. 25. “But he’s outside of the country because of the same persecution. My mom didn’t leave because we didn’t think she would have anything to worry about.”

In the past, Mr. Garcia had received death threats for his activism, and he ignored the advice to leave. This time he did not.

After they raided the house without finding the elder Garcia, the police took his wife, Aquilina Guerra, into custody in nearby Tela. “They told her that she wasn’t being detained. They were bringing her in for something they had found outside her house,” said her son. “And then they took out the bag.”

Ms. Guerra is a 57-year-old housewife and a former catechist and cook for the Our Lady of Pilar parish in Arizona. She spends most of her days caring for her grandkids and making food for her family. Inside the bag that the police produced, which Ms. Guerra claims to have never seen before, were small cans of gunpowder, a container of gas and some empty soda bottles.

Arriving in Tela, the police alleged that Ms. Guerra was making Molotov cocktails; she was charged with storing weapons of war. The police took her picture in front of the weapons and then distributed it through social media, a common tactic to shame and discredit citizens and one that can have deadly outcomes.

“Luis Garcia is considered a leader of the social movement, and the investigation was directed at him,” said Carlos Reyes Torres, a lawyer who works with the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice. “Not finding him, they took whomever they could find.”

Mr. Reyes Torres spoke outside the courthouse in Tela on Feb. 26, during Ms. Guerra’s preliminary hearing. “The fact that the public prosecutor is charging her with storing weapons of war shows that state institutions consider us to be at war.”

The day before Ms. Guerra’s preliminary hearing on Feb. 26, parishioners at Our Lady of Pilar Church called out for the local communities to peacefully walk the streets of Tela to demand justice for her and the others whose acts of resistance have been criminalized since November. Outside the jail where she was being held, they celebrated Mass for the more than 200 people who came to show their support.

“The church is called to be prophetic,” said the Rev. Victor Camara, who heads up the social ministry of the Diocese of La Ceiba, during the Mass. “Those who believe are called to denounce injustice, and we are here from the church to show the church will not be silenced. Although some remain silent, we will not. We are conscious. We are in solidarity with Aquilina, her family and the hundreds of brothers and sisters that are being criminalized and who have suffered the murder of loved ones…. May God hear the cries of the Honduran people who have suffered so much.”

The following day, over 100 people gathered outside the courthouse singing, praying and denouncing Ms. Guerra’s arrest. After eight hours of hearings and deliberations, the judge presiding over the case ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to continue the case against Ms. Guerra.

“It makes you want to cry—to see justice being served,” said the Rev. Javier Hernandez, the parish priest at Our Lady of the Pillar Church. “I think the public pressure from those here has strength. Prayers, the Eucharist that we shared yesterday, people asking God for justice. God is listening, listens to his people clamoring for justice for those who have been criminalized.”

“I feel very happy seeing my community here, how I love them and how they love me,” said Ms. Guerra outside the courthouse following her release. “I feel so happy to feel free. I never could have imagined this experience, but God has always been with me. It’s been painful to see my people suffer. This is a political persecution simply for supporting the movement. My husband and I have supported poor, humble people. I never expected this. But thanks to God, I’m free and I’m going home.”

On March 11, the M.A.D.J. charged that military personnel were roaming through the community of Florida, Atlantida, searching for Waldina Santos, a key organizer to mining resistance in the area. Ms. Santos was at both the march and Mass to support Ms. Guerra and helped organize the busloads of people who came to stand outside the courthouse to show their support.

Although many remain detained in Honduras, and others like Ms. Santos are living in fear for what could be next for her and her family, the small victory in Ms. Guerra’s case offers hope to many who feel helpless given the current political situation. “May this not only be for Aquilina but for so many who have been criminalized and who are being persecuted and unjustly jailed,” said Father Hernandez. “May this be a new beginning for peace in Honduras.”

Jackie McVicar

Jackie McVicar has accompanied human rights social movements and land protectors in Central America for more than 10 years.

Violence in post-election Honduras could affect U.S. migration patterns, activists say

Claudia Mendoza (left) and Joaquin Mejia (right) were in Washington, D.C. to give an overview of post-election Honduras. (Photo: Esther Y. Lee)

Claudia Mendoza (left) and Joaquin Mejia (right) were in Washington, D.C. to give an overview of post-election Honduras. (Photo: Esther Y. Lee)

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The violent aftermath of the Honduran presidential election — triggered by allegations of electoral fraud — has led to serious human rights abuses, Honduran advocates said Thursday, strongly advising the Trump administration not to deport immigrants back to a country repressed by deadly government security forces.

At an event sponsored by Alianza Americas, a transnational network of immigrant organizations, two Honduran-based speakers shared their on-the-ground perspective of the dangers they have faced after President Juan Orlando Hernández’s reelection. Joaquin Mejia — a lawyer and human rights advocate who works as a commentator at the Jesuit radio station Radio Progreso — expressed concern over the legitimacy of his country’s presidential elections and indicated that his life was at risk for openly criticizing Hernández and the military police. The Honduran constitution has since the 1980s explicitly enforced a one-term presidential limit. Hernández sought to change the constitution to ban term limits. Claudia Mendoza — a freelance journalist who has worked with Univision — also pointed out at the event the “shameful” silence by the Honduran news outlets to suppress news about the brutality at the hands of the country’s military police.

Mejia and Mendoza both noted that violent clashes between opposition supporters and the military police have led to the deaths of dozens of activists, hundreds of injuries, and thousands of detentions. Into January 2018, the Honduran government reportedly used security forces to tamp down protests using tear gas, batons, and live ammunition, according to a Latin American Working Group Education Fund report, brutally stiffing press freedom and imposing curfews in post-electoral Honduras. In the face of mounting violence following Hernández’s reelection, the U.S. embassy accepted the country’s election results, despite misgivings by the Organization of American States (OAS) which called for a presidential election do-over.

Mejia has been advocating for a fair electoral process and said he was “hopeful” that the Honduran youth would turn out for future elections. He also wants the U.S. government to stop deporting people back to a country beset by violence and forced displacement. As of February 9, the U.S. government has deported 2,279 people to Honduras, according to Consular y Migratorio de Honduras (CONMIGHO) data. CONMIGHO receives USAID funding and is affiliated with the Honduran Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores y Cooperación Internacional. Tens of thousands of Honduran Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients may also be at risk of deportation if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fails to renew their statuses by July 5, 2018.

Many people are driven to flee their homes for another city in Honduras because of ongoing threats and assassinations, as the Latin American Working Group Education Fund graphic below shows.

(Photo by Latin America Working Group Education Fund)
(Photo by Latin America Working Group Education Fund)

Mejia himself has faced a constant barrage of threats because of his stance against the Hernández government.

“From the time I worked at Radio Progreso to when I came here yesterday [on a three-city visit to the United States], I’ve had threats against my family,” Mejia said at the event, his voice going up an emotional lilt before he spoke again. “There is absolute impunity of crimes committed by the police.”

“You can see an increase of the forced displacement of the people because of the violence,” Mejia told ThinkProgress after the event. “Even though officially, there’s been a decrease in the rate of homicides in Honduras, it’s a mistake to see the reduction of violence in Honduras only in the perspective of murdered people because we have to see it in other types of violence like robbery, extortion, and other elements we have to take into account in that kind of violence.”

From the U.S. perspective, Honduras is so dangerous that the U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens to “reconsider” travel to the country on account of crime with some areas seeing “increased risk.” The federal government has also advised against traveling to Gracias a Dios, an isolated area where infrastructure is weak. Travelers who go there won’t get help since “U.S. government employees are restricted from traveling to the area.”


When asked his position on the Trump administration’s efforts to make it very difficult for people to seek humanitarian relief — like asylum or refugee status — on claims of fraudulent interviewees being “coached” to make up lies about Honduras, Mejia shook his head.

“The Trump administration has this theory about immigrants, but at the same time it’s supporting a regime that’s provoking a political situation that is going to provoke an increase in the immigration to the U.S., Spain, Costa Rica, and an increase in asylum and refugee seekers,” Mejia said. The United States has long had an over-sized influence in the country, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance to help fund elite military and police units, The Guardian reported. As the publication explained, these units have helped push down Honduras’ murder rate, but the country is still one of the most violent places in the world.

“I don’t know what’s happening in the government of the United States, but if they really want to stop immigration, the logical thing is to support democracy in our country,” Mejia added. “But they are supporting a regime that is authoritarian, using the military force to attack those who are opposition and denouncing electoral fraud. This will provoke increased immigration to the United States.”

Mejia fears that mass deportation from the United States would trigger more instability at a time when Honduras has yet to resolve widespread doubts over electoral irregularities.

“Those people deported from United States — what they’re going to face is a very complicated situation – a political crisis and instability,” Mejia said, explaining that there are no programs in place that he knows of that would help resettle deported immigrants. “And I’m sure what they’re going to do is try to go back to the United States. They left the country because that violence and that instability but now they’re going to find the same instability, same violence.”

Beyond the scale of U.S. immigration policies, Mejia and Mendoza have noticed a troubling trend in Honduras that affects every resident. As a journalist Mendoza has observed other press coverage being too favorable towards the Hernández government or has presented no criticism of the brutal oppression. News coverage of the large-scale protests “emphasize property damage and not human life,” she said.

“The press should have been critical, but [their articles] looked like press releases from the government,” she said according to an English translation from an in-ear interpreter present at the event. “La Prensa and El Heraldo are theoretically independent but there is no criticism.”

Mendoza pointed to the death of Kimberly Dayana Fonseca, a 19-year-old who went to look for her brother during anti-government protests and was killed with a bullet to the head on the first night a curfew was put in place in the country. Military police shot live rounds into the crowd, but the prosecutor’s office “tried to blame” her death on a tear gas canister, the Miami Herald reported in January.

“Sadly, the press is taking a lot of the military line,” Mendoza said. “We are in a country where there is no freedom of press… we have one line and it’s the government’s line.”

US policy perpetuates violence in Honduras

CNS-Honduras c.jpg

Honduras election supporters

Supporters of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández celebrate as they wait for official presidential election results Nov. 28, 2017, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (CNS/Reuters/Edgard Garrido)

Is Honduras “returning to the terror in the 1980s”? That’s what Dr. Luther Castillo told NCR in an interview. Evidence supports his assertion, and today’s terror, just like 30 years ago, has U.S. ties.

Central America was a flashpoint in the Cold War and in the 1970s and 1980s. Honduras was the staging ground for the U.S.-backed covert war against leftists in the region. Honduras was the de facto U.S. military base for Contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Inside Honduras, U.S.-trained military units — most especially the notorious Battalion 316 — carried out a campaign of torture, extrajudicial killing, and state-sponsored terror against Honduran civilians.

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Castillo is among Honduran activists now under threat of personal danger because they are calling for new elections, claiming that incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández and his National Party rigged the Nov. 26 election and then imposed martial law to stifle protests.

All through Election Day and into the next day as ballots were being counted, opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla had a commanding lead. An electoral tribunal magistrate told Reuters Nov. 27, “The technical experts here say that it’s irreversible.”

But then the shenanigans began. The election tribunal, which is controlled by Hernández’s National Party, went mysteriously quiet for 36 hours. Reports of a “computer glitch” spread. When ballot counting resumed, Nasralla’s lead had evaporated. Hernández eventually pulled ahead and was declared the winner.

Calling for a new, clean election, Hondurans protested in the streets, watched over by rows of navy, army and police officers carrying riot shields. The government suspended constitutional rights for 10 days and imposed a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, arresting anyone, including journalists, who violated it. Before Christmas, squads of police and soldiers cleared blockades set up by protesters in the capital and the countryside. At least 12 people were killed and hundreds more detained at military installations, where they were “brutally beaten,” according to human rights experts at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The Organization of American States has also called for new elections. In a statement issued Dec. 17 after receiving the results of an independent audit of election results, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said it was impossible to determine a winner, given that there was “deliberate human intrusion in the computer system; intentional elimination of digital traces; the impossibility of knowing how many times the system was breached; ballot cases open or without ballot tallies; extreme statistical improbability regarding participation levels.”

“The only possible way for the victor to be the people of Honduras,” he said, “is a new call for general elections.”

Despite all this, the Trump administration recognized Hernández as the winner Dec. 22. Days earlier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had certified that the Honduran government has been combating corruption and supporting human rights, paving the way for Honduras to receive millions of additional U.S. dollars, including about $17 million for Honduran security forces. The certification ignores cases of government corruption and the assassinations of environmentalists, indigenous leaders and journalists, extensively documented by two major studies last year.

A Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report from May describes Honduras in the center of “transnational kleptocratic networks” and characterizes the Honduran military as “an instrument for the consolidation of power,” used to patrol indigenous communities, suppress protests, curtail the exercise of free speech, and “assume a wide variety of domestic security and policing roles.”

The London-based watchdog organization Global Witness called Honduras the deadliest place on the planet to be a land or environmental activist. The Hernández government never prosecuted the killers of the country’s most prominent activist, Berta Cáceres, who spearheaded efforts to stop the plundering of indigenous lands by hydroelectric, mining and logging interests.

More than 120 activists have been murdered since 2009 when a coup overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya and ushered in a succession of corrupt right-wing governments that have overseen, according to Global Witness, “shocking levels of violence and intimidation suffered by rural communities.”

In a very real sense, the Obama administration — particularly then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — laid the foundation for Hernández’s victory by turning a blind eye to the toppling of Zelaya, who they thought was too close to Bolivian President Evo Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and other left-leaning Latin American leaders. By refusing to recognize Zelaya’s ouster as a military coup, Clinton kept Honduras on the military aid and training gravy train.

Longtime observers of Central America will know that since the 1980s, nearly 5,000 officers from Honduras have been trained at the U.S. Army’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or WHINSEC, formerly known as the School of the Americas. Graduates of this school hold key positions in the Honduran government and security forces and have been implicated in numerous coups, human rights abuses and suppression of democracy.

Today, the boogeyman of communism that haunted the region in the 1980s is gone, but the institutions and power centers set up in Honduras decades ago remain entrenched, and now environmental activists and indigenous rights leaders are targeted for threatening the political-economic status quo.

“We know it’s the U.S. that runs Honduras,” and it is “co-responsible” for the human rights abuses and fatal shootings following the latest presidential election, says Nasralla — who could very well be the legitimate victor in the presidential election.

By legitimizing a stolen election, ignoring the rare Organization of American States call for new elections and refusing to condemn the post-election crackdown by the (U.S.-trained) military, the U.S. is again perpetrating violence that ultimately hurts its own self-interest, but, more importantly, continues the oppression of Hondurans.

“Berta nos llama a articularnos y a fortalecer la unidad”

Berta Cáceres nunca será un logo vacío, sino motor de lucha para las transformaciones sociales

En Tegucigalpa, Giorgio Trucchi


Foto: Giorgio Trucchi

Ismael Moreno Coto, conocido como padre Melo, es un sacerdote jesuita hondureño, director de Radio Progreso y del Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC). El año pasado fue galardonado en Noruega con el prestigioso Premio Rafto 2015, en reconocimiento a su trabajo por la defensa de la libertad de expresión.

Previo al desarrollo de la 1ª Asamblea de la Articulación Popular Hondureña “Berta Cáceres”, el padre Melo conversó con La Rel sobre la difícil coyuntura que atraviesa Honduras tras el asesinato político de la dirigente indígena lenca.

-¿En qué contexto político, económico y social se da el asesinato de Berta Cáceres?
-Ocurre en un contexto de creciente escalada del modelo extractivista, que es la expresión más radicalizada del modelo neoliberal en Honduras y en el mundo.

La puesta en vigencia de las “ciudades modelo”, la aprobación de la Ley de Minería, la expansión del cultivo de palma africana y el concesionamiento de ríos y territorios enteros a multinacionales aliadas de la oligarquía nacional, son un ejemplo del proyecto político que impulsa la extrema derecha hondureña e internacional.

En este sentido, el asesinato de Berta Cáceres no fue casual, sino que responde a un marco general de consolidación  de este proyecto, que tiene como mecanismo la militarización de la sociedad, la criminalización de la lucha popular y el exterminio de dirigentes que no pueden ser controlados, que no son comprables, ni sobornables.

Esta ofensiva ha generado una agudización de los conflictos, porque el asesinato de Berta despertó a la humanidad para que volviera nuevamente la mirada hacia esta Honduras.

Hay un resurgimiento de la lucha popular en el marco de lo que Berta siempre ha buscado: la articulación de los sectores desde compromisos que surgen de las bases y que se proyectan tanto a nivel nacional, como regional y mundial.

Esto es el gran legado que debemos recoger. Un proceso de lucha y un proyecto unitario en el marco de un trinomio político-estratégico que marcaba el pensamiento de Berta Cáceres: una articulación anticapitalista, antirracista y antipatriarcal.

-¿Qué idea se ha hecho en cuanto a los mandantes de este asesinato?
-La oligarquía nacional y el capital transnacional han ido criminalizando a las organizaciones de base y la lucha popular, fortaleciendo los instrumentos represivos y desarrollando campañas mediáticas muy agresivas. Sin embargo, han intentado evitar asesinatos de altísimo impacto, porque redundan negativamente en sus negocios.

Un asesinato selectivo
La impunidad consagrada

Lo que suelen hacer es tratar de cooptar a los dirigentes y asegurarse una oposición en cierta medida controlada. Cuando hay factores o actores que impiden este proceso de cooptación, puede haber mandos intermedios -como gerentes de proyectos, autoridades municipales, oficiales regionales- que decidan planificar el asesinato.

Ellos saben que, en última instancia, van a contar con el respaldo de los altos dirigentes tanto de la política como de las empresas extractivas.

El peligro para la dirigencia política y social es latente, porque se han creado las condiciones para que aquellas personas que ponen en entredicho la implementación de las políticas extractivitas van a contar con una respuesta criminal organizada, en el marco de un sistema generalizado de impunidad.

Para atacar la impunidad y este sistema que la genera y la protege tenemos que articularnos a nivel nacional e internacional.

-Retomando las palabras de sus hijas e hijo, ¿qué hay que hacer para que la imagen de Berta no quede simplemente como un logo vacío?
-Hay que trabajar una propuesta unitaria real, histórica, que es lo que tratamos de hacer en estos espacios que se están convocando.

La lucha no puede limitarse solo a consignas, ni a una demanda judicial, sino que debe obligar a que las diversas instancias del movimiento popular hondureño se articulen en esta propuesta unitaria de mediano y largo alcance, que debe ser permanente independientemente de la coyuntura que vive el país.

Solamente así podemos ser fieles al pensamiento, a la práctica y a la mística de Berta Cáceres.

20160412 Melo714 374

Will the bipartite system get the opposition back under control?

Did last November’s election results break the traditional bipartite system? Has the Liberal Party crumbled due to its internal splits and its third-place showing in those elections? Who’s playing the role of opposition these days? While crucial, these questions have no firm answers in this first post-electoral moment.

Ismael Moreno

In the National Congress’ inaugural session on January 22, Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) Party representatives went so far as to break the microphone on the legislative board’s table in response to the National and Liberal parties’ manipulation to ensure that Mauricio Oliva, a National Party representative and military adviser, would be elected to chair the new board. After that stormy expression of repudiation, the LIBRE bench went unnoticed for weeks. Finally, on March 18, it showed signs of life again, but this time not in opposition to decisions by the Liberal and National benches. It was rather a confrontation that almost ended in blows between two of its own legislators over differing ideas on how to elect the national human rights commissioner, or ombudsperson.

The Right takes advantage of an opposition that gives such signals by contrasting it with the traditional opposition, one that accepts all the rules of the game and shares public administration under those same rules in exchange for political favors.

A new political map

The results of last November’s general elections redrew the age-old political map, with the National Party winning the presidency with under 37% of the vote, the new LIBRE ousting the Liberal Party from second place with nearly 28%, the Liberal Party moving down to third place with just over 20%, and the also new Anti-Corruption Party placing fourth with over 13%. These novel results highlight LIBRE as the opposition party with real grassroots representation. The central challenge for the traditional political leaders over the three and a half years before the next elections will thus be to assure an “opposition” that again works in their interests. To a great extent the future of the bipartite system depends on playing this right.

Already working for these stakes are the gurus of the two traditional parties: former Presidents Carlos Flores Facussé (Liberal), Rafael Leonardo Callejas (National) and Ricardo Maduro (National). Together with current President Juan Orlando Hernández (National) and other political strategists such as Hernández’s security minister Arturo Corrales Álvarez, the three are determined to redefine the opposition.

These gurus know full well that society’s growing instability and the enormous weakness of the State’s institutionality
are a fertile brew in which an opposition might develop that’s not only outside their bipartite control but effective, and could even turn into an authentic alternative to the traditional parties’ proposals. In their mind this real possibility, already visible in the election results, is an imminent danger.

LIBRE doesn’t fit the mold

It’s true that LIBRE counts a majority breakaway faction of the Liberal Party (PLH) among its ranks and that its indisputable top leader, formerly deposed President Mel Zelaya, who comes from the crudest Liberal traditions, is now a bridge between the minority that remains in his old party and those who left it. In spite of everything, LIBRE as opposition still enjoys the trust of the two-party structures. It doesn’t fit the mold designed over three decades, a mold for shaping an opposition that will complement the governing party, co-govern with it, share posts and make shady deals for managing public affairs.

The opposition has been understood in Honduras as “the same monkey on a different branch,” only absent from the presidential offices and sometimes the legislative leadership body, but always holding shares in the judicial branch and the State’s various watchdog bodies. It has functioned very well like this for those 30 years , so integrated into the bipartite machinery that its workings have become almost mechanical. This “opposition” gave full legitimacy to the “democratic” model, but after the 2009 coup and especially after the barrage of new party proposals headed up by LIBRE, these mechanics have been drastically upset. An opposition disengaged from that bipartite machinery is viewed as a serious problem to be resolved by those devoted to keeping the machine’s gears oiled.

How to resolve this?

How are they planning to resolve this political novelty that’s eroding the very foundations of their model? Firstly, the extreme Right represented by President Juan Orlando Hernández must try to grab away the banners and goals of struggle of the two new parties that won 52 of the Congress’ 128 seats and 30 of the country’s municipal governments. To do so, the government is expanding programs such as the one called the “Ten Thousand Voucher,” a handout program that each government in turn has given in dribs and drabs to the poorest to win over or maintain their party loyalties. Now this paternalistic program is looking to reach beyond the marginal sectors already obedient to the National Party. The government is also bringing on line other paternalistic programs such as “A Better Life,” aimed at marginal sectors susceptible to discontent and thus capable of mobilizing behind LIBRE’s leftist banners.

Another step the defenders of the old status quo have taken is in the field of foreign policy. President Hernández is initiating a rapprochement with left-leaning governments. His first foreign policy act was to attend the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Havana. CELAC, of which Honduras is a member, is made up of 33 independent States of the region and is conceived as an alternative integration mechanism to the Organization of American States, which is so dominated by the United States. A few weeks later Hernández revived diplomatic relations with the government of Ecuador and has taken steps to remain in Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative. There’s even talk of Honduras re-joining ALBA, if circumstances permit, which is ironic given that membership in it was not only interrupted by the coup that ousted Zelaya but used as an excuse for it.

The case of the ombudsman

The authoritarian political and economic model headed up by President Hernández has a long-term projection, with talk of consolidating it over the next 50 years. Achieving this requires an opposition that’s under control and incorporated into the model. The election of the ombudsperson in March was an example of some tactical maneuvering in that direction.

Obviously the goal was to assure that the new head of the constitutionally autonomous National Human Rights Commission (CONADEH) would be under the direct control of the executive branch. But they didn’t expect the barrage of diverse human rights organizations that became an authentic opposition in place of LIBRE’s weakened opposition in the National Congress. Not only challenging the intention of imposing the candidate for this post, these organizations proposed names and selection procedures. Twenty-one candidates turned up at the National Congress.

A legislative commission consisting of representatives from all parties including LIBRE was named to select candidates. Following hearings, the commission narrowed the choice down to seven for submission to the plenary. But in a lightning session on March 25, a National Party representative moved to elect Héctor Roberto Herrera, a candidate from his party’s crème de la crème who has the profile this authoritarian democracy needs; his election was pushed through with the votes of the National, Liberal and Anti-Corruption parties. At his swearing in to this post for the next six years, the LIBRE legislators shouted “Dictatorship! Dictatorship!” But nothing more…

The legislative siege

In Honduras’ bipartite system the the earth starts to move if any opposition escapes from machinery controlled by the party that didn’t win the presidency and istead identifies with an authentic Left. In the few cases in which such an opposition has threatened the breakdown of the traditional opposition’s machinery, it has always met with repression, physical extermination, ideological disqualification and an information barrier.

This year such an opposition has acquired an official citizenship card and sits with equal rights in seats intended only for an opposition that defends the bipartite democracy. LIBRE is a danger, not only for being opposition but also for defeating the traditional parties. This requires that the Right redouble its efforts to both isolate and discredit LIBRE and bolster the Liberal Party.

That means first of all obstructing LIBRE’s opposition in Congress, obliging it to move its pressure outside ordinary parliamentary rules. Thus, in the final sessions of the previous legislature, the outgoing rightwing legislators reformed the Constitution so that major issues for the State and even constitutional changes previously requiring a qualified majority can now be passed with no more than a simple majority. That means that the 52 National votes plus the 26 Liberal ones will suffice for any decision the bipartite system wants taken in Congress.

This ploy was decided in negotiations between the National and Liberal leaders upon hearing the electoral results, to prevent the 36-member LIBRE bench from blocking or otherwise influencing decisions taken by Congress. Even in the remote event that they join the 13-member Anti-Corruption Party bench, their combined votes still wouldn’t be enough to break the legislative barrier jointly erected by the traditional party representatives.

But blocking any move by the thus-far independent opposition isn’t the only goal. The negotiations between the shaken political elites of the far Right have deep-rooted and far-reaching objectives that will be expressed in specific votes.

Raise the President’s profile

The agreement among the corporate media owners is to raise the profile of President Hernández and keep it raised. This strategy was kicked off by fanning the flames of the conflict with El Salvador induced by a dispute over Conejo Island in the Gulf of Fonseca.

They want to ensure that the President’s profile stays in the headlines and penetrates grassroots consciousness of him as a leader for the long term, not just four years. Congress’ president already sent out a first feeler by stating that people shouldn’t be afraid of the word reelection because Congress always has recourse to legal devices such as plebiscites and referenda should the need arise, but meanwhile we have a President with such solid leadership that it’s worth extending his mandate for more than the established single term.

A priority of the far Right’s strategy is eliminating the constitutional “articles set in stone” that prevent reelection. In the event of securing reelection, Juan Orlando Hernández would have the first option. The door is already being pried open for a Constituent Assembly or at least striking down these ironclad constitutional changes to allow reelection. Whether or not this Constituent Assembly is formed is now in the hands of the far Right.

At the same time they’re trying to turn the Liberal Party back into a force capable of winning the elections in November 2017. This option is based on the possible attrition of President Juan Orlando Hernández as well as the entire National Party due to their hardline policies on economic issues and their repressive and militaristic response to social demands, which could possibly lead to LIBRE coming out of those elections the victor. That unacceptable scenario makes regaining control of the badly split and weakened Liberal Party an imperative for the leaders of both traditional parties.

The gurus of the bipartite system don’t tolerate factors and actors that escape the mold of their political and economic model. With an oligarchic and kleptocratic identity, they’ve given clear signs of unwillingness to cede even a millimeter. And the term kleptocratic isn’t a gratuitous insult; they’ve earned their vocation as thieves over many decades of squandering state assets and diverting public funds into private accounts. A debate in search of an alternative model to the bipartite system based on a minimum consensus that might respond to the country’s chronic instability continues to be an extremely remote possibility.

What about the Left?

Pulling together the opposition needed if it’s to continue governing is a major headache for the elites of the bipartite system and they are investing energy and resources in that quest. Shouldn’t grassroots and leftwing sectors be devoting their efforts to consolidating a political opposition that will respond to the challenges they’re facing?

In the last four years the Reflection, Investigation and Communication Team (ERIC), created as a social work of the Jesuits in the city of El Progreso, Honduras, in 1980, has conducted four public opinion polls to find out what society thinks about the country’s situation and the behavior of the different social, political and religious actors. All four surveys show that the population distrusts the political proposals of all parties, but particularly the two traditional ones. Over 80% of those polled perceive politicians, including party leaders and legislators, as deceitful and believe all judges, public prosecutors, police and executive branch officials lie. Nonetheless, asked who they think is most responsible for trying to find solutions to the precarious situation they’re living in, people either don’t mention actors associated with the grassroots movement, the National Popular Resistance Front and left leaders in general, or include them way down the list.

The Honduran Left is significantly distanced from the population’s daily reality. It’s true that the Left, represented by LIBRE, pulled almost a million votes in last year’s elections, but they aren’t hard votes or votes of affinity. They’re largely a no-confidence vote against the traditional parties and a vote of desperation in the face of a crisis with no seeming solution. In other words, they are cast to punish the bipartite system more than ideological or militant votes for the Left. According to the surveys of the last four years, people feel no more distrusting of the traditional political parties than distant from grassroots and leftwing leaders.

To escape from this bubble

The organized Left and grassroots sectors are oblivious to this distance. With resources aimed at bringing about transformations that will help the people most hurt by neoliberal policies, every organization, every union, perhaps without realizing it, ends up offering recipes for resolving the crisis as if they were the only possible solutions when in fact they’re nothing more than proposals that guarantee the survival of the organizations’ own members.

While they all strive to comply with their particular agenda for struggle, the surveys from these past four years all found that people’s daily lives continue to be shaped by television and by the churches that know how to reach down into their hearts. Political grassroots and civil society leaders often live in a bubble, believing that what they think is what all impoverished people in Honduras think. This bubble offers a lot of security, including economic, and above all “saves” them from discovering their mistake of being politically, ideologically, humanly and even spiritually distant from the daily reality of people living in poor urban neighborhoods and rural villages.

Our population’s level of social and political awareness is so fragile that most people don’t care who’s in government and who’s in the opposition; it doesn’t matter who they are or where they come from. These people have serious food, security and employment problems to deal with every day, and the only thing that matters to them is that somebody solve these problems. The least of their worries is whether those who guarantee them food and security are an authoritarian dictatorial government or populist or leftwing leaders. It’s all the same to them.

We live in a country where the current circumstances, both objective and subjective, provide fertile ground for personalities with dictatorial features, strong men and arbitrary populists to flourish. Most of the Honduran population continues to be grounded in a profoundly conservative mentality. A Left that wants to put itself forward as the people’s opposition but is distant from those very people will continue to live comfortably in its bubble, churning out anti-neoliberal speeches. Breaking out of that bubble and eliminating its distance from what people feel, think, dream and suffer is a prerequisite to the Left achieving the status of an opposition that finally breaks the bipartite system.

Ismael Moreno, sj, is the envío correspondent in Honduras.

Padre Melo speaks to reporters at the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa on Sept. 11, 2013.

Editor’s Note: Some of the challenges facing Honduras today are featured in the Feb. 10 issue of America. After the country held national elections on Nov. 24, America asked Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J., popularly known as Padre Melo, to reflect on the implications of the elections. Padre Melo is the director of Radio Progreso and of ERIC, a social research and advocacy organization in El Progreso, Honduras. Shaina Aber and Leticia Isasi translated this reflection from the original Spanish.

In an uncertain environment full of suspicions, the electoral results in Honduras on Nov. 24 gave the triumph to Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party, the incumbent party. Following the election, information surfaced that in thousands of the electoral boards the majority of the delegates of four of the small parties were substituted by members of the National Party. Also, evidence has emerged of vote-buying at some of these same electoral centers. Individuals willing to sell their votes were told to take pictures of themselves with their filled-in ballot, so they could collect a corresponding payment from the National Party.

The international missions of the Organization of American States, the European Union and the United States Embassy observed the environment outside the voting centers, but these missions failed to effectively monitor the management of the ballots and their transportation to counting complexes after citizens deposited them in good faith at voting centers. The missions never corroborated the various formally registered complaints of irregularities and inconsistencies. In light of these doubts, the international reports should have waited before giving judgment. However, these missions supported the report of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and hastened to ratify even those results where independent international observers and national human rights and alternative media institutions suspected vote manipulation and cited inconsistencies.

A person might argue that the practice of buying votes is not technically illegal, but nobody can argue that it is a service to democracy and to the rule of law. Yet the official international missions said nothing about this open practice. It is not about being in favor of or against one candidate or another. It is about contributing to an accountable democracy through respect for the rule of law.

The international missions have indeed failed in their efforts to support the democratic process. Instead of assisting Honduras to navigate an exit out of its institutional crises, the international missions have ended up supporting what they have rightly critiqued: the conditions of corruption and impunity that contribute the most to instability and deterioration of institutions supporting the rule of law. Instead of supporting the good, the official missions have blessed the foremost enemies of democracy and the rule of law.

What awaits us? Although the presidency was won by the National Party, the further deterioration of the Honduran society is expected. The creation of the new military police force a few weeks before the elections, combined with the creation of legal frameworks like the charter cities law or the mining law, the deliberate delay of the process of purging the police and the judicial institutions of corruption, the politicized elections of the General Prosecutor and Assistant Prosecutor, all under the leadership of the president-elect, represent dark clouds that foretell a phase of growing authoritarianism, impunity, corruption and loss of national sovereignty in the framework of a “totalitarian and exclusive democracy.”

The current political reality, which began the day after the election, will likely become solidified through a caucus process in the Congress among the winning party and the other contesting forces that participated in the electoral process. In the election, the president-elect was not so much the clear victor chosen by the majority to govern the state of Honduras, as the person and political party able to consolidate a new political pact in co-responsibility with the other political forces that sought to overcome and replace the traditional Liberal/Nationalist bipartite government that has dominated the political environment during the past three decades.

It is true that the traditional Honduran bipartisan model has broken down, but those who drove it for more than three decades remain very active and will continue to be the main conductors of the new political pact in which the leftist party, Libre, will have to play a counterbalancing role. Libre must discern ways to present the demands and interests of social sectors that do not fit in the plans and interests of the more powerful sectors of the countries. With the victory of Juan Orlando Hernandez, a new political chapter begins, but it is led by the same political, economic and business elites that have driven the political process since the coup of 2009. In the new political environment, there are no signs that the instability and the institutional deterioration we have faced are going to diminish.

Ismael Moreno Coto, S.J.

Q&A with Raul Burbano, Canadian Electoral Observer in Honduras

December 4, 2013


2203 “Photo Credit: Toronto Media-Coop”

Upon his return to Toronto, I had the opportunity to catch up with Raul Burbano, Program Director of Common Frontiers. Common Frontiers is a multi-sectoral working group based in Toronto that organizes research, educational campaigns, and political action on issues related to hemispheric economic, social, and climate justice. Raul reported from Honduras during the election and was gracious enough to take the time to talk about his experiences and provide some analysis of the current electoral crisis.

Kevin Edmonds: When you were on the ground in the days before the election, what was the general attitude of the public? Were they hopeful or did they see this coming?

Raul Burbano: We were on the ground from the 17-27th in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, El Triunfo de la Cruz, Arizona, and Valle de Siria. The mood was contradictory because in general people had high expectations for change, but at the same time expressed a lack of confidence in the process and in fair and transparent elections. As the elections drew closer, this became more apparent with people like cab drivers, vendors, and LIBRE activists sharing their personal stories about the irregularities within the voter registry. Stories of voters showing to be dead on the registry list and dead people registered to vote, names associated with pictures of other people, all disqualifying them from voting…this was the first sign that many pointed to as fraud.

The Canadian delegation was the first to report and denounce the elections. What were some of the irregularities that caused your group to make this decision?

RB: Our delegation was part of the larger group, the Honduran Solidarity Network (HSN), and together we were the largest delegation of observers (190) spread across the country in 10 districts.

The atmosphere of fear and violence leading up to the elections must also be taken into account when considering fair elections. There were numerous reports of pre-election intimidation, violence, and murder of opposition candidates with as many as 18 from the LIBRE party murdered just 6 months prior to the elections. Two days prior to the elections masked men with guns, presumed to be military police, surrounded the LIBRE party headquarters in Tegucigalpa. Members of our delegation were present and observed the fear and anger of LIBRE sympathizers. The day before the elections Maria Amparo Pineda, LIBRE party’s Cantarranas polling station president, and other member, Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga, were assassinated after leaving a polling station training.

Speaking to our own experience on the ground, the scare tactics started from when we arrived in Honduras. There was a strong atmosphere of intimidation on the part of the government toward independent observers. After our pre-election press conference, armed immigration officials raided the hotels where our northern delegation was staying, asking for their passports and documentation, threatening to expel observers. This was a clear attempt to intimidate our group.

At numerous voting centers there was no “custodio”—the person in charge of the voting center. This means that in some cases the military police had to take responsibility for all the material. In the municipality of Ojojona, rather than being able to speak to a “custodio,” we were greeted by a TSE official who identified himself as being in charge of the voting centre, despite the fact that was only a “vocale”—a support person at a voting table. He spoke to us in English, describing himself as a U.S. citizen and former navy seal with considerable land holdings in the area. He made no effort to hide his disdain for the LIBRE party, stating, “we don’t want those commies here.” He expressed his and everyone’s “strong support” for the ruling National party.

We visited areas where there was no electricity or an internet connection to transmit the results. In many cases the technical person in charge was not aware of the correct protocol to follow, and in some cases they asked us what they should do. In one voting center in the municipality of Santa Ana, military police demanded our personal information even though we were clearly identified as accredited observers. At one voting station in the barrio of La Joya in Tegucigalpa, I was pulled out in the middle of observing the vote count by TSE and military police and asked to leave. So I had to ask myself: if they can do this with international observers, what can they do with local observers and electoral participants?

Not to mention that we received numerous reports of vote buying and the refusal of access to opposition members at various voting centers across the country.

So when we compared our experience with the rest of our delegation who had also observed and documented serious and undeniable fraud in all 10 districts in which they observed, we came to the conclusion that our experience was not an exception, but rather the standard. We felt this opened up the elections to serious issues of fraud.

What also caught my attention was on Sunday night. We were sitting around the TV watching the vote count when David Matamoros, president of Honduras’ electoral court and member of the governing National Party, announced the preliminary results. Despite only 54% of the votes counted, he announced the National party with 34.9% of the vote and LIBRE with 28.36%. Not to mention that he provided no details to back up the number that was given, like where that data was coming from, or that about 500 of the voting centers lack electricity or an internet connection, clearly meaning that those numbers would be outstanding until later that week. With such high stakes on the line, why would the TSE be so irresponsible as to give out results that were not substantiated or irreversible at that early point? What his announcement triggered was that all major news networks, locally and internationally, proclaimed Juan Orlando Hernández as the new president—in essence laying the ground work for the pre-determined outcome.

KE: There have been comments since the discovery of widespread fraud that the democratic path has failed, and that now it is time to step up the offensive against the oligarchy. What are your thoughts on this movement? Do you think it is a minority opinion or a real possibility?

RB: There’s serious debate and opposition in Honduras to the electoral strategy of the LIBRE party. It goes back to the National Assembly of the resistance that took place in June 2011 where the decision was taken to follow the electoral strategy.

There’s a significant movement that argues for the need to strengthen the resistance movement with a focus on social and political struggle through mass mobilization from below—local struggles in communities and barrios that build an inclusive and participatory process that focuses on transformative solutions as opposed to reforms. Many of these groups are already involved in struggles for territory, indigenous culture, anti-patriarchy, etc—groups like the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), Garifina communities, and women’s organizations.

In retrospect one can say the biggest losers in these elections are the social movements. This is because much of the energy has gone into the electoral process and into building the LIBRE party at the expense of strengthening the social movements. The results can be seen in the weak response on the streets by the LIBRE party and the movements that support them. It took a week for people to take to the streets to protest the fraud, and it was not as significant a turn-out as we saw in the past against the coup.

KE: While your delegation released its denunciation of the election results, Canada has remained silent—with its silence working as acceptance. Can you discuss some of the reasons why Canada is so supportive of the national party?

RB: The Canadian government is recklessly focused on trade and investment at any costs, even at the expense of human and labor rights abroad. In Honduras it’s the mining, sweatshop, and tourism sectors that Canadian corporations covet. It was no coincidence that the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement was signed just weeks before the Presidential election in Honduras. This was, in my opinion, a quid pro quo where Canadian corporations will benefit from the investment protection measures contained in the Chapter 10 of the bilateral free trade agreement, and in return Canada bestows further legitimacy to an electoral process that is largely illegitimate.

KE: Can you comment on the breakaway member of the EU delegation that has denounced the Honduran election as a fraud? How do delegations work? Can you provide some insight as to how the decision making process unfolds?

RB: I can’t really comment as to the inner workings of the EU delegation or process. In terms of Leo Gabriel, the European delegate who has come out questioning his own EU report, I think it does make some things clearer in terms of the ulterior motives behind the EU and its need to whitewash Honduras’ image. Much like our government, they, too, are willing to turn a blind eye to corruption, fraud, violence, murder, and human rights violations, all to safeguard their corporate profit. Therefore, presenting a clean and transparent electoral process helps the European Union to clean up Honduras’s image around the world and set this commercial project into motion. [Raul directed my attention to an agreement signed by the European Union and the Central American region (EU-CA AA).]

KE: What can those of us outside of Honduras do?

RB: Solidarity is the key tool to help the Honduran people in their struggle. But just as important for those of us who live here in Canada is to join the local struggles against things like the pipelines, so-called trade agreements, anti-fracking, mining, indigenous sovereignty, and so on, that challenge the status quo. For its our Conservative government in collusion with transnational corporations that seeks to impose a model that priorities profit over human life, the environment, democracy, etc—in Honduras, but here in Canada as well.


Kevin Edmonds is a NACLA blogger focusing on the Caribbean. For more from his blog, “The Other Side of Paradise,” visit Edmonds is a former NACLA research associate and a current PhD student at the University of Toronto

Conexiones entre políticos y criminales impiden la aplicación de la ley en Honduras

  • Por 
  • Jueves, 16 Enero 2014 17:20

El informe anual de Insight Crime, organización independiente dedicada a la investigación y análisis del crimen organizado en América Latina y el Caribe, destaca que 2013 fue un año difícil para Honduras. El documento revela que mientras el flagelo se mantiene en la impunidad, las autoridades evitan realizar acciones que para el combate de la criminalidad y la corrupción.

El informe detalle que los grupos de crimen organizado, como el “Chepe” y los Cachiros han utilizado la violencia como amenaza contra el uso de la extradición, una medida que el Congreso Nacional aprobó al principio de 2012 como herramienta para enfrentar el crimen organizado. Además recrimina que siendo la extradición una herramienta a la que temen los narcotraficantes, en Honduras  no se haya utilizado debido a las conexiones existentes entre políticos y criminales.

El crimen del fiscal Chávez, Insight Crime lo ha vinculado a las acciones realizadas por  la Fiscalía de Privación de Dominio para asegurar a favor del Estado, 14 propiedades de José Miguel Handal Pérez, conocido como “Chepe” Handal, acción llevada a cabo en abril del año pasado, luego que las autoridades conocieran un informe del Departamento del Tesoro de Estados Unidos, que identifica al empresario  como narcotraficante.

El documento señala que el Estado ha perdido control de varias regiones en el país, mientras la inseguridad continua provocando una dependencia en las empresas de seguridad privada que también sirven como organizaciones para esconder actividades criminales como el narcotráfico. “Todas estas señales son preocupantes para el futuro de país”, refiere el documento tras señalar que mientras las autoridades sigan manteniendo los niveles de impunidad existentes, la situación no mejorará.

La investigación también recoge situaciones similares que viven diferentes países de la región. En este contexto se refiere que en México el crecimiento de grupos vigilantes ha provocado choques violentos entre carteles y ciudadanos armados. Asegura  que se han registrado enfrentamientos entre las fuerzas de seguridad y los grupos vigilantes, que acusan la policía de ser corrupta.

En El Salvador, Insight Crime advierte que el tratado entre las maras probablemente se quebrará, sugiriendo que no representa la mejor ruta para abordar temas de violencia en una manera sostenible. Y finalmente señala que en Colombia el aumento de poder por el grupo criminal los Urabeños y la posibilidad de un quebramiento entre las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) antes o después de las negociaciones que se están llevando a cabo en Habana entre el gobierno colombiano y el grupo guerrillero sugiere que el país tiene mucho que hacer para crear un verdadero entorno de paz.

¿Qué significan estas experiencias para Honduras?, más que todo, los nuevos líderes del país tienen que recordar que cualquier esfuerzo realizado para mejorar la situación de seguridad debe ser sostenible, con atención a las causas verdaderas del crimen en el país: la impunidad, la falta de oportunidad, y la corrupción, entre otros. La experiencia de otros países y su propia experiencia han demostrado definitivamente estas realidades.

Ultima modificación Viernes, 17 Enero 2014 13:15

Pactos y negociaciones arrancan en Honduras buscando “gobernabilidad”

Ene 17, 2014

Como respuesta a las acciones y leyes aprobadas por el actual gobierno, diputados electos de tres partidos firmaron la presente semana un pacto de oposición. La firma se dio con el objetivo de unificar esfuerzos para revertir el paquetazo fiscal aprobado por el Congreso Nacional el pasado 23 de diciembre, además de crear una nueva ley orgánica que regule al poder Legislativo, impulsar la creación de una ley anticorrupción y la aprobación de una normativa que reduzca y revise los salarios de los más altos niveles en la administración pública.

Al espacio asistieron diputados y el coordinador del Partido Anticorrupción, diputados y la ex presidenciable Xiomara Castro del Partido Libertad y Refundación y la diputada por el departamento de Francisco Morazán Doris Gutiérrez, del Pinu.

La nueva conformación del Congreso Nacional, 48 diputados del Partido Nacional, 13 del Partido Anticorrupción, 37 de Libre, 27 del Liberal, un diputado tanto del PINU, UD, DC obliga a iniciar negociaciones y pactos para lograr consensos, han asegurado diversos analistas políticos.

La convocatoria a este acercamiento fue girada por Salvador Nasralla del PAC, quien cree necesario comenzar a lograr pactos para derogar leyes que son nocivas para los intereses de las mayorías.

“Les he dicho a mis diputados que desde el primer día de sesiones deben introducir la necesidad de crear una ley anticorrupción. Únicamente con el paquetazo aprobado se van a generar 12 mil millones de lempiras anuales y de acuerdo con organismos internacionales y el mismo Fosdeh cada año se pierden por actos de corrupción 50 mil millones de lempiras de los 172 mil millones que compone el presupuesto general de la república, esto no lo podemos permitir”, apuntó Nasralla.

El también periodista deportivo aseguró que han conversado con diputados del partido Liberal para que se unan a este pacto de oposición, “pero esos diputados tienen miedo, están atemorizados por las estructuras de poder que controlan Honduras,  ellos prefieren quedarse con el dinero que ganan siendo funcionarios.  Al final demuestran que son la misma cosa que los nacionalistas, se casan entre ellos, actúan como ellos y roban igual que ellos”, concluyó el ex presidenciable del PAC.

Un nuevo escenario

Xiomara Castro por su parte junto a la mayoría de diputados del partido Libertad y Refundación aseguraron que en Honduras se abren nuevos escenarios de la realidad política del país, producto del surgimiento de los nuevos partidos que se convierten en la esperanza para el pueblo.

“A la gente le toca hacer los señalamientos de  quiénes están a su favor, aquí no se trata de seguir al caudillismo, sino de lograr acciones para derogar el paquetazo y otras medidas que se han aprobado en contra del pueblo. Fueron ellos los que utilizaron fondos públicos para financiar sus campañas y ahora hacen que la gente pague por sus abusos aplicando impuestos groseros”, dijo Castro.

La regidora capitalina y diputada electa por el Pinu, Doris Gutiérrez manifestó que el hambre no tiene color político, por tanto se convierte en una oportunidad real oposición en el Congreso Nacional. “Necesitamos con urgencia lograr los 65 diputados para tener mayoría simple, solo así podremos comenzar una nueva era en el  poder Legislativo”.

Sobre las negociaciones que existen para el nombramiento de la nueva junta directiva del Congreso Nacional, Gutiérrez cree que será muy difícil que no sea nombrada por el partido Nacional, debido al negativo papel que están desempeñando los liberales, quienes aun no están conscientes de la oportunidad histórica que tienen, pero espera que el pueblo los juzgue por su accionar.

Los máximos dirigentes del Partido Liberal se encuentran en plenas negociaciones, aunque no han manifestado si su apoyo será al partido en el poder o se suman a la oposición que tiene una agenda clara de acciones productos de accionar del actual y futuro gobierno.

Pacto por Honduras

Esta misma semana, con la presencia de algunos sectores, Juan Orlando Hernández convocó a la firma de un “Pacto por Honduras” el cual en propias palabras del gobernante busca consolidar una amplia base de respaldo para la promoción de la paz y el desarrollo de la población.

La búsqueda de “gobernabilidad” ha sido el origen que han mencionado los dos grupos, la oposición y la oficialidad, para la firma de estos pactos.

Por su parte, Juan Orlando Hernández leyó las cinco mesas de trabajo que quedaron integradas con la firma del Pacto por Honduras:
1: Recuperar la Paz y la seguridad de las familias hondureñas.
2: Alcanzar una sociedad más justa, con igualdad de oportunidades, en donde todos contemos.
3: Conducir al país al pleno goce de sus potencialidades.
4: Instaurar una cultura de honestidad, legalidad y transparencia.
5: Perfeccionar la democracia y construir un Gobierno simple y eficiente.

El documento firmado menciona la necesidad de obtener el respaldo para impulsar una serie de reformas estructurales en el ámbito económico, político y social que, debiendo ser aprobadas por el Congreso Nacional y materializadas por el Poder Ejecutivo y el Poder Judicial, tengan como expectativa conducir a Honduras al pleno goce de sus potencialidades y a la construcción de una sociedad más justa, en donde se propicie la reducción de la inequidad y las desigualdades.

Para el analista y escritor, Julio Escoto, este pacto carece de credibilidad principalmente porque no ha sido invitada la nueva oposición en Honduras y simplemente se ha llamado a grupos afines con los que trabajaría el nuevo gobierno. “Fue un acto social y demagógico que no va a hacer que ocurra nada”, dijo Escoto.

Escoto afirma que en el periodo de Manuel Zelaya se creó un plan de nación hasta 2030 que lastimosamente no se llevó a cabo por el golpe de Estado, también vimos este esfuerzo en el caso de Lobo quien creó otro plan que no marcó su agenda de gobierno.

“Solo son buenos deseos, no hay objetividad ni concreción sobre ello porque un documento de 10 o 20 páginas no es un plan de desarrollo de país o un plan de gobierno, para esto se necesita participación de expertos en todas la áreas”, explicó Escoto.

Why the world should care about Honduras’ recent election

Hondurans are revolting against the US-backed outcome. There are too many reports of rampant vote-buying, fraud and violence

Supporters of Xiomara Castro protest in Honduras the day after general elections

Supporters of presidential candidate Xiomara Castro protest in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the day after general elections. Photograph: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images

Election results are often contested, and that is one reason why governments sometimes invite official observer missions from inter-governmental bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) or European Union (EU). But there are times and places when these outside organizations don’t provide much in the way of independent observation.

On Sunday, 24 November, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about whether a free and fair election was possible in the climate of intimidation and violence (pdf) that prevailed in the country. As I noted before the vote, members of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate had, in the prior six months, written to US Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their concerns.

Their worst fears proved justified. During the weekend of the election, three Libre party activists were murdered. This has received little attention from the media, but imagine if 120 Democratic party organizers (scaling up for the population of the US) were assassinated in the course of a US presidential election – a fourth Libre party activist was murdered on 30 November. Libre is the party formed by Hondurans who opposed the 2009 military coup that ousted the democratically-elected, left-of-center President Mel Zelaya. Their presidential candidate was Xiomara Castro, who is married to Zelaya.

Both letters also expressed concern about the electoral process, and here, too, the result was beyond their worst scenarios. According to the official results, Xiomara Castro received 28.8% of the vote, behind the ruling National Party’s 36.8%. Another newly formed opposition party, the Anti-Corruption party headed by Salvador Nasralla, received 13.5% in the official tally.

Reports of fraud, vote-buying, the buying of polling-place party representatives by the National Party, and other irregularities came from observers during the day of the election and following. Of course, these things happen in many elections, especially in poor countries, so it is generally a judgment call for election monitors to determine if the election is “good enough” to warrant approval, or whether it should be rejected. But there are two very big things that stand out in this election that raise serious doubts about the legitimacy of the vote count.

First is the compilation of votes by the Libre party, released on Friday. The parties are able to do their own vote count after the election because their observers receive copies of the tally sheets, which they sign, at the polling centers. The Libre party was able to salvage 14,593 of the 16,135 tally sheets (some Libre observers were reportedly tricked or intimidated into turning their copies over to the electoral authorities). They compared these tally sheets to the official results posted on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) web site, and found enormous discrepancies: for example, an 82,301 overcount for the National Party, and a 55,720 undercount for the Libre party. This by itself is more than 4.6% of the total vote, well over half of the National Party’s lead in the official tally.

Hopefully the Libre party will post its tally sheets online so that these counts can be verified. If true, these discrepancies are so large that, by themselves, they would mandate the recount that the Libre party is demanding, if not a new election altogether.

The second big thing in this election has been the defection of a delegate from the official EU observer mission, Leo Gabriel of Austria. In a press interview with Brazil’s Opera Mundi, Gabriel explained why he breached protocol and denounced the EU’s preliminary report:

I can attest to countless inconsistencies in the electoral process. There were people who could not vote because they showed up as being dead, and there were dead people who voted … the hidden alliance between the small parties and the National Party led to the buying and selling of votes and [electoral worker] credentials … During the transmission of the results there was no possibility to find out where the tallies were being sent and we received reliable information that at least 20% of “the original tally sheets were being diverted to an illegal server.

He also noted that the majority of his fellow EU observers disagreed with the mission’s report, but were overruled by the team leaders.

Gabriel concludes that although “EU missions have played a relevant role and have appropriately dealt with lack of transparency in electoral processes”, this was not the case in this election, where “political, economic, commercial, and even partisan interests prevailed”.

The most important partisan interest is that of Washington, which put $11m into the election and wanted to legitimize the rule of its ally, the National Party, just as it did in the more blatantly illegitimate election four years ago following the US-backed military coup.

The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in elections in Haiti: it changed its 2000 report on presidential elections to support US efforts at “regime change”, and in 2011, took the unprecedented step of reversing an actual election result, without so much as even a recount – again in line with Washington’s electoral choices.

But the battle over this election is not over yet. Thousands of Hondurans have taken to the streets, despite increasing repression and militarization of the country. The response of the international media and observer missions will be relevant: will they investigate to see if the charges of electoral fraud are true? Or will they simply watch as the National Party government consolidates itself with repression and support for the results from the US and its allies?