Some much-needed context for this article: In a week an episode of The Benito Juarez Experience (the podcast that I co-host with Dr. Juhem Navarro-Rivera, if you didn’t know about that, there’ll be a link to it here) will drop. In that episode, I provide a lot of information, much of it badly. A week after that, another episode will be released in which I re-explain some of the same stuff in a considerably better way, and also (hopefully) talk about the Honduran Supreme Court in a way that makes sense, if some of the exact details in the podcast are wrong ignore them there and instead use this as your main guide (although a good chunk of what I said in the podcast should be correct, but some of the specific details might be a bit off). I am writing this shortly after having recorded the two conversations, the first of which I was too excited to talk about this clearly and thus couldn’t explain a whole lot and definitely couldn’t do it in a way our listeners deserve but in the second episode I did a much better job of talking about specific events and explaining some needed context for the November 26th election.
The purpose of this article is to give readers a moderately in-depth look into the history of the Honduran elections and how they and a few other factors will affect this coming election. I feel thoroughly unsatisfied with how I explained things in the episodes of the podcast, and feel that our listeners deserve something solid that gives them a good look at things and I hope that with this post I feel better and have provided both readers of this blog and listeners of the podcast (where it’ll be linked in the episode’s description) with something that they can use, particularly non-Hondurans who want to pay attention to this election but if this teaches some Hondurans who see it valuable (and accurate) information that’d be just wonderful. This is part 1 of a few articles (possibly 3) I’ll be doing on this topic before Sunday, November 26th. I also plan on writing about Venezuela’s municipal elections (December 10th of this year) and elections throughout Latin America from now on. I plan on doing special articles unique for each country where I write about electoral issues related to secularism and church-state separation in each nation, including one for Honduras which should come out tomorrow.
Honduras’s election is important because every single popularly elected official will be voted into office in it. Their elections are not staggered like the ones of the USA. They are also a unicameral government with a single congressional house for their government: the National Congress. It’s currently made up of 256 people, with 128 congresspeople who also have substitute congresspeople in case the main congressperson cannot attend the session themselves.
Articles Of The Honduran Constitution Worth Knowing For Election Conversations & A Brief History Of The Constitution:
Articles 239 & 240: You don’t need to know these in their entirety just the parts that outline that a president cannot be reelected.
Article 373: This article explains how constitutional amendments work. They work by votes in normal sessions of Congress wherein a decree is made in which an article of the constitution is said to be up for amendment and voted for by 2/3rds of those in attendance (which should always be the number of elected congresspeople in Honduras, because in Honduras congressional candidates run with “substitute” congresspeople who vote for them if they can’t attend the session of congress themselves), and then again in a 2nd session the same amendment is voted on again by the Congress who once again need a 2/3rds vote.
Article 374: Some articles cannot be amended, such as this article, and article 240.
Article 375: Just an article on the inviolability of the constitution and how it doesn’t stop being the constitution even if those in power say otherwise. If I needed to justify a constitutional case against presidential reelection I’d use this article, and the 374th, and the 239th.
So for the history section of this part of the post, what you need to know is that Honduras was in an era of military dictatorships prior to the 1980s starting around the early 1910s, according to some following Manuel Bonilla’s two presidential terms. This was an era of dictators rising up out of the armed forces and seizing power. In the early 80s, this was stopped when a general (Policarpo Paz Garcia) led a 3-man junta to return power to civilians. The first civilian to gain true power and independence after many military leaders was Roberto Suazo Cordova (a member of the Liberal Party who started off the trend I mentioned in one of the episodes of 2 Liberal Party presidents and then a single National Party episode), who also helped construct the constitution that is still in effect even now. This constitution was ratified in 1982.
What The Heck Happened That Led To Presidential Reelection Being Deemed Constitutional?
Alright, so we’ll talk about the constitutional crisis later this part of the post is exclusively for the events from 2012-2015.
In late 2012 a “technical coup” occurs with the independence of the judiciary branch being smashed. The context of this is that a bill passes which would change how police officers are held accountable for their actions and is an attempt to reform Honduras’s police force. It is deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. In response to this decision Congress assembles and conducts an investigation of the Supreme Court and upon reviewing the “findings” of the investigation promptly kick out four judges. It’s worth noting that this is nearly 33% of the Court, given that there are only 15 members of it. From this point on writers and analysts of the legislative & judicial branch have noted that there always weighs a possibility of another “investigation” into the Supreme Court if the Court makes a decision that congress doesn’t agree with.
Honduras’s former president, who ran the country from 1990-1994 Rafael Callejas, joins legislators (it’s been said that these other legislators are also from the National Party, Callejas’s party & Juan Orlando the incumbent’s party) moving against the ban on presidential reelection at Honduras’s Supreme Court and reportedly pleads that the ban on reelection violates human rights. The ban is struck down, in a “unanimous” decision in the Constitutional Chamber, in which initial “strike down” voter Judge Jose Lizardo retracts his vote but is denied the chance to take the issue to the entire court (which is what happens when a vote isn’t unanimous in its initial chamber). Former President Callejas is later taken to the United States, having been accused of corruption and taking bribes from FIFA officials, where he later confesses to taking half a million dollars in bribes. He had said that he wanted to run for reelection. Juan Orlando at some point not only mentions that he is going to run, he also gets there reportedly unopposed by anyone from within his own party.
The Constitutional Crisis:
I explain A LOT of this in a prior post. To read that click here. The gist of it is this: Zelaya decided that he wanted to propose a nonbinding referendum in which convening a national assembly was brought up and this would enable him to see if the public wants this as well which could theoretically lead to a new constitution after a national constitutional assembly is assembled. I think this could be one of the only ways for someone to correctly arrive at a place where presidential reelection is made constitutional in Honduras (since the articles make it clear that this current constitution highly values a ban on presidential reelection) but I could be wrong. In response to the non-binding referendum, the courts lash out at Zelaya and eventually, he is awakened and taken to a plane to Costa Rica.
Roberto Micheletti is named the interim president and serves out the remainder of Zelaya’s term in his place. It’s worth noting that events that occurred during Micheletti’s tenure intensified conflicts between businesspeople & corporations against less wealthy individuals trying to make a living in the Rio Blanco area (the majority of whom are Lenca, an indigenous tribe in the region and a highly influential cultural group in that region who bring much wealth to the area through tourism and artwork) and in the Bajo Aguan region of Honduras (the majority of whom are small land-owners who just want to make a living through farming).
Following Micheletti’s tenure as interim president Porfirio Lobo is elected, and then 4 years later Juan Orlando is elected. It’s prior to and during Porfirio’s presidency that PAC (Anti-Corruption Party), and LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation Party) form as well as FAPER.
Parties & Presidential Candidates:
Opposition Alliance: The group with the biggest chance to take the presidency away from Juan Orlando is probably this one. It’s the alliance made up of leaders from LIBRE, PAC, PINU (Innovation and Unity Party, an older party than the other leaders of the Opposition Alliance, came about in the 70s as an alternative to the Liberals & Nationalists), and members of other parties as well, including (“former”/ousted) members of the National Party who aren’t okay with the corruption within the National Party. Their candidate is Nasralla, a former sports journalist turned politician, who used to be the head of PAC.
Liberal Party: Honduras’s mainstream left-leaning party and probably the most normal party in Honduras for estadounidenses. Mel Zelaya was a part of this party prior to the constitutional crisis. Currently, they are running Luis Zelaya an engineer to serve as their candidate for the presidency.
National Party: Honduras’s leading party and the conservative counterpart to the Liberal Party. The current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez comes from this party. They control the government right now and have a sort of alliance with the Patriotic Alliance, as well as usually voting together.
Patriotic Alliance: Honduras’s military party as well as a party of Christian conservatives. Emerged in the wake of the constitutional crisis. Currently running Romeo Vasquez as their presidential candidate. Romeo Vasquez was a player in the Constitutional Crisis and he didn’t allow the armed forces to support Zelaya during Zelaya’s attempt to organize the fourth ballot box referendum.
Christian Democrats: Pretty much what their name says. Christians who are typically considered part of the center, who are running Lucas Aguilera as their candidate, during the election. Aguilera is a civil organizer and leader. Had a huge schism over the course of the past year and a half that resulted in a new party being formed of ex-members.
Democratic Unification Party: A leftist party that formed out of a merger of further left-parties that existed in 1992. They’ve consistently won a few thousand votes each election and are running Jose Alfonso Diaz as their presidential candidate, Diaz is a civil engineer.
Vamos: A new party that formed in the wake of a serious schism within the Christian Democrats. This is their first election and they are nominating Eliseo Vallecillo (whose career information suggests he’s a career politician) as their presidential candidate. This party’s membership includes Augusto Cruz Asencio, the former president of the Christian Democrats.
Broad Political Front In Resistance: FAPER is a younger party that formed in 2012 and then was “destablished” (which is what occurs to the poorest performing parties in the wake of elections) after the 2013 election. It’s a left-leaning party and is currently backing Isaias Fonseca as their presidential candidate. Isaias is an architect and the youngest person running for president (he’s just 30 years old), as well as someone who is rallying against the “old guard” and is a supporter of taking away arms from the civil population of Honduras suggesting only government entities and officials ought to have weapons (I don’t know how popular this idea is, but I’d imagine that it’s not very).
PAC: The anti-corruption party. A center party whose specific policy goals hinges upon its leadership. It’s been taken over by Marlene Alvarenga, a crazy lady who wants to “de-secularize” Honduras and doesn’t support women’s sexual or reproductive freedom. This party was the party that helped Nasralla become a powerful political figure for the resistance, and it was the party he formed in the wake of the constitutional crisis.
LIBRE: The liberty & refoundation party. The party founded in the wake of the Constitutional Crisis by Xiomara Castro, the wife of Mel Zelaya. This party was the secondary party to the National party in the 2013 election. They are a coalition of Mel & Xiomara’s supporters as well as leftist groups that enjoyed Mel & Xiomara’s message of freedom and fundamental change to Honduran society.
PINU: A party that’s existed since the time of Honduras’s military dictators in the 70s. They sought to have been an alternative to the Liberal Party & the National Party. Personally, I suspect they were the creators of the Opposition Alliance in its formal form although I’ve heard each member party claim it was their idea at various points in time.
The purpose of this post was to give you an introduction to each party, their presidential candidates, and the history behind how Honduras got to where it is right now if it had to be simplified and condensed. I’ll be publishing articles throughout this week that break down municipal concerns, concerns for outsiders who want to pay attention to this, a breakdown of major issues that will affect how voters vote, and more so if you found this a lot, I just want you to know it could have been much longer than this. This is also ridiculously simplified but I think it’s important to talk about this election and what’s at stake for both normal Honduran civilians and politicians going into this.