A Honduran Synthesis

Looking at Honduras from a long distance, in space and also more and more in time since last year’s political crisis, this is what I see: A democratic country that is de facto controlled by an oligarchy, through deep-running corruption and state control that goes way beyond what most western democracies would be comfortable with. By price fixing and splitting up the business in segments, so that each of the main Families gets some solid source of income, status quo is preserved. The result is a rich elite, but a poor country.

The anthithesis of this, the opposite extreme, is communism, such as the so-called Socialism of the XXI’st Century, that Venezuela and Cuba are doing their best to spread in Latin America. The methods include buying presidential candidates or presidents, such as Zelaya in Honduras, who then set in motion a process to change the country’s constitution. The new constitution calls for democratic socialism with a large degree of populism. In essence, populism is the opposite of institutionality. The effect of this change, if implemented fully, is a formally democratic dictatorship, where the ruler has at his disposal a herd of election cattle. Since this isn’t the first time in history that this strategy has been used, several countries have articles in their constitutions designed to make it impossible. Honduras is one of those countries.

What happened in Honduras June 28, 2009, was the end of an attempt to overrun the constitution and introduce the antithetical form of government, by a person who himself belongs to the oligarchy: Manuel Zelaya. It was an attempt at replacing one corrupt system with another corrupt system (in fact, even more corrupt according to many sources). Instead of an elite ostensibly ruling for the upper class, it would be part of the same elite ostensibly ruling for the working class. But of this came naught, since all the institutions of government objected to it in unison, and stopped it.

During the months that followed, there was a widespread hope that finally corruption would be dealt with, that the rule of law would be established, and that liberal democracy had triumphed in Honduras. Even the color of this movement reflected that; instead of blue or red, this was the white movement, using the color of peace. Rather than dominated by the elite or the working class, this was a movement of the middle class, a newly politically awakened middle class.

A year after the election of a new president – Porfirio Lobo from the nationalist party – it seems that his ideal is very close to the old thesis: Keep the rich in power. He allows the extreme left to express their opinions, partly because they have the international spotlight on them still, partly because their message is so foreign to most Hondurans that they do not constitute a serious opposition. However, he has repeatedly expressed discontent with criticism from the middle class, and even gone as far as to silence critics by threatening to withdraw their citizenship. It seems that the middle class is where he sees the real threat coming from – and he would be right.

It is only the educated middle class that can bring about a real liberal democracy under the rule of law in Honduras. However, as yet there is no obvious leader for the movement (and, I might add, it may not be good for a person’s health to be that leader, in a country where even congressmen are chased down and murdered in broad daylight).

Still, we can already see that there is a political void, a space that a savvy politician could take and make into his or her platform for the next presidential election. To position himself, or herself, is key. To be seen as the synthesis, as appealing to the majority in the middle, while not alienating any reasonable person on either side. There are ample campaign themes available for the one who wants to run for the middle, but which one(s) to pick will depend on the candidate’s background.