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Honduras: Between Presidential Elections and the Abyss

Honduras, El American

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2021 is a busy year for politics in Latin America. Peru will this weekend hold its presidential election and in the busy month of November: Nicaragua, Chile, and Honduras will join them. Today we will refer precisely to Honduras, which is going through a very atypical and complex case, to put it simply.

Honduras is still going through a period of great democratic upheaval after Manuel Zelaya was frustrated in his attempt to hold an unconstitutional referendum to reform the Constitution in the style of his mentor Hugo Chavez, an attempt that was shipwrecked after days before the elections he was deposed by a military coup, being succeeded by the then president of Congress Roberto Micheletti, who led the country to elections where Porfirio Lobos was elected by the National Party of Honduras).

Lobo’s government was more of sorrow than glory, because, although the macroeconomic indicators experienced a slight improvement, this did not permeate the social sectors, and it was also besieged by the shadow of Zelaya and corruption, to the extent that his own wife was convicted of “misappropriation of public funds”, “fraud” and “money laundering”, although she was later released by the Supreme Court of Justice. Despite all this context, Juan Orlando Hernández of the ruling PNH won against the radical leftist Salvador Nasralla.

Juan Orlando Hernández starts with a government without legitimacy of origin. Although problems never cease, shortly after, he was submerged in a public scandal for allegedly receiving funds for his campaign from “Chapo” Guzmán. But not everything was left there, his own brother Juan “Tony” Hernandez was found guilty of large-scale drug trafficking, conspiracy to use weapons, among other crimes by a New York court, which sentenced him to life imprisonment and the confiscation of his assets of 138.5 million dollars.

This unprecedented event revealed the symbiosis between the Honduran political elite close to the presidential ring and transnational organized crime, ergo, mafiocracy or narcopolitics.

In addition to the ineffective governmental management to respond to the main problems of the Honduran society such as poverty, criminality expressed in the gangs, uncontrolled immigration to the United States and practically the people have been left to their fate in the face of the pandemic of the Chinese virus, to the extent that mayors have begged for vaccines to the neighboring president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele.

The sum of all this accumulation of problems leads the Honduran citizen-elector to a deep despair, which is clearly evidenced in the CESPAD survey (May 2021) which reveals that 51.1% have no presidential option, followed by the pro-government Nasry Afura, the representative of Castro-Chavism and wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, both with less than 15% each. Further down, again Salvador Nasralla with 7.9 % and finally the moderate or center-liberal option, businessman Yani Rosenthal with 6.6 %, not to mention the 7.6 % of another candidate. All in all, the undecided are around 60 %: 23 % for the left and the rest divided between right-wing forces and the center.

These numbers are powerfully worrisome, as they express powerful feelings of hopelessness and anti-politics that exist in Honduran society, which, very similar to the Peruvian case today, will end up leaning towards an out-sider, a highly personalistic and despotic figure that will embody their desire for popular revenge to punish the traditional political class, but who, unfortunately, will end up committing the suicide to freedom that Venezuelans committed in 1998 by electing Hugo Chavez.

Although it may be possible to avoid this disastrous scenario through moderate options that may capture an important support, but this will depend to a great extent on their distance from the traditional political class and the electoral offer that engages with the citizenship at the edge of the abyss.

Nahem Reyes is a PhD in history from the Andrés Bello Catholix University and associate member of the American Studies Center of the Central University of Venezuela. // Nahem Reyes es doctor en Historia de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello y miembro asociado del Centro de Estudios de América de la Universidad Central de Venezuela.

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