Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Underlying it all is impunity": Honduran Disillusion with Politicians

"Underlying it all is impunity, and a rift between the government and its citizens caused by the lack of solutions to (the country's) problems."

So says historian Marvin Barahona in a story by Thelma Mejía published January 30 on IPS News.

The "it" here: new polling data indicating a continued erosion of the Honduran public's evaluation of the national government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa. Compared a year earlier (based on polling in November), the Lobo Sosa government was rated 4.6, down from 5.11, on a scale of 10.

Stop to consider that neither of these is a very high level of approval. Then let's go on to consider what that trend portends for national politics in Honduras, as the country gears up for primary elections in the fall. Here, the article notes that the continued erosion of people's sense of safety is a major factor in the falling grade given the Lobo Sosa administration:
Of the respondents polled ... 67 percent say the police have ties to organised crime, and 72 percent say they do not feel safe with the current police force.

The military troops that have been called in patrol the streets are somewhat better perceived, with 46 percent of respondents saying they trust them.

What does it mean when 46% positive is considered a good number?

Barahona added to the poor security situation a second factor, both of which he argued can be traced to impunity:
Another aspect of this crisis is corruption, Barahona said. He recalled how government officials have been implicated in rigged electric power and basic grain import contracts, procurement contracts awarded without tender, and other irregularities.

Since the coup of 2009, we have traced one economic transaction after another that fits this description. Indeed, back in summer 2009 one of the most remarkable things we noted was that the Honduran Congress, immediately after passing its illegal acts to replace the legally elected president, wasted no time getting down to the business of carving up potential assets like the spoils of conquest.

The ever intelligent Mejia adds some context that really is critical, and should be understood by all those who reflexively oppose revision of the Honduran constitution's framework for one term presidencies. She quotes Barahona, again, noting that Lobo Sosa's effective ability to govern is over:
Lobo has arrived at the halfway mark of his term "with hardly any room for manoeuvring and his administration's image will be even more tarnished in May when primary campaigns for the candidates of next year's general election begin," ...

In Honduras, presidents traditionally have two years to actually govern. During the third year, pre-election campaigns wear down the administration, as most contenders are executive branch officers and acting legislators who hope to continue in the government in the following term.

This year's campaign season starts out, according to the polling data, with less than 60% support for the two traditional parties. But the 40% of Hondurans who no longer support the Liberal or National Party are split among six alternatives:
Honduras has five [previously existing] political parties, which will be joined by three new ones in the next elections. Two of these new parties are left-wing and the third party is a right-wing group formed by retired military officers.

Adrienne Pine, whose commentary on this article brought it to our attention, notes that the surveys cited have drawn passionate and, she writes, "anti-intellectual" responses from adherents of the new Libre party, angered by the empirical finding that the nascent party has 2.8% support. She notes that these critics (not including Mel Zelaya, the leader of the newly formed party) display a troubling but historically not unexpected attitude toward the people, what she describes as:
a vanguardist philosophy of "you can't handle the truth" toward the "masses" (be they the uneducated or rural, in complete agreement with golpista theories of Honduran "culture") without intellectually honest efforts to uncover truths that may contradict the dogmas of the Left.

There were substantive debates in the resistance about whether entering electoral politics, or remaining a popular movement outside of that context, was a better way to advance the progressive aims of the indigenous, popular, rural, women's, and African-descendant groups that form the moral core of the resistance. Skeptics of the entry into electoral politics will be watching to see how Libre and its leadership acts, to assess whether it can depart from the common reality of Honduran electoral politics.

The reaction to the new polling data is not a good sign. The polling was conducted by two highly respected Jesuit organizations, Honduras' Reflection, Research and Communication Team (ERIC) and UCA, the "José Simeón Cañas" Central American University in El Salvador.

Honduras desperately needs leadership. What will be on exhibit for almost all of the next two years, if history serves as a model, will be exaggerated posturing.
Adding to that posturing from the left is no progress at all.

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