Is Honduras On the Brink of Change? New Elections Could Restore Leftists to Power
Protesters marching in Tegucigalpa against the 2009 military coup.
Photo Credit: Yamil Gonzales/Flickr
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Hondurans will go to the polls November 24 with an opportunity to elect a left-leaning government that could challenge the rampant corruption in the country and reinstate some sort of democratic rule for the first time since the military coup of 2009.
The imminent election represents a choice between two extremes: a continuation of a harsh neoliberal policy enforced through extreme violence that has been the status quo in Honduras, or a possible turn toward much-needed reform with a win by the newly formed LIBRE party (the party of Liberty and Refoundation) that is currently leading the polls.
The election of a left-leaning government in Honduras could change the political and economic trajectory of the country and the region.
A shift to the left in Honduras would likely be considered a potential threat by the U.S. government. With Chinese investment threatening U.S. economic dominance in Latin America and a left-leaning alliance of governments in South America gaining autonomy and international support, U.S. influence in the region has been slipping.
Honduras remains a linchpin for U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
There are three parties vying for a top spot in the Honduran presidential elections: the newly formed, left-oriented LIBRE party, the center-right Liberal party and the hyper-conservative National party. Throughout 2013 the LIBRE party has led in the polls with the National party in a fairly close second. Plagued with internal problems, the Liberal party has fallen to third place.
TheLIBRE party was formed after the 2009 military coup ousted then-president Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya himself started the party and his wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, is LIBRE’s presidential candidate in the coming elections.
Castro is a favorite of poor campesinos and much of the left in Honduras, due to her strong messaging against the coup and post-coup government. Her platform calls for a reinstitution of the reforms started under Zelaya’s administration and she is pushing to convene a constituent assembly in order to write a new constitution for Honduras. She takes a strong stance against the militarization of the Honduran police.
Although it is clear LIBRE is not on equal footing financially with other corporate-backed parties, evidence of its campaign can be seen throughout Honduras. Huge pro-LIBRE billboards line the main highways leaving San Pedro Sula. In the countryside, the red LIBRE flag can be seen flying in front of many houses. Some people have even made their own LIBRE flags and posters.
Castro's policies represent the antithesis of those of the National party, whose main platform is to have a soldier “ on every corner.” The National presidential candidate, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is the current leader of congress, and promotes policies virtually identical to those of current-president Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, also of the National party. From supporting the militarization of Honduras to pushing for major concessions to international corporations, Hernandez shows no signs of changing the status quo in Honduras.
In a blatant disregard for democratic process, Hernandez in 2012 orchestrated a “ technical coup” and removed four elected Supreme Court justices, replacing them the next day with others he handpicked. Congress then illegally appointed a new attorney general to a five-year term in August of this year.
“As a result, Hernández and his party control all the key reins of state power, including the electoral machinery and the military,” wrote Dana Frank in an article for the Nation. Many of those reins of power will remain in place even after this election.
The Liberal party has traditionally been a softer version of the National party. Although its candidates preach a more populist line, their policies often don’t live up to their rhetoric. Ex-president Manuel Zelaya was a member of the Liberal party before he alienated many party leaders by initiating popular reforms.