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.

1 comment:

Tambopaxi said...

Good post, good analysis, and I like your new blog.

I'll be interested in seeing what Lobo plans to do about dealing with the chronic problems of poverty and corruption in Honduras, and just as importantly, how he plans to do it.