Hopeless in Honduras?

The Election and the Future of Tegucigalpa

It was hoped that the Honduran elections on November 24 would offer a way out of the political and economic decline that followed the 2009 military coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Although not impossible, that outcome seems increasingly remote. Over the past year, the post-coup government headed by President Porfirio Lobo has further diminished rule of law and tightened the noose on freedom of speech, assembly, and association.

It is by now well documented that the coup led by Roberto Micheletti of Zelaya’s Liberal Party, which was ostensibly to restore the rule of law, in fact overthrew it and ushered in a human rights disaster. After months of Micheletti ruling as interim president, Honduras held elections that almost all of the opposition candidates and international observers boycotted and which brought the current president, Lobo, a member of the National Party, to power.

Once in office, he rewarded coup loyalists with top ministries. They opened the door, in turn, for worsening violence and anarchy, including, as the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Organization of American States, and Human Rights Watch have documented, widespread threats and assassination attempts against journalists, lawyers, judges, the LGBT community, and members of the opposition. At the same time, they let the police run wild. It is well documented that the police are tied to organized crime, drug traffickers, gangs, and extortionists; a member of the government's own police cleanup commission recently estimated that only 30 percent of the police are "rescuable."     

If the ruling National Party’s candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, wins, the future looks even darker. Hernández was an enthusiastic supporter of the 2009 military coup and was elected president of congress in January 2010. In December of last year, he led a "technical coup," in which congress deposed four members of the Supreme Court and named four new loyalist judges the next day. In August, congress illegally named a new attorney general to a five-year term. After that, Hernández controlled all the key institutions of power, including the Supreme Court, the attorney general’s office, the police, and the military -- all of which gives the opposition and the public very little recourse

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