Juan Orlando Hernandez aspires to be president, and things he controls are changing in Honduras.
With Porfirio Lobo Sosa's help, he has re-instated the "voluntary" contribution every government employee makes to the ruling political party. Both parties have been accustomed to collecting "voluntary" payments from government employees, with people who decline being marginalized in their positions. What is new here is that a specific level of "contributions" has been set up, to be deducted directly from the workers' salaries and deposited directly into bank accounts controlled by the National Party. In theory an employee could not agree, but what government employee is going to risk that?
Hernandez isn't limiting himself to political jostling for the benefit of his party. Under his leadership, the Congress has been asserting more power over the other branches of government. He now says he will put the judicial branch, the public prosecutor's office, and the police in order by "supporting the good judge, the good prosecutor, the good policeman."
We've written about Congress and the not-so-Supreme Court before. Analyst Raul Pineda Alvarado told
the press this morning "now they have a Supreme Court in tune with
their plans, and intimidated." Pineda Alvarado went on to remark on the
amount of power now centralized in Hernandez and Lobo Sosa, noting that
they will remove anyone who gets in their way.
Hernandez' current target is the executive branch. He has been holding hearings in Congress where each cabinet-level official has come to give a report on their progress towards providing a secure life for Hondurans. According to Hernandez, only General Julian Pacheco has performed well. Pacheco is head of the intelligence service, and is widely rumored to be using the position to listen in on the phone calls of politicians. Not the person you want lined up against you if you are an ambitious Honduran politician.
Hernandez is reportedly going to demand replacement of Eduardo Villanueva, head of the Dirección de Investigación y Evaluación de la Carrera Policial (DIECP). The DIECP was created to manage the police cleanup process. Villanueva volunteered for the post after the original director quit in disgust from waiting for Congress to allocate a budget for the unit. Instead of managing the police cleanup, Villanueva gave control of the process to the Police command, the very group that should have been the first to undergo the confidence tests. Of the over 200 police who have failed the confidence exams, several have since been promoted, and only seven have been dismissed by Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla.
Hernandez has also put in motion mechanisms to remove the Public Prosecutor Luis Rubí and several other top prosecutors. After Rubí's Congressional testimony last week it was privately suggested Rubí resign. He chose not to, so now Congress is getting ready to formulate a "political trial" using the recently adopted law that gives Congress the power to review, and fire, without the right of appeal, any top government official, including the president, for anything Congress decides is negligent or incompetent or if there is an accusation of a serious crime or the person has worked against the constitution or national interest (Article 5 of the Ley de Juicio Politico).
Lobo Sosa has recently taken pot shots at Ramon Custodio, the Honduran Human Rights Ombudsman, calling him dishonored and unable to serve in international bodies. Jimmy Dacaret of the right-wing UCD fears that Custodio is one of the people targeted by Lobo Sosa. Dacaret supports Custodio because of Custodio's unwavering support of the pro-coup forces in Honduras.
German Leitzelar, a PINU party Congressman, is of the opinion
that "no heads should roll because all of them would have to roll".
The failure he says, is one of not having a state security policy, and
replacing a director here and there will not solve this.
Edmundo Orellana, a Liberal Party member, has said that what Hernandez desires is to place people loyal to him into positions of power. This is an opinion shared by Raul Pineda Alvarado, who said that Hernandez and Lobo Sosa are playing a political game. Jimmy Dacaret, of the right wing UCD agrees that Lobo Sosa and Hernandez are playing political games in concentrating power in themselves.
This is the new face of the National Party, the candidate for next president of Honduras. Not a pretty picture.