Friday, December 06, 2013

Honduras elections

While the Chilean elections held in November have brought back to power the Left which is a role model for the region, the elections held in Honduras in the same month has returned to power the right wing National Party which colluded with the military coup and overthrow of the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. If Chile is an inspiration for the Twenty First Century Latin America, Honduras is a reminder of the bad old times of the last century of coups and conspiracies.

In the elections held on 24 November 2014, Juan Orlando Hernandes, of the National party has been declared as the winner by the electoral authority of Honduras. Hernandes got 36.8% of the votes while his main rival Xiomara Castro, the centre-left candidate of the Libre party got 28.8 percent. She is the wife of ex-president Manuel Zelaya who was ousted in the 2009 coup. She has alleged irregularities in the counting and has rejected the official results. She has claimed victory and her supporters have been in the streets with protest demonstrations. In response, the electoral authority has agreed to recount in some cases. But the Libre party does not agree with the way the recounting is proposed to be done by the electoral authority. So there is going to be more street protests and uncertainty for sometime. However, the chance of Xiomara winning the election after recount is very slim, given the overwhelming strength of the right wing forces including military which are opposed to the Left.

Honduras is the original " Banana Republic" and is continuing to be true to its derogatory meaning. It is the only Latin American country to have had a coup in the Twenty First Century Latin America. Manuel Zelaya, the President was ousted in a classic military coup in 2009, put in a plane and dropped in Costa Rica as an exile. This came as a total surprise and shock since the twenty first-century Latin America has transformed into a democratic region ( exception-Cuba) having sent the military back to barracks irreversibly. So this was the first and only case of coup in the region in this century. The conservative National party, supported by their US patrons was the villain behind the coup. The reason for the overthrow of Zelaya was that he was trying to seek reelection through a referendum. Such a blatant and untenable excuse! The real reason for the coup was to punish him for being close to Chavez and give a message to other pro-Chavez presidents in the region.

Honduras has the notorious distinction as the murder capital of the world with 82 murders for every 100, 000 of the population and 20 murders a day. The ruthless Mara gangs, said to have tens of thousands of members, strike terror all over the country and are involved in drug and human trafficking. President-elect Hernandez, has promised tough measures to deal with the crime by putting the military and more police in the streets.

Many Hondurans emigrate to escape the terror inside the country. 25% of the foreign exchange comes from the remittances of Hondurans who work abroad. In US alone there are over 700,000 Hondurans, almost ten percent of the total population.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in the region. About fifty percent of the population are below poverty line. Poverty alleviation is not a priority for the conservative party which has won the election, in contrast to most other Latin American governments which have pro-poor policies and programmes. This means that there is no immediate hope for Hondurans suffering from poverty and inequality.

Honduras is the second biggest coffee producer of Central America and an important banana exporter. The country is diversifying into textiles and exporting to US taking advantage of the FTA with US.

An interesting fact: Honduras has the second largest number of people of Palestine origin( 280,000) in Latin America, after Chile (350,000). Carlos Flores Facussé, who was President of Honduras from 1998 to 2002 was a Palestine descendent.

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