Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fallout from UD participation in Lobo government

In an open letter dated January 28, translated and published in both Spanish original and English by Adrienne Pine, UD party member Tomás Andino, former member of the UD Directivo Nacional and former Diputado suplente (substitute congress-member), renounced his party membership to protest the loss of direction signaled by other party members, Marvin Ponce and Cesar Ham, accepting positions in the National Party-led government.

Ham, as we noted in the previous post, has been sworn in as a member of the Lobo cabinet. Ponce was named to a leadership position in the National Congress.

Most significant going forward, Andino calls on other members of the UD, the sole leftist party authorized by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, to join him to build a new electoral movement through the National Resistance Front:
It is my opinion that the political option of the people should be built from the base of the Popular Resistance, and as such I invite all honest UD members to leave the party so we can join together with other sectors of the revolutionary left to turn it into a huge political movement that will bring Honduras to socialism.
Andino has been participating in the Resistance since the very first day of the coup; you can listen to his first-hand report broadcast June 29 on Radio Liberada, in which he describes the farce of Congress on June 28, reminding us that the "justification" of the coup d'etat that day was a forged letter of "resignation". In November, Andino rejected his party leaders participation in the election, against the call for boycott by the Frente.

While it is still unclear how the Frente will decide to pursue its goals, and the UD party has been a tiny minority throughout its brief history, this is how new political movements are born.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A government of reconciliation or a cabinet of rivals?

Porfirio Lobo Sosa assumed the presidency of Honduras facing expectations from the United States that he follow through on the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, despite the fact that it had been declared a failure by the two sides that originally negotiated it.

The amnesty law that Congress passed-- the complete details of which still need to be examined-- was one of these steps.

As reported by the Washington Post, Arturo Valenzuela was quite explicit about the next required steps. He is quoted as saying that Lobo

has put together a broad Cabinet, including even candidates who ran against him. What is pending is the last step, which is the truth commission.

What does putting together a "broad Cabinet" have to do with the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord? Simple: it is what the US has decided will "fulfill" the proposal in that abrogated agreement that Roberto Micheletti form a government of national reconciliation.

But why interpret this as "reconciliation"? The processes involved in negotiating agreement between widely separated parties start with the identification of the parties. In the original San Jose Accord and its zombie resuscitation as the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, the two parties were the government of José Manuel Zelaya and the faction led by Roberto Micheletti that usurped their offices.

So it made some kind of sense in the San Jose and later Tegucigalpa Accords to combine some people nominated by President Zelaya and some nominated by Roberto Micheletti to initiate "reconcilitation".

But how does the supposedly legally elected president naming people from other political parties to his cabinet qualify as "reconciliation"? Who is reconciling with whom, and what conflict stands between them?

The original San Jose Accord draft did call for representation of the different political parties in the proposed reconciliation government, even though the two main factions at odds were both offshoots of the Liberal Party. At the time, I wondered if somehow Oscar Arias was unaware of that fact.

Now the same formulation is being perpetuated in evaluating the appointment of a post-coup presidential cabinet. Somehow, instead of reconciling adherents of a political faction that perpetuated a coup with the members of the overthrown government, reconciliation is now being equated with multi-party representation in the cabinet.

Since the political conflicts leading to the coup were not about inter-party disputes, Lobo Sosa cannot possibly be choosing his cabinet for their roles in any "reconciliation".

Which means it should be interesting to take a closer look at what Lobo Sosa is accomplishing, in terms of Honduran politics, via the assembly of a cabinet that has already been judged by the US to fulfill the requirements of "reconciliation".

If these people do not represent different stakeholders in the coup and its aftermath, exactly who are they, and why are they part of this government?

The series of posts needed to address this will take some time to complete, so we hope you will stick with us as we contextualize this latest cabinet. If you want to keep score, here's the posts and their announced appointees, many already sworn in on January 27, as listed in El Heraldo and Tiempo:

To head the following ministries:

Comunicaciónes: Miguel Ángel Bonilla

Cultura Artes y Deportes: Bernard Martínez (presidential candidate of PINU)

Educación: Alejandro Ventura

Industria y Comercio: Óscar Escalante

Gobernación: Áfrico Madrid

Finanzas: William Chong Wong

Obras Públicas, Transporte y Vivienda: Miguel Rodrigo Pastor

Relaciones Exteriores: Mario Canahuati

Salud: Arturo Bendaña

Seguridad: Óscar Álvarez

Trabajo: Felícito Ávila (presidential candidate of the Christian Democrat party)

Turismo: Nelly Jerez

Instituto Nacional Agrario: César Ham (presidential candidate for the UD party)

Instituto de la Mujer:
María Antonieta Botto-Ministra

Ministra de la Presidencia: María Antonieta de Guillén

Programa de Asignación Familiar: María Elena Zepeda

Other cabinet posts, notably, Minister of Defense, are still unannounced. We will add them to our list when they come out in public. But the next step is to begin examining the history, current political position, and possible role in Lobo's political calculation of each member of the newly named cabinet.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Guancasco and politics at the local level

For the past seven months, we have spent most of our time writing about politics on the global scale. And today, the Honduran newspapers are full of the national scale of politics: the new congress, appointments of new ministers, proposals for a new budget, new policies and programs.

But politics keeps going on at the local level at the same time. On January 15, the town of Gualala in the Department of Santa Barbara, not far from San Pedro Sula, hosted a visit by the patron saint of the nearby town of Ilama, a tradition known by its indigenous Lenca name as guancasco. On February 2, the town of Ilama will reciprocate as host to the saint of Gualala. Chinda, another of the towns in Santa Barbara, is part of this celebration as well.

In 1998, RNS and I were in Gualala for the guancasco, arriving there with another anthropologist on his first (and last) visit to Honduras, spent driving backroads all over the countryside. We didn't come to Gualala specifically for the guancasco: we came to revisit a place RNS knew from his time working in Santa Barbara in the 1980s. But we appreciated seeing a ceremony we knew from academic writing.

The story given by academic articles is not that different from the way guancasco is described in more popular sources, like an article from 2000 in Honduras This Week that describes it as "a ceremony of peace between two villages". Marked by dances, games, and above all, the movement of the patron saint's image along the road linking two neighboring places, guancasco is a durable and flexible cultural performance with roots in times when the village was the top of the political order, and localities worked out their problems with each other directly.

What sparked my thinking about this very local way of managing relations between towns was one of the few articles in the Honduran news today that was not about national or international politics. The alcaldesa of Nuevo Celilac, yet another small town in Santa Barbara, Tiempo reports, was removed from her office. Teodolinda Anderson Mejía, just sworn in for her second term, stands accused of abuse of authority for giving someone a 915,000 lempira contract to remodel the town hall without the required competitive bidding.

What binds Nuevo Celilac to Gualala and Ilama is history, going back before the first Spanish raiding parties came on the scene in the 1530s. Old Celilac, like Gualala and Ilama, was an indigenous town that persisted throughout the centuries of Spanish colonization, Mercedarian missionization, and eighteenth-century revolution. In the sixteenth century, Celilac paid tribute directly to the King of Spain. Census records from 1703 mention people from Celilac married and living in Gualala and Ilama, and spouses from the same two towns who had settled in Celilac.

This is how the Honduran people survived centuries of colonization and exploitation by distant governments: building local networks. Not that different from today, and worth remembering that it is these things that have endured while the national governments came and went.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Honduras Culture and Politics

January 27, 2010 ends one chapter in the unexpected history of Honduras, as the illegal regime headed by Roberto Micheletti cedes power to Porfirio Lobo Sosa, selected through a deeply flawed electoral process held while Honduras lacked freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and personal security for citizens exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of conscience.

As ex-President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales exits office and leaves Honduras, the political goals that existed from June 28, 2009 to January 27, 2010 must be transformed by the members of the resistance movement who remain in the country.

It would be a great mistake if the world once again comfortably forgot to pay attention to what happens in Honduras. Whatever else you can say about the coup of 2009, it was unexpected, surprising to major world powers, including the United States.

Honduras has continued potential to surprise.

There is a continuing popular movement of resistance to illegitimate governance that is in the process of planning the next steps in a campaign for constitutional reform, now free of the entanglement with a sitting president whose motives could be too easily impugned. There is the question of what, after all, the new Nationalist government will actually do with a country drained of economic reserves and soured and polarized by the events of the last seven months.

There are the wonderful artists, scholars, academics, and activists whose work we have tried to bring to the attention of English-speaking readers. And of course, our own research, which while disrupted and transformed by the coup, will continue to concern the culture, history, and sociopolitics of Honduras.

So: welcome to the next stage of Honduras Coup 2009. We hope to continue to bring you analysis of Honduran news and links to the work of Honduran scholars.

And we will share with you research on Honduran history and culture that has long occupied us and in which we have collaborated with many of the people whose struggles we have covered in the last months. Let us know if there are particular questions you want us to cover, and thanks for recognizing that Honduras deserves better of the world.