Even though North America is made up of the longest-lasting democratic republic and a parliamentary commonwealth with an outstanding welfare state, Central and South America have been a totally different story. For almost two hundred years, the region has been plagued by irregular transfers of power and military rule. While it has been three decades since the advent of total democratic rule, democracy has not eased the rule of law; often, both institutions and people resort to force to solve political disagreements. Without clearly defined impeachment processes and effective justice systems, in Latin America ineffective or corrupt presidents can be forced to resign by a popular rebellion on the streets or be arrested by a military or police power without the opportunity of a fair trial. The latest acute example of irregular transfers of power is in a little country in the center of the Western hemisphere called Honduras.
Exactly a year ago, Honduras was in the middle of a political crisis after President Zelaya was ousted on June 28, 2009, and Michelleti was named the new president of Honduras. After the whole international community condemned this act and called it a coup d’etat, Honduras was isolated from the rest of the world, greatly impacting foreign investment, the tourism industry and the economy in general. On November 29, 2009, general elections were to be held as an attempt to put an end to this crisis. The Liberal Party (to which both Zelaya and Michelleti belong) was completely divided and, as a result, the elections were won by the National Party candidate, Porfirio Lobo Sosa. The results of these elections were eventually accepted by most countries and Lobo Sosa took his place as the president of Honduras on January 27, 2010.
Since then, Honduras has only taken baby steps in reinstating its democratic process. This democratic baby, unfortunately, started limping and falling down at the same time it tried to start running. The 1982 Constitution does not reflect the real needs of the Honduran people and often panders to selfish interests and yet there have not been any attempts to review and improve it. In addition, those who committed human rights violations, political prosecutions and various assassinations have yet to be tried and punished for their crimes.
As politicians fight over who was right and who was not, who needs to be tried and by whom, and the future of the political arena of Honduras, the Honduran people are the ones suffering. Zelaya currently lives in a luxurious resort in the Dominican Republic and receives an $8,000 monthly check for his job at the Central American Integration System (SICA) Congress. Michelleti is permanently escorted by about eight bodyguards and lives in a luxurious mansion in El Progresso. While these former leaders sit in their mansions with air conditioners and private cooks, more than half of the Honduran population lives in poverty. After this political crisis, the world economic recession, the earthquake last May, the decline in remittances sent from family members in the U.S., and a drought that affected the entire region, the Honduran economy has experienced a fast decline.
According to the latest report on the Millennium Development Goals that was presented last week by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Honduran government, the social indicators of unemployment rates, distribution of wealth, and population living in poverty have significantly worsened. Currently, 60% of the Honduran population lives in under the national poverty line of $2 a day and 39% lives in extreme poverty, which means that their monthly income is insufficient to cover the cost of the most basic living necessities. Not only is Honduras the second poorest country in the region, second to Haiti, it is also one of the most disparate. According to this report, Honduras is the fourth country, after Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua, with the most unequal distribution of wealth – the top 40% of the population holds 81.31% of the wealth, while the lowest 40% holds only 7.46%. Unemployment has also risen dramatically. While in 2009 the unemployment rate was 27.8%, the current rate is 36%.
A year after the most watched elections of recent times, the situation has worsened. Lobo Sosa has not yet signed an agreement with IMF and the fiscal budget has an enormous deficit. Honduras continues to be excluded from the Organization of American States (OAS). As a result of the widespread poverty affecting Honduras and the lack of employment opportunities, the crime rates have skyrocketed and more people are resortingdrug trafficking or other associated jobs. Currently, the work of nonprofit organizations and other international cooperation institutions is more important than ever. Adelante Foundation continues to work to provide opportunity to the Honduran people during these extremely challenging times.
By: Marcela Reyes