Dexter Boniface

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Is the Democratic Crisis in Honduras Over?

In Democratic Crisis, Honduras on February 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm

The inauguration on January 27, 2010 of Honduras’ new president, Porfirio Lobo, and the simultaneous departure of Manuel Zelaya to the Dominican Republic raised expectations that the country’s long democratic crisis would finally come to an end. Is it over?

Bye Bye Zelaya

Lobo’s first act as president was to sign an amnesty decree issued by the Honduran Congress. The decree absolves Zelaya and the Honduran military for any abuses of power associated with the June 2009 crisis (though Zelaya was not absolved of other charges, including embezzlement). In a deal brokered by President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic and President Lobo, Zelaya was granted safe passage out of the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras (where he had been holed up for 129 days) to the Dominican Republic. Zelaya vowed to return to Honduras. Six high-ranking members of the Honduran military also faced charges of abuse of power; however, they were found not guilty by the Honduran Supreme Court.

Lone Wolf?

President Lobo’s inaugration was a relatively lonely affair. Many regional leaders continue to shun the Lobo government as a result of the country’s protracted democratic crisis stemming from Zelaya’s ouster on June 28, 2009. Still, such opposition appears to be weakening. The United States, for its part, has embraced the new president but insisted that additional steps need to be taken (e.g., the creation of a Truth Commission to investigate the June 2009 crisis) before Honduras can be returned to good standing in the Organization of American States and other regional institutions. Sanctions against Honduras have taken a heavy toll on the poverty-stricken country; upon taking office, Lobo found the country to be bankrupt. Lobo has moved quickly to establish the Truth Commission; it was announced that the effort will be spearheaded by Guatemalan statesman Eduardo Stein and that the report will be released in four months (after some delay, it is scheduled to be released in May 2011). For his part, Zelaya was not impressed.

My take: It’s time for the international community and the Honduran people to move on and for Honduras to be readmitted into the inter-American community. The recent decision by El Salvador’s left-wing government to recognize Lobo’s conservative government (and hints from others that they will likely do the same), as well as the recent announcement that the World Bank will restore development aid to Honduras, bode well for an end to the political crisis. With the amnesty firmly in place, the Truth Commission will be well positioned to set the record straight as regards the events of June 2009 (though there is skepticism that the inquiry will succeed).


Further reading

Eldridge, Joseph and Vicki Gass, “Restoring International Relations With Honduras: A Way Forward,” Huffington Post, January 26, 2010.

Recent developments

Committee to Protect Journalists, “CPJ alarmed by wave of anti-press attacks in Honduras,” April 6th, 2011.

Economist, “Honduras and its former president: Why a pariah may return,” March 10th, 2011. Might Zelaya soon return to Honduras?

Frank, Dana, “US: Wrong on Honduras,” The Nation, Jan. 31, 2011.

Stevenson, Mark, “Year later, new coup talks,” Miami Herald, June 28, 2010.


Latin America’s Elections in 2010

In Elections on February 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

There were a variety of important elections in Latin America in 2010:

Costa Rica (Feb. 7, 2010). The winner of Costa Rica’s presidential election is the ridiculously named but no nonsense former VP Laura Chinchilla (picture below). She defeated rivals Otto Guevara and Otton Solis.

Colombia (May 30 and June 20, 2010): Uribism without Uribe? Manuel Zelaya’s attempts to remold the Honduran constitution appear amateurish when contrasted with President Alvaro Uribe’s drive to (again) amend the constitution and seek a third consecutive term. However, in a surprising development, Colombia’s Constitutional Court rejected Uribe’s bid to hold a constitutional referendum, leaving Colombia’s presidential elections wide open. Former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos, an Uribe ally, quickly emerged as the front-runner – though he faced a challenge from Green Party nominee Antanas Mockus. Santos easily won the run-off on June 20 garnering 69% of the vote.

Venezuela (Sept. 26, 2010). What’s remaining of Venezuela’s “democracy” was on display during legislative elections in September. Before the election even occurred, Chavez sycophants such as actor Sean Penn and analyst Mark Weisbrot were already upset that the international media would use the occasion to highlight the government’s lack of democratic legitimacy. As Chavez’s support at home continued to dwindle, others worried he would seek to cancel the elections altogether. In the end, Chavez’s party lost the popular vote but maintained a majority of the legislative seats through gerrymandering.

Brazil (Oct. 3 and Oct. 31, 2010). Who will replace Brazil’s beloved Lula? The contenders included Lula’s chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, former Sao Paulo state governor Jose Serra, and environmentalist Sen. Marina Silva. In the first round of voting, Rousseff claimed 47% of the vote, compared to 33% for Serra and 19% for Marina Silva. A run-off election pitting Rousseff and Serra took place on October 31st; Rousseff won 56% of the vote. She was inaugurated as Brazil’s first female president on January 1st, 2011.

Haiti (Nov. 28, 2010). In light of the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake (what remains of the country’s electoral council headquarters is pictured below), Haiti’s legislative elections (originally scheduled for February 28th) were postponed until November 28th (also the date of the country’s presidential elections). Prior to the earthquake, the legislative elections were already generating controversy after the country’s presidentially-appointed electoral council banned more than a dozen parties (including ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas) from participating. Critics alleged that election officials were stacking the deck in favor of President Preval’s newly created Unity party in a bid to change the constitution and boost executive power.

In 2011, Haitians (March 20),  Peruvians (April 20), Guatemalans (September), Argentines (October 23), and Nicaraguans (November 6) will head to the polls to pick new presidents.