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Hernández Takes Reins of Chaotic, Polarized Honduras

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - Feb 10, 2014, 3:00 pm

EspañolIn November of 2013, Hondurans went to vote in what would be the most atypical election in the history of this country. The National Party’s Juan Orlando Hernández, however, emerged as president-elect.

After clearing up doubts and alleged wrongdoing at the polls, mainly from the LIBRE party, Hernández took office on January 27 with a firm yet proactive inaugural speech.

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Juan Orlando Hernández, president of Honduras.

However, the current Honduran context will require much more than firm words: the newly elected president will have to rise to meet immense challenges and won’t be able to make it alone.

The First Steps of the New Government

Hernández has managed to place bipartisanship within governance once more — at least within the governing coalition — granting the historic Liberal Party a privileged position as a key participant for governance and legislative decisions. However, the Liberal Party is still not a part of his cabinet, nor is any other political party in the country.

During his limited time in office, Hernández has undertaken a major restructuring of the government apparatus. These measures include, for example, fewer secretaries of state, to establish better organization and optimize public spending.

Despite less media scrutiny than expected, he has been committed his campaign’s priority proposals: jobs, counteracting criminality, a war against corruption, and reduced state bureaucracy.

The Diversification of Political Actors

The current political scene in Honduras is unusual, to say the least: never have new government representatives in power begun their term with so much opposition. This is particularly the case in the Legislative Chamber, where the newly emerged LIBRE Party — led by former President Manuel Zelaya — and the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) — led by sports commentator Slavador Nasralla — have proved to be key players.

Hernández should be conciliatory and inclusive, if he wants to succeed. He must become a president for all, and that includes the segment of the population who demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the former President Porfirio Lobo. Lobo ended his term with 67.4 percent disapproval from the population — a percentage never achieved by any other Honduran head of state.

Public Expectation Grows

Lobo left Hernández a country in bankruptcy, in matters of public and household finances. Hernandez has also received a country with a collapsed state apparatus slumped by inefficiency, corruption, cronyism and lack of political will.

The household challenges are due to unemployment, generated primarily by a lack of citizen security and legal instability. The country’s crime rates are at unheard-of levels, and drug trafficking has infiltrated a country submerged in poverty. These factors have pushed away domestic and foreign investments.

No candidate to reach the presidency would have an easy task at hand. And to have a successful administration, unpopular but necessary fiscal adjustment measures need to be applied. A tight against corruption, which includes its mix with organized crime, drug trafficking, and all the factors that affect public safety.

As a young citizen, I would like to see my country turn into an adequate place to achieve my goals, without emigrating — as many have done during the last few years — for not having a space to fulfill projects, investments, or studies.

Hernández will have to apply effective measures to guarantee citizen security, so Hondurans can live without the fear of being extorted by organized crime, or walking down the street without being victims. We no longer want to be internationally known as the bloody Honduras or the country to which many of our countrymen never want to return.

The government and the opposition must reach common ground, to dialogue about how to build a Honduras with opportunities for its citizens. That will require putting the needs of the country before their particular worldviews.

Towards this historic challenge, there is a population that yearns — today more than ever — for peace, order, and prosperity.

Translated by Isabella Loaiza Saa.

Elena Toledo Elena Toledo

Educator by trade, social-media apprentice, activist for a democratic Honduras, and free thinker. Follow her on Twitter @NenaToledo.