Thursday, October 6, 2011

Losing Democracy, or Military Mission Creep

Militarization in Honduras is expanding, muddling the constitutional mission of the armed forces of Honduras.

The recent suggestion by Porfirio Lobo Sosa and Minister of Defense, Marlon Pascua, to abolish the Minister of Security position and make it a Vice Ministry under Defense, is further retrograde motion. Surprisingly, the current Security Minister, Pompeyo Bonilla, is in favor of abolishing his job.

In 1997 Honduras made the leap to separate the Police from the Military. This involved several changes to the constitution and created the separate Minister of Defense and Minister of Security positions. This was also when, for the first time, the President was designated as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

The next phase in the separation of the Police and Military was to be the removal of elections from the list of responsibilities of the armed forces, who currently are charged with guarding the ballots, a circumstance that means any Honduran citizen voting is under the scrutiny of the armed forces.

In 1998, the military lost control of HONDUTEL, the Merchant Marine, and Immigration. Then-president Carlos Flores said
"The changes we are making are necessary and inevitable if effective democracy is to become a reality."

Yet all these changes are being rolled back under Porfirio Lobo Sosa.

Only under the military dictatorships have there been more ex-military men in charge of the state institutions than in the present administration.

Currently, retired military offices direct the Merchant Marine, Immigration, Hondutel, several branches of Foreign Relations, Health, Education, and the Honduran equivalent of FEMA.

The military also receive 70% of the congressionally budgeted money to protect forests from illegal logging, rather than the civilian branch of Forestry which has that as its responsibility.

All of this, dare I say it, points to a resurgence of military involvement in the democratic institutions of government not seen since before 1994. It's a regression to the way things were, when Honduras was a protected democracy.

Unifying the Defense and Security Ministries, the police and armed forces, under one leadership would be another step backwards in time, and another step away from democracy in Honduras.

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