Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Minister of Government: Áfrico Madrid Hart

As we noted in a recent post, cabinet Minister Áfrico Madrid (Secretary of Government, the equivalent of the US Secretary of the Interior) may be asked to introduce a cabinet resolution finally ending the anti-free speech decree promulgated under Roberto Micheletti. So it may be timely to consider who Madrid is, and what his investment in such a step might be.

Madrid is a long time political activist in the National Party. As early as 1994, he became visible by
attacking the sitting Liberal Party President Carlos Reina of abuse of authority and misuse of public funds, for his intervention to end a banana workers' strike. In the last Nationalist Party administration, Madrid served as vice-minister of Labor. Perhaps equally pertinent to his position in the Lobo Sosa cabinet, though, is that Madrid rose to be the director of the National Party. In that post, he was prominent in fall of 2008 in the very visible public spat about whether Elvin Santos could legally be the presidential candidate of the Liberal Party. In January 2009, Madrid accused Santos of conducting a three-year campaign of martyrdom about being shut out by his own party, arguing that this gained him a sympathy preference in the first CID-Gallup Poll on the presidential election, which projected Santos ahead. In March of 2009, he stepped down from his former position and assumed the post of vice-president of the National Party. Madrid is, clearly, a major political operative in the Nationalist Party, and it is not surprising that he has a place in the Lobo Sosa cabinet.

What may be surprising is that he did not end up with the post of Secretary of State (
Cancillería or Relaciones Exteriores), which press reports indicated he was pushing to receive. Indeed, in the transition team of Lobo Sosa, Madrid coordinated the External Relations team, and was quoted in the press expansively commenting on the future goals of that ministry, in a way that seemed appropriate for the next occupant of that post.

But in the end, External Affairs went to another: Mario Canahuati, who (in addition to his role as a vigorous defender of the coup d'etat of 2009 who promoted the idea that the economic sector could withstand international pressure) was a major rival of Lobo Sosa's in the primary campaign for the National Party nomination. More pertinent, perhaps, to this decision-- and the subject of a later post-- is Canahuati's experience as a former ambassador to the US, the primary focus of Honduran foreign policy now and for the foreseeable future.

That leaves Áfrico Madrid trying to deal with the lingering effects of the polarization of Honduran civil society. His first prominent action, of course, was trying to tie up a self-inflicted wound, when an overly-zealous Immigration official, acting on orders from the Micheletti regime that no one had rescinded, turned away the Brazilian consul, whose arrival in Honduras has been
discussed in international press as a first step towards normal relations with the South American power. If this is any indication, Madrid may find his service in the cabinet rough going. While the English-language media widely reported Madrid's quick firing of the head of Immigration, Nelson Willy Mejía, Mejía was reinstated within 24 hours, by direct order of President Lobo Sosa, who is quoted saying it was a "mistake and misunderstanding".

It will be interesting to see how Madrid handles the next hot potato he is being handed, which may be the call to repeal Decreto PCM-124-2009. And especially interesting to see if he has the support of Lobo Sosa in whatever position he takes.

No comments: