EspañolA week ago, Honduras awoke to a political earthquake. After three decades of a ban on presidential reelection, it was now back on the table: thanks to a politically motivated Supreme Court ruling that ended four years of deliberations.
Today, the same parties that cried foul and clamored for justice when the ruling first became known are legitimizing it, by launching reelection campaigns for their own caudillos. They thus concede the argument to former President Rafael Leonardo Callejas (1990-1994), one of the successful plaintiffs in the case against Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution that banned reelection.
As is usually the case in Honduras, initial outrage at the ruling among citizens and so-called opposition parties soon began to evaporate. In a couple weeks, an apathetic society, and its power-hungry politicians whose only concern is to reach the top, will come to accept indefinite presidential rule by the same individual as the new status quo.
With every passing day, the opposition resembles its worst nightmare more and more: the ruling party. A case in point is former President Manuel Zelaya, who dragged Honduras into chaos in 2009 on a similar whim, not only to seek reelection, but to change the character of the entire state and impose a National Constituent Assembly.
Now Zelaya, leader of the LIBRE party, has taken advantage of the situation to clean up his image, and repeatedly condemn his ousting from power six years ago. But those citizens who are sensible enough won’t forget his anti-democratic pedigree in a hurry.
On the other hand, the once-respected Liberal Party of Honduras has called for the reelection of influential former President Carlos Flores Facussé (1994-1998), who said he won’t jump into the race before weighing up the situation. However, the mere proposal itself is a clear demonstration of their desire to achieve power, and their utter disregard for the rule of law: they’re now advancing the same agenda they criticized mere weeks ago in attacking former President Callejas.
Who Tells the Truth?
Amid the swarm of information put forward by manipulated and biased media, there is often little time to dig deeper. What are Hondurans not being told?
According to Jorge Colindres, legal adviser to the Eléutera Foundation, “besides the article contested by the Supreme Court, the related Articles 4 and 374 are also declared inapplicable. The former dealt with the reform of presidential reelection, and in the latter the ruling struck down the sentence of high treason to those who sought to be reelected.”
“It doesn’t seem reasonable to do away with that punishment, because it’s a tool the Constitution grants us to resist a dictatorial government,” Colindres added.
Some opponents of the government have decided to take the case to international bodies such as the OAS’ Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). A previous ruling which incorporates all IAHRC’s jurisprudence into Honduran constitutional law could help contest the Supreme Court’s decision.
Yet will these measures really be applicable or are they just a political gimmick?
What’s Left to be Done
Legal or not, there is no turning back from the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, many steps can be taken toward a free society, such as supporting constitutional reform to limit reelection. For the time being, Honduras joins Venezuela as the only two countries in Latin America to allow their presidents to rule indefinitely.
The pending overhaul of electoral legislation should also be completed so that polls become more transparent, organized, and don’t lead to such a high concentration of power in a few hands.
But most important is that we citizens don’t fall prey to top-down political machinations, that we educate ourselves and make up our own minds. We have to leave behind all that divides us: political sectarianism, resentment, and frustration.
Honduras deserves greater prosperity and less politicking, more citizens, fewer inhabitants. We can do it, by believing in hard work, commitment, and truth.
Translated by Daniel Duarte. Edited by Laurie Blair.