This simple, concise and accurate summary of the root of the currently political unrest in Honduras was written by Kaleb Eldridge. He, his wife and two daughters have lived in Honduras for _____ years. (I can’t remember the number of years. Let’s say more than some years but not forever.) To learn more about them and their work, follow their blog – http://trytriprinserepeat.blogspot.com.
(Before I hand this blog post over to Kaleb, I want to say that yes, there is unrest, BUT I’m heading to Honduras on February 14th with no fear or reservation whatsoever. We work in ‘the industrial city of San Pedro Sula’ mentioned below and other than the protests and curfew being inconvenient, none of the kids or our staff have been greatly affected by what has happened.)
Take it away Kaleb:
“Forceful, disruptive, and occasionally violent demonstrations have characterized this turmoil, particularly in the two large urban centers of Honduras, the industrial city of San Pedro Sula in the North and the national capital of Tegucigalpa in the South. The country finds itself divided into two factions. One believes that the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is qualified for office and rightly won his reelection. The other is convinced that Hernandez is both constitutionally-unqualified for office and won the election through corrupt manipulation of the electoral system.
The issue stretches back far back beyond 2017. Many Central Americans are highly-suspicious of any leader seeking to extend term-limits; this is primarily due to a difficult regional history spackled by opportunistic autocrats that have successfully increased their personal power at the expense of local freedoms – often beginning by with the increase or abolishment of presidential term limits. In 2009, Honduras was rocked by a coup involving the legislative, judicial, and military branches. Then-president Mel Zelaya was forcibly removed from his home in the middle of the night by the military and immediately flown to Costa Rica on orders from the nation’s Supreme Court. This ordeal was instigated by his intentions to hold a non-binding national referendum concerning the possibility of removing Honduras’s single-term limit from the national constitution. Despite a fair deal of international outrage, Zelaya did not return to power, although he did eventually return to Honduras. At the time of the coup a member of Congress, Honduras’s current president, Hernandez, voted in favor of removing Zelaya for his actions.
Fast forward to 2015. Hernandez has now been in office for two years and is making great strides towards reducing the nation’s serious violent crime issue. He has leveraged the country’s military and police forces to crack down hard on the drug traffickers running large swaths of the country and has begun constructing large maximum-security prisons in which to house them. He is immensely popular with the average citizen. It is at this point that Honduras’s Nationalist Party (Hernandez’s party) recommends a special panel be convened by the Supreme Court to consider presidential term limits. Five Supreme Court justices (all appointed by Hernandez or a proxy) vote unanimously to overturn the ban on re-elections, much to the dismay and frustration of many international observers and the opposition party in Honduras. In a highly-suspicious and on incredibly-shaky legal grounds, Hernandez had been given the opportunity to legally seek re-election.
When the nation went to the polls in November of 2017, they were presented with three principal presidential options: Incumbent Hernandez (Nationalist), Luis Zelaya (Liberal party – no relation to former president,) and Salvador Nasralla representing the “Alliance in Opposition to Dictatorship.” The Alliance was formed by deposed president Mel Zelaya’s “Free Party” and Nasralla’s “Anti-Corruption Party.” Independently, these were small, new, and popular third-parties that together formed a powerful front against Hernandez. Following the vote, early election results showed Nasralla to be pulling ahead by a significant margin… then everything fell apart.
Over the following week, results were delayed, computer glitches reported, and percentages jumped about suspiciously. The official electoral oversight committee of Honduras (the TSE) has close political ties to Hernandez and his party, and each remarkable irregularity seemed to consistently favor Hernandez. As the week drug on with no conclusion, the people took to the streets. They believed that their election was being stolen from before their very eyes. Nasralla and Zelaya heightened the fever, telling the crowds to not let their democracy be stolen illegally while they simply watched. In the following weeks, streets were shut down by flaming barricades, police and military responded, looting and vandalism took heavy tolls on urban centers, and many were jailed. The government responded with a week-long “suspension of constitutional rights” namely the right to circulate freely; a national curfew was implemented until the situation calmed, and was eventually lifted.
All of this commotion has caused significant disruption in the daily lives of citizens, the normal flow of business, and growth of the local economy. At least 15+ people have been killed in demonstrations, and the UN has publicly condemned excessive force and responses on the part of the government. There have been moments when fractures in the armed forces have forebodingly appeared, with specific divisions sympathizing with demonstrators and declaring they side with the people against their corrupt leaderships while yet the majority of the military remained loyal to the government. These ominous divisions seem to have fallen silent for the meantime however. Many banks, businesses, and stores in urban centers have been inflicted with severe damage during violent riots; roads and toll booths have been periodically occupied until cleared by police.
In early December, Hernandez was finally declared winner by a narrow margin following a significant string of recounts, but the triumph of victory had been significantly deflated. The Organization of American States (OAS), an intergovernmental organization that provided oversight to the election process issued a statement that they had no confidence in the validity of the vote due to the extraordinary amount of irregularities surrounding the results and called for a fresh election with increased transparency and international monitoring. Independent statistical analysis from respectable institutions around the world confirmed the OAS’s conclusion, while the US, Mexico, and Canada recognized the results as valid.
Since December, internal pressure has continued, with occasional outburst of significant and violent demonstrations and a few peaceful marches. The Alliance now plans to hold nationwide coordinated strikes and demonstrations throughout the week of Jan 20-27, leading up to inauguration on the 27. On Inauguration Day, the Alliance plans to hold massive demonstrations in Tegucigalpa in an effort to prevent Hernandez from arriving to the traditional inauguration venue of the National Stadium and to voice their disapproval of the current situation. In addition, Nasralla and Zelaya are collectively urging the populace to not recognize the government from January 27 forward and to continue actively in acts of civil disobedience. Hope for an expedient solution to the country’s unrest now hangs on the ability of Hernandez, Nasralla, and Zelaya to be able to strike an acceptable deal for peace through internationally-mediated conversations.”