32998Honduras: Juan Orlando Hernández’s first 100 days
- May 11, 2014http://lo-de-alla.org/2014/05/honduras-juan-orlando-hernandezs-first-100-days/#more-4696
by Giorgio Trucchi
This May 7, the administration of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández celebrates its first 100 days. And it is time to take stock. JOH received the presidential sash after the TSE (Tribunal Supremo Electoral) confirmed him officially as winner of the elections of November 24 of last year, with almost eight percentage points more than Xiomara Castro, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya and candidate for the Libre Party (Libertad y Refundación), the electoral arm of the popular resistance movement against the 2009 coup d’état that removed Zelaya from office.
Concerning the official results and the immediate international recognition, Xiomara Castro termed the win by the ruling party candidate a “monstrous fraud,” challenging the impartiality of the electoral authorities, denouncing a series of irregularities in the vote count and in the transmission of vote tallies and refusing to recognize the results and the legitimacy of JOH as the new president of Honduras.
Beyond that, this new progressive political force has managed to end more than a century of two-party rule by the Partido Liberal and the Partido Nacional, positioning itself as the second political force in the country and the main opposition party, electing 37 of the 128 deputies in the National Congress, as well as 31 prefects and vice-prefects, and four representatives to Parlacen (Parlamento Centroamericano). The former president was named head of the Libre Party caucus in Congress.
Meanwhile, the FNRP (Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular) has once again reactivated its territorial structure, beginning an intense effort of internal reorganization of the social and popular sector, with the aim of becoming a “real mass movement with influence in the social and political reality of Honduras,” Xiomara said.
When they took office in the new Congress, members of the Liberal and Nacional parties formed a common front, guaranteeing majority support for the executive branch and blocking any discussion or approval of bills or decrees offered by the opposition.
“It is more than evident that there is a conspiracy. The country continues to be mired in poverty, crime and corruption – everything is still in complete inertia. We are denied the floor in Congress and our bills are shelved. It seems that JOH is still in charge here and that he never left his position as president of Congress,” former attorney general and current Libre Party deputy, Jari Dixon, toldOpera Mundi.
Examples of this are, among others, the shelving of the bill to repeal the “fiscal package,” controversial because of its high social cost, which was approved by members of the Nacional and Liberal Parties, and of the agrarian reform and the anti-corruption bills. The latter would establish strong controls to prevent state funds from being meddled with and requires every official to submit a rigorous accounting.
“We are attempting with this bill to group the existing criminal laws together, to increase penalties, to create new punishment provisions and to provide an effective and tough instrument against this crime. Unfortunately, it is being boycotted and the traditional parties do not want to hear us talk about anti-corruption measures because we are meddling with their interests,” added Dixon, who wrote the bill.
The Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International for 2013 lists Honduras as the most corrupt country in Central America and among the most corrupt in the world. Among the 177 countries evaluated, Honduras occupies position 140. This represents a regression of seven positions since 2012.
One hundred days
In the campaign period, the principal questions for JOH, who was elected president with the smallest backing (36.8%) in more than three decades of constitutional government, involved fighting crime and citizen insecurity, as well as the creation of jobs, reducing the level of poverty and balancing public finance.
Interviewed by national media, Minister of Public Safety Arturo Corrales analyzed the first months of the administration and asserted that the results are satisfactory and that the country is still on the right path. He emphasized that the launching of the “Vida Mejor” programs, which are meant to aid 800,000 families in extreme poverty, creating thousands of micro-enterprises, distributing ecological stoves, upgrading homes and distributing “bolsas solidarias” of food.
With the slogan “I am going to do what it takes to bring peace back to the country,” the now Honduran president promised the people to solve the serious problem of insecurity, which makes Honduras one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
According to the Obervatorio de la Violencia of the UNAH (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras), last year the country saw a slight decrease in the murder rate, from 85.5 for every 100,000 inhabitants in 2012 to 83 in 2013.
These figures differ from those of the Honduan police: 75.1 per 100,000 inhabitants. But regardless of this discrepancy, Honduras is once again the country with the highest level of homicides in the world, that is, with more than 7,000 violent deaths per year, almost 12 times the world average (6.9 homicides) and eight times what the WHO uses to define an epidemic.
In the first three months of his administration, JOH tried to put his promises into practice. He launched the TIGRES force (Tropa de Inteligencia y Grupos de Respuesta Especial de Seguridad), trained by the Escuela Jungla of Colombia and the United States Special Forces. With the aim of strengthening the frontal assault on international organized crime, he founded FUSINA (Fuerza Nacional de Seguridad Interinstitucional) to oversee the work of the different legal and public safety agencies, and initiated “Operación Morazán,” a large joint effort by the PMOP (Policía Militar de Orden Público) and TIGRES.
Similarly, he announced the formation of the Fuerza Interagencial, made up of the police, the armed forces, the TIGRES and the PMOP; he imposed a blocking of mobile phone calls in the 24 penitentiaries in the country; he changed the police command structure almost in its entirety; he promoted the “voluntary retirement” of close to 40 police officials; and he implemented the Ley de Protección de Espacios Aéreos, by which the Honduran air force is authorized to force down planes suspected of trafficking drugs in the national territory.
Corrales asserts that Honduras is better as a result of these measures because “a reduction in kidnappings and extortion” has been achieved, with a reduction in the homicide rate, beginning with the dissolution of “dangerous organized crime groups” and the confiscation of “large shipments of drugs.”
The former director of internal affairs for the National Police, María Luisa Borjas, in turn, warns of the growing militarization of the country and the deepening of violence. “We have a large media campaign orchestrated by the government with the support of the principal communications media. The truth is that the number of summary executions and mass killings has increased, with the direct participation of members of state security forces and the acquiescence of the government,” Borjas told Opera Mundi.
The main victims are the young. In a recent report by the Casa Alianza, an international organization for the protection and defense of the rights of children, adolescents and young people, it was reported that during the first three months of the year, 270 youths under the age of 23 died in violent circumstances, an average of 90 deaths a month.
The UNAH Observatorio Nacional de la Violencia reports that in the first three months of the year there were 19 mass killings, in which 68 citizens lost their lives, most of them under the age of 30. “Our youths have been marginalized, they do not have access to their basic rights, and now they are being criminalized, persecuted and murdered. That is what is really happening in Honduras,” Borjas emphasized.
According to María Luisa Borjas, not only was there no real purge of the police, but “instead of being behind bars for committing illegal acts,” some officials who had hidden evidence “were retired with honors and rewarded financially with sums in the millions.”
Borjas declared that fears she had during the electoral campaign are being realized in Honduras. “Public security is being completely militarized, and the military are already controlling several institutions that should be led by civilians,” she concluded.