Thursday, September 10, 2015

Shake Up In Control of the Christian Democrat Party of Honduras

The Honduran Partido Democráta Cristiano (PDCH) has split into two factions with two different leadership councils. Now it's up to the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) to decide which faction legitimately represents the party.

The PDCH was founded in 1968 but not recognized by the TSE until 1981.  It historically garnered between one and five Congressional Representatives in elections.

Since the coup in 2009 it has aligned itself with the ruling party.

In the last election, however, its presidential candidate received about 5000 votes or 0.17 % of the vote, and the party received only one Congressional seat. They gained a second Congressional representative in 2014 when Eduardo Coto joined the party, defecting from LIBRE.

By law, the TSE should have ceased to recognize the PDCH for failing to obtain enough votes to be considered a viable political party (set at 5%). Viability as a party has defined legal criteria because recognized parties receive funding from the TSE.

Other parties that received more presidential votes, such as Romeo Vasquez Velasquez's Partido Alianza Patriotica were disbanded by the TSE after their poor election showing in 2013. But that has not happened to the PDCH, perhaps because one of the three senior judges on its leadership panel, Saul Escobar, is a member. 

Coming out of the 2013 Elections, the PDCH, despite its small electoral constituency, had three factions attempting to gain power. One was controlled by Arturo Cruz Asensio, one by Nieves Fernando Perez and the third by Carlos Manzanares and Felicito Avila. This resulted in three different slates being nominated to compete for the party leadership, one headed by Cruz Asensio, a second by Carlos Manzanares, and a third by Nieves Fernando Perez.

Just before the party election, Manzanares and Fernando Perez stepped aside in the name of party unity.  Cruz Asensio was elected party President, and Manzanares Vice President. They replaced Felicito Avila and Lucas Aguilera in those posts. Cruz Asensio promised to be more questioning towards the ruling National Party, although there is no indication that he has been.

But all is not well.

A rift that developed between the current leadership and a faction led by Manzanares manifested in a violent meeting where people were throwing chairs and punches at each other. Disguised by rhetoric about old guard versus new guard, the attack on the party leadership turned out to be a long-planned attempt to co-opt this minor party in Honduras for personal gain, allegedly fomented by Arturo Corrales, the current Chancellor of the country.

Gissel Villanueva, an aide to Cruz Asensio said
“People paid by Arturo Corrales and his helpers, Felicito Avila, Carlos Romero and Jorge Bogran were the ones who started this fight and this they did because they are people who have already left the party but don't want to let go of power.....
The only thing that interests Arturo Corrales is power; what he wants is to have control over the three congressmen which this party has in the National Congress and which he doesn’t control; he wants these positions.”

Corrales has played a prominent role in both the Liberal Party and National Party governments that have ruled Honduras since the coup of 2009. He has held the cabinet posts of Security Minister and Head of Foreign Relations under both of the last two National Party Administrations. But his political career was made as a member of the minority Partido Democráta Cristiano, for which he was a presidential candidate in 1997.

On September 5th, a group claiming to be PDCH party leadership delegates met in Tegucigalpa and stripped Cruz Asensio of his party leadership role and elected Carlos Manzanares to that position.  In the very same meeting the disciplinary committee suspended the party membership of Arturo Corrales because of the attack at the youth meeting.  This appears to be a resurgence of the factionalism evident in 2014, with the Manzanares faction claiming control of the party leadership.

Cruz Asensio contests his demotion.  He called the meeting illegal because he neither convened it nor was present at it. He notes that the delegates who convened it were not the delegates registered with the TSE as the party's official delegates. David Aguilera, the party executive secretary called the suspension of Arturo Corrales illegal though he didn't state why. Luis Aguilera, who is part of the Manzanares faction, said that the 200 legal delegates were convened, conveying his position that the meeting was legal.

Now, the group that seized the leadership of the party has submitted to the TSE a leadership council headed by Manzanares with a replacement disciplinary committee, and with a new political committee headed by Arturo Corrales, and staffed by Felicito Avila, Ramon Velasquez Nazar, and Lucas Aguilera.

Augusto Cruz Asensio has submitted an appeal attempting to dismiss the other group's submission, arguing that the delegates that met were not those listed with the TSE as the law demands.

The TSE said that after combing its archives, it can find no filings listing the delegates for 2013, 2015, or 2015 for the PDCH. That greatly weakens Cruz Asensio's position, and the failure happened under this leadership.

At stake is more than control of a moribund electoral party: there is also the matter of control of votes for the upcoming selection of candidates for the Supreme Court.

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