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HONDURAS
A tarnished first year for Lobo
Alejandro F. Ludeña
3/4/2011
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President´s administration makes little headway in improving human rights, economic growth and public safety.

Honduras has become even more polarized in the more than one year since President Porfirio Lobo took office. Lobo’s critics accuse the leader, whose rise to power stems from questioned elections in late 2009 following the coup that ousted ex-President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009), of failing to bridge the dramatic political divide in the country and adequately investigate and end human rights violations.

Lobo, who took office Jan. 27, 2010, defends his government as stimulating the economy. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Honduras’ economy grew 2.5 percent in 2010, after it contracted close to -2 percent in 2009.

But many sectors are unimpressed and criticize Lobo for the continued political crisis the country has been mired in since the June 28, 2009 coup.

Deep polarization
One of Lobo’s bragging points has been that he created a unity government. But representation of some opposition sectors does not mean that, his critics say.

In fact, the National Popular Resistance Front, which is led by Zelaya, questions the elections that brought Lobo to power, since they were held in the wake of the coup, amid a snowballing number of allegations of corruption and unconstitutional practices by the de facto government.

Gloria Oquelí, a leader of a pro-Zelaya faction of the Liberal Party, one of the country´s oldest parties, said those behind the coup are enjoying impunity and as a result are participating in public life, such as Romeo Vázquez, an army general who was part of the coup and is now director of the state-run Honduran Telecommunications Company.

Discontent is also pronounced in right-wing sectors. Fernando Anduray of the Democratic Civic Union, a civil society group which backed the coup, accused Lobo of spending too much time trying to shore up international support than addressing problems at home.

What many groups agree on is that Honduras’ existing problems have only grown worse under Lobo. Unemployment and underemployed affects 44 percent of the economically active population, according to January data from the Labor Secretariat.

Violent crime has also grown exponentially. There is an average of 14 murders a day in the country, making Honduras one of the most violent countries on earth. In the first half of 2010 nine journalists were killed.

For some analysts, violent common crime and organized crime add to political persecution.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its 2010 World Report that human rights violations include the lack of an impartial judiciary and threats against human rights activists, journalists and transgendered citizens.

Those responsible for human rights violations during de-facto government after the coup have not been held responsible for their actions, the organization said.

Neither truth nor justice
Even after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was installed in May 2010, to investigate the facts related to the 2009 coup, few Hondurans believe its conclusions will bring about justice. Its tasks are not clearly defined, and it lacks the power to investigate the incidents.

“This Commission was born dead,” said Alejandra Nuño, director for Mesoamerica for the Center for Justice and International Law.

The victims were left out of the decree that created the commission, and it does not force government officials who participated in the coup to answer to it, she added.

In addition to Lobo’s failure to address deep inequalities and poverty in the country, the political divide is deepening. The National Popular Resistance Front, has also lost credibility since it has been unable to head an alternative discourse.

Priest Ismael Moreno, director of the Jesuits’ Reflection, Research and Communication Team said in a recent article in the Honduran magazine Envío, that the Front has not been able to mobilize and bring a real opposition together.

“To get out of this shifting political and social terrain we should think about a new social pact,” he said.
—Latinamerica Press.


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