FANTASY POLITICS – HONDURAS.COM
by O Ma R
Original Fantasy Politics – March, 1998 A short history of former freely elected presidents, plus a review of potential wannabes – both spiced with biting commentary. Predicts the winner of the next presidential elections of Honduras scheduled for November, 2002.
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The question is, who will be the next president of Honduras? Although the new president has just recently been sworn in, all Honduran wannabe presidents are already scheming and planning their strategies for the next elections – anyone who has spent much time in Honduras knows this!
Prior to proceeding any further, I want to provide a little historical background for those readers unfamiliar with Honduran politics.
In short, the country was governed for some 50 years by various military dictatorships (except for one short lived democratically elected government – Ramon Cruz of the Nationalist party in the early 70s, who lasted about a year at most – and then was ousted by yet another coup d’etat) – until the US influenced strategy of promoting free elections throughout the world finally took hold in Honduras in the 80s. Another important quirk of Honduran politics is that a president can only serve four years and cannot be reelected. Finally, it should also be noted that the population of the country is about 50% rural and 50% urban. This means that whoever aspires for the presidency must convince all different kinds of citizens from diverse economic and educational backgrounds that they are the right choice.
Since then, the following presidents have governed:
Dr. Roberto Suazo Cordova
(ROSUCO) of the Liberal party. His most memorable accomplishments included the building of a white elephant stadium and the paving of the streets in his home town of La Paz, and baring his chest in front of photographers to prove that he was not wounded by bullets in an alleged attack on his life.
José Simón Azcona Hoyo
– Liberal party. Although he was deemed the winner of the presidential elections by ROSUCO, his win was disputed by Rafael Leonardo Callejas of the opposing party – who actually had received more votes than Azcona. The problem was that there were about a half dozen other Liberal party candidates running in the same presidential election – since primaries still hadn’t been established – and the reasoning was that the Liberals won the overall election, and since Azcona Hoyo was the candidate who received the most votes – he was deemed to be the winner. His accomplishments included paving the road between his home base of La Ceiba and Trujillo, and the creation of an ocean barrier to expand the La Ceiba beach. Unfortunately, this same barrier had to be removed after the beach filled in too much and threatened to engulf the pier used by the Standard Fruit Co. to export bananas. Other dubious merits include allowing the DEA into the country to kidnap a reknown drug dealer (Ramon Matta), and the fact that he adamantly refused to devalue the local currency, lempira, which resulted in the country being blacklisted by every major international lending institution and ultimately economically ruined the country. One final note, he allegedly was born in Spain and according to Honduran law should never have been allowed to be president; this fact created a big controversy within the nation.
Rafael Leonardo Callejas
– National party – Immediately let the currency float in order to receive international funding. This unpopular move did provide financing which was used to pave many roads and create other infrastructure. Instituted the Maquila concept – industrial tax free zones designed to attract foreign investment to create factories that capitalize on Honduras’ low labor wages. He also undertook a major modernization of the government and implemented many laws designed to restructure government entities. However, his administration has been labeled by other governments as one of the most corrupt ever seen in these modern times, and although he has been systematically persecuted for alleged graft and personal enrichment, he has never been proven guilty or served any time. Nonetheless, he is a very charismatic leader who still has a strong following.
Dr. Carlos Roberto Reina
– Liberal party – after a 50 year struggle to reach the presidency (during his early years he was very close to Fidel Castro and the communist party) – he finally fulfilled his life long dream. As a renown international lawyer, the most important contributions during his administration were legally oriented – the restructuring of the judicial system which included the police and army (the dreaded secret police D.N.I. was abolished) and the settling of the decades old border dispute with El Salvador through the International Court in the Hague. He also straightened out the country’s finances, and has actually left them more financially sound and stable than they were when he had received them. Of course, high international coffee prices and good crop yields helped increase the country’s bank reserves.
Carlos Flores Facussé
– Present president and still in the “honeymoon” stage of his administration at the time of this writing. It is noteworthy that Flores ran against Callejas in a previous presidential election in which the latter overwhelmingly won. The point is that Honduran politics is shaping up to be like other democracies around the world in the sense that even if you lose one election, there’s always the next one. By the way, if you ever want an objective analysis of his presidential performance, don’t read La Tribuna since his family owns that newspaper.
So I’ll start this game off by giving my quick and dirty analysis of the ones who I consider top contenders – and then it’s up to you to provide your comments (i.e. tell me where I’m right or wrong and why, who I may have missed, etc.). The attached forum is provided for this purpose, so that you may be able to directly respond quickly with your own comments.
So let the game begin!
Traditionally the most powerful party with the largest following. The top contenders in my opinion (in alphabetical order)are:
Jorge Bueso Arias
– Like Rosenthal Oliva, an accomplished businessman who understands finance and economics – after all, they both are highly respected bankers. However, he lacks a strong following throughout the nation, and therefore won’t ever reach the top office.
Dr. Marlon Lara
– Although he has impressed many people and basically put Puerto Cortés on the map with his diverse accomplishments as its mayor during the past administration, it is extremely interesting to note that he almost was not reelected. This makes me question his ability to garnish enough nationwide support to even consider running for the presidency. My personal thoughts are that he may be building support for another election, that it is still too early for him (and he is too young) to possibly win the next presidential election.
– Not a serious contender. His performance in the past primaries showed a drop in the number of his supporters, which was already small and is now miniscule.
– Brother of former president Reina. He also didn’t really stand out in the last administration and I don’t think he’ll get very far in the next primarys.
Jaime Rosenthal Oliva
– LIBRE – He is a strong contender, but I don’t think he’ll be able to overcome his street reputation as someone who doesn’t care for the little guy. In terms of qualifications – he’d run the government like he runs his businesses – shrewdly and competently. Nonetheless, since he is also infamous for taking advantage of others this will prevent him from ever actually becoming president. Granted, if one reads Diario El Tiempo, one gets the impression that he possesses the Honduran equivalent of the Holy Grail and may even walk on water – but then, of course, he owns that newspaper. Who knows? He may even finally learn that money cannot buy the presidency.
Ramon Villeda Bermudez
– He has a small following, and his recent stint in the previous government of Reina proved that he isn’t a mover and shaker since not much was really accomplished. Personally, I think he doesn’t stand a chance.
The second largest political party in the country, was in power once during the Callejas administration.
– Considering that he only recently appeared in the political arena, he mustered a very strong following in the past primaries after spending a lot of campaign money. His image as an outsider also helps attract disenchanted voters, but although he has a strong following, I doubt that he’ll be able to secure the party’s nomination.
Dr. Cesar Castellanos
– Former health minister and presently the mayor of Tegucigalpa (one of the few National Party members still in office). He is already strengthening his position with his campaign to clean up the city (while receiving much criticism from former government employees that he booted out). Depending on how he does perform, he may become a very strong contender for the top office.
– Small but growing following. Being a retired military officer married to a very rich American (who is closely associated with Senator Jesse Helms after having served him for many years) is enigmatic since it associates him with groups that many voters have difficulties supporting, yet it also uniquely qualifies him for the presidency. He probably will not get the nomination for the next election, but he may be lining up his candidacy for the following one – depending on his support growth during the next one.
– former minister during the Callejas administration, he is highly respected for his economic and business savvy. He is also considered to be a possible strong contender for the top office. His street image is benevolent, strengthened by the tragic murder of his popular son (RIP).
Roberto Martínez Lozano
(ROMA) – Former presidential candidate in the past primaries, and although his movement was not widely supported, Cesar Castellanos came from his faction. In other words, although I don’t think he stands a chance at being elected president in the next election, he may end up in a very influential position should his former protégé win.
Nora vda. de Melgar
– Former mayor of Tegucigalpa (didn’t do much during her stint there) and official presidential candidate in the past election. Her strong following in the past election is mainly due to her support by the Callejas clan, but I don’t think she’ll be able to muster enough support to win the nomination next time.
Oswaldo Ramos Soto
– his penchant for using big, legalistic terms in his speeches coupled with his whining voice has made him the subject of many jokes (although his brother Victor, who has nothing at all to do with politics except support his sibling – is a very nice guy with a great sense of humor). My personal feeling is that he doesn’t stand a chance.
PINU / PDCH
Both of these parties are too small to seriously think that they will win the next presidential election, and therefore I have not even considered any of their members as potential contenders in this analysis.
After two administrations of the Liberal party, I think the country will be ready in 2002 for a change to a National party president. I just haven’t yet figured out who between Castellanos and Maduro. But hey, we still have several years to go, and anything may happen.