Foto: JORGE CABRERA (REUTERS)
The presidential campaigning period in Honduras is coming to an end as November’s national election will decide who will govern this Central American country for the next four years. It is between a centrist former university chancellor, a former sports journalist who is representing an anti-corruption party front, and the current president who is violating the constitution to extend his grip on power.
Following the country’s military coup executed eight years ago, the National Party ensured it would dictate the government’s transition towards a path of neglecting institutional reform, growing environmental concerns, and addressing economic inequality. Even if it meant defying the country’s constitution.
Article 239 specifically states, “the citizen who has served the position of Executive Power cannot be President or Vice President of the Republic,” as an attempt to prevent the authoritarian administrations that preceded its ratification in 1982. An attempt to defy this by former president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 prompted the military and national elite to force regime change that shattered electoral democracy.
However, Juan Orlando Hernandez’s desire for another four years as president inspired the Honduran Supreme Court to reinterpret the constitution in his favor. He violates more than just one article: he also overrules Article 42 of the constitution and Article 330 of the National Penal Code, with the latter stating that the actions against a constitutional statute can result in being banned from holding office from six to ten years.
Despite his lead in electoral polls, President Orlando Hernandez has not sought to propose a referendum regarding the right to run for re-election. His militarized approach towards curbing gang violence has gained him popularity as a head of state attempting to be perceived as incorruptible and intolerable of social instability. This proves dangerous for countless of movements seeking justice from him and his party’s officials allegations and participation in corruption.
Berta Caceres, Lenca leader of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, was assassinated last March by four men belonging to an operation designed to silence the environmental resistance disrupting the privatization of Honduran natural resources. Honduras has become the most dangerous place for environmental activists as the current administration prioritizes foreign extractivist projects over the lives of Honduran indigenous and rural communities. His refusal to allow an independent commission to investigate Berta Caceres’ murder expresses his indifference towards a community risking their life to preserve their ancestral source of water.
The geopolitical statement this makes for the region beyond Central America is that the Latin American right’s unconstitutional actions and repressive behavior will be tolerated onward. Much of the international community and the Global North focus their efforts towards discrediting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Yet Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was just granted immunity by congress though his brother and son are being investigated for defrauding the national property registry.
Furthermore, President Orlando Hernandez was just referenced in a New York courtroom involving one of the most notorious Honduran drug traffickers to date. After Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, leader of Los Cachiros, turned to the DEA for assistance in leaving the drug trade, he detailed his corrupting of Honduran politicians and even provided a secret recording of a drug trafficker who confirmed delivering $250,000 to the current president in 2013.
This unconstitutional pursuit for re-election in Honduras will only allow an authoritarian regime to remain intact with judicial immunity What succeeded the coup of 2009 was not a commitment to upholding electoral democracy, but a disturbing political facade of electoral successiveness. Regrettably, presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla’s accusations of the Organization of American States having its officials bribed into approving Honduras’ upcoming elections will only ensure the swift approval of President Orlando hernandez’s re-election.
Hondurans disrespected by their president’s unconstitutional aspirations are not asking for another military intervention. The Garifuna and Lenca communities, the hundreds of university students protesting austerity measures, and the maquiladora working community are demanding a role to participate in the country’s post-coup reconstruction. The people of Honduras deserve to have a sound and transparent democracy working towards a national government that promotes social inclusivity, reproductive justice, and the respect for human rights.