Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here come the elections 2

In my blog entry on the upcoming Honduran elections two days ago, I noted that something new is happening here.

But there are some things that are not new.

Dirty tricks.

They were expected and they are happening.

The surprising support for LIBRE is a challenge for many both in Honduras and outside. The spectre of Hugo Chávez is being resurrected – in time for Halloween.

Reading the news I sometimes feel as if I was back in May and June 2009, just before the coup.

The National Party is complaining that the LIBRE party will bring about the downfall of Honduras because of its socialistic tendencies. They claim that LIBRE hates the military (because LIBRE and another party are opposed to the militarization of the police.) There will be chaos in education, the military will be despised, and Honduras will become like Venezuela.

The American Enterprise Institute published an article, “Honduras Under Siege” that predicted dire outcomes for Honduras if LIBRE wins. In part they write: 
As stepped-up counternarcotics policies in Colombia and Mexico have increased pressure on regional drug trafficking networks, organized crime syndicates have relocated operations to Central America, where law enforcement agencies and institutions are ill-equipped to withstand the onslaught. These multibillion-dollar gangs are making common cause with some local politicians who are following a playbook honed by Hugo Chávez in Venezuela.
Interestingly, one of the authors of the article, Roger Noriega, who played a key role in the 2000 ouster of Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

A young woman Honduran analyst who is connected with one of the Honduras business associations (whose board president is Adolfo Facusse) is claiming that “The [LIBRE] party’s manifesto talks about “refounding” the country, which basically means emulating Venezuela’s 21st Century Socialism, including changing the Constitution, promoting an omnipotent State, and probably limiting freedom of expression.”

Also, a Honduran-American commentator is describing Mel Zelaya as a potential Rasputin if his wife Xiomara Castro is elected. He is noting the role that Mel Zelaya is playing as head of LIBRE and sees him as a possible power behind the throne. That might be true. But I think it is a bit much to call him “Rasputin,” with all the villainous overtones that this name has.

And so, the sky is falling. Chávez will be resurrected in Honduras. Communism is at the doorsteps.

I wonder if some are raising these issues to open the path to another coup if Xiomara Castro is elected.

Electoral violence

But worse is the violence that has been unleashed in the campaign. 

Because of the almost irrational adherence to the two traditional parties, some violence is not unexpected. There has been violence against candidate of several parties. But this campaign has seen more violence directed at LIBRE. According to a Canadian human rights group, 18 LIBRE activists, candidates, or their family members have been murdered since May 2012.

This has even been noted by three US members of the House of Representatives who sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, noting
We are also troubled to learn about acts of violence and intimidation against leaders of the opposition parties, especially members of LIBRE.  According to COFADEH, Honduras' leading human rights group, at least sixteen activists and candidates from LIBRE have been assassinated since June of 2012. Furthermore, it has been brought to our attention that the Honduras government has failed to effectively investigate and prosecute those responsible for these assassinations.
We also note with great concern the promotion of increasing militarization of the police as it is threatened civil liberties, including freedom of speech and freedom of association in Honduras.  For instance, Honduran media reported that the military blocked peaceful marches of the opposition this past Independence Day, September 15…

Possible corruption is another danger. Will ballots be lost? Will political party activists manipulate the voters in ways more devious than giving away bags of cement or tin roofing? Will these activists also pay potential voters to give them their identity cards so they cannot vote (as has been done in some previous elections)? Will the numbers be manipulated?

There are observers – international and Honduran. But how much will they be able to see.

All these possibilities raise questions about the potential legitimacy of the upcoming elections.

But, even if the elections are free and fair, will there really be the change needed here, change of the social and economic structures that keep the poor in poverty and enhance the power and wealth of the few.

It’s a long road to social change in Honduras. Elections may or may not help. But real change will be very difficult.

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