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Worlddesk

July 1, 2009
Poverty, corruption play into power struggle in Honduras

A woman holds a copy of the Honduran constitution and flag at a protest.

While governments around the hemisphere (including Cuba and the United States) support the return of Honduras’ ousted president, José Manuel Zelaya, we have an opportunity to focus on a country rarely mentioned in the news.

In the 1980s, the United States was deeply involved in Honduran military and political affairs — the Reagan administration saw the country as the frontline in fighting a supposed communist march through Central America that would end up at the Texas border.

While the United States mounted counterinsurgencies against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and looked the other way when death squads marauded in El Salvador, Honduras was an American base camp.

There are those who mistakenly claim that the United States — billions of dollars spent, tens of thousands of deaths later — somehow helped “win” the Central American wars. In fact, the nations settled their differences themselves after the United States backed off.

The United States backed far off in fact, and Honduras was left poor as ever — one of the poorest of the poor in Latin America. A majority of the country’s seven million people live on far less than $100 a month; illiteracy, hunger and disease are endemic. A report by the World Bank in 2006 said that despite economic growth, a majority of Hondurans received no benefit.

My then-colleague at the Washington Post, Marcela Sanchez, reported two years ago that corruption was a major factor:

According to a U.S.-funded public opinion poll, the percentage of Hondurans who believe the government is combating corruption declined from 40 percent in 2004 to 26.6 percent in 2006.
Juan Ferrera, coordinator for Honduras’ National Anti-Corruption Council, said in an interview from Tegucigalpa that corruption is creating such public disenchantment that Hondurans may even “put aside democratic options.”

In a cauldron like that, are elections enough? A Honduran friend of mine said this week that left-wing or right-wing, it hasn’t seemed to matter. “They kind of just keep themselves in power and steal some more!”

– Peter Eisner

Photo courtesy of Flickr user giggey under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments

6 comments

#6

I grew up in one of the poorest places in Honduras. It was not until Manuel Zelaya’s government came to power that those poor places got roads and electricity (year 2008). Those poorest places by President Zelaya’s help are now building beautiful highschools, running water projects, and etc. Trust me, the people of the rural areas in Honduras support Zelaya. I also know that there was corruption in his government but I bet that less than the previous ones.
Zelaya needs to go back and take the power; this needs to be set as a precedente for other governments in the region. If they don’t do that other military groups will follow their example and we don’t want to go back to what has happened in the past. Specially South America in the 50’s including Honduras.
If there is democracy in Honduras right now, why the media who support Manuel Zelaya are shut down? why is the army also suppressing Zelaya’s supporters? Zelaya might not have absolute support in the bigger cities, but in the rural areas he does and remember, the rural areas are the majority.

#5

Juan, I don’t understand why Mel Zelaya gets to decide what laws to follow and which ones he doesn’t. He will follow the ones he agrees with? is that it? He follows laws as long as he thinks it’s in the best interest of the people? Is that how democracy is defined? Are our Congress, Supreme Court and Attorney General NOT democratic representatives of the people. What is the balance of power for? Please, lets talk about the real issue.

Don’t focus on left or right, I just want someone to give me a good reason why one president gets to make arbitrary decisions.

And Juan, as you know, the military acted on orders of Congress and is not ruling the country. It is Micheletti, who is from Zelaya’s own liberal party. Don’t focus on elite, left or right, just tell me why Zelaya gets to decide, why that is called democracy.

In my opinion, he should have been arrested for breaking the law. Don’t make him leave the country against his will. He broke the law, arrest him. The real questions is did congress follow the right course of action, it’s not if they should have done something or not.

Don’t talk about military coups without making mention of the laws being broken. A law is not a law as long as you agree with it or as long as you think it’s fair. One person doesn’t get to decide.

Let’s have our elections now and move on, lets not let one man divide our country. We have enough problems.

#4

Veronica seems to be able to read between the lines of our socialist friends in the media. Zelaya wanted to be President for life much like Chavez and Obama, if we are not vigilent in the coming years.

#3

Amplifying the original blog, demonstrations for and against the coup have been taking place, and the interim president has suspended some articles of the constitution to contain protests. I haven’t been able to measure the strength on either side.
There were reports Thursday of nationwide protests opposing the coup. (http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2009/7/2/749223/-Honduras:-Diplomacy-And-A-Harsh-Curfew)

One point of the original post was to consider the historical U.S. role in Honduras, which has been neither passive, nor supporting democracy.

The United States seems to be taking the narrow view this time that no matter the politics of the president, the rule of law and the results of a legitimate election must be respected.

#2

Please, Veronica, what a lame excuse to defend a military regime! There was a legitimate president, and then there was a military coup. There is no democracy in Honduras, and perhaps it is better that we know for sure that this is the case, instead of having this kind of grotesque simulation of democracy that you were having.

#1

I agree that left or right doesn’t matter. Every president is as corrupt as the next. What I find different in this situation is that Zelaya shows no respect for the authority over the other branches of government.
I also don’t find it clear in your post (although I realize that isn’t the point you are trying to make) that the protest is against Manuel Zelaya returning to Honduras. It’s a protest in support of the decision made by our Supreme Court to remove Zelaya. In a country with no impeachment process, an order was given to the Armed Forces by our Congress.
I don’t know if that was the best course of action, I just know there were limited options. Zelaya was asked to obey the law, he didn’t, he said he represented the people and this is what the people wanted.
Well, thousands of people are marching across the country to show our support for the new government. This image was taken from one of the marches, and I hate for it to give the impression that it’s in support of Zelaya.

Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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