Honduras: a Symptom of Crisis in Latin America
By Carlos Sánchez Berzain*
(Article published in the Diario las Américas on July 3, 2009)
The political crisis in Honduras should not be viewed as an isolated event; rather, it should be seen as a symptom of a larger problem affecting democracy in Latin America, where a number of countries today are no longer democratic, despite their frequent elections.
The current Honduran predicament stems from President Manuel Zelaya’s publicly manifest political decision to violate the constitution of his country by attempting to introduce a reform that would allow for the incumbent’s reelection and thus extend his presidential mandate. On closer scrutiny, though, this political decision is not Zelaya’s own, but rather, as it is evident, it responds to the authoritarian agenda being led by Havana and Caracas.
In order to understand the Honduran crisis, we need to analyze the current Latin American reality and realize that Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez have set in motion a plan to create a certain alignment of countries. Through the use of the electoral system, they have managed to seize power and gradually undermine the institutions in order to consolidate their totalitarian governments – governments which are borderline dictatorial, as in the case of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.
Constitutional reform via popular referendums, the approval of constitutional text that opens the door to the concentration of power by the president, as well as to his reelection, in particular, are the key elements for this political current that is variously known as “21st century socialism”, “ALBA” (Bolivarian Alliance for Latin America and the Caribbean), “populism” or “neocommunism”. All of this is but a revived version of the Castroist dream of the sixties known as foquismo, or focalism, yet this time around, it has opted to use the vote system, one engineered by the Cuban political apparatus and its intelligence services and funded by Venezuelan money.
The quest for total power, one that lays democracy to waste as it advances, is already a formula, a model that has been successfully implemented in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. There is no democracy in these countries any longer, and their citizens are now subject to persecution, threats, violation of their basic rights and even death. It is precisely these countries, now teeming with Cuban advisors, which have installed a new form of colonialism and intervention. In these states, the opposition has been effectively criminalized; its members are routinely persecuted and incarcerated, and the number of political exiles – a situation incompatible with democracy – is on the rise.
With Zelaya’s bid for reelection, Honduras would be marching down the same path as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador; as reprehensible and inadmissible as a coup d’état is, it is obvious that to judge the present situation solely from the perspective of this old cliché falls short of the more incisive analysis that is necessary. Much less can we ascribe the role of defenders of democracy to people such as Castro, Chávez and their attending presidents in those countries that have been intervened, for they neither respect nor practice of democracy. It is imperative then that we grasp the whole picture rather than simply run to demonize the Hondurans who stood up in defense of their liberty and constitution, albeit their resorting to a terrible instrument.
It is evident that this is not simply a Honduran crisis; this is a Latin American crisis and it is a crisis of democracy. Honduras is not the only democracy at risk. Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have already seen their democracies sacrificed, and today, democracy in Peru is also under threat by the same Cuban-Venezuelan alignment.
We need to keep a watchful eye on the objective reality and not lose sight of the history of Latin America in the last few years; we must be mindful of Cuba’s and Venezuela’s political actions and see that a neocommunist totalitarianism – under the guise of 21st century socialism or Bolivarian Movement – is on the move in the form of an international political process. Satisfying these conditions will help us realize that what is happening in Honduras is only a symptom and that the people of this country are victims of a larger crisis: the crisis of democracy in Latin America, one that is high time we face.
*The author of this article is a lawyer and former government minister, Member of Parliament and political figure of Bolivia. He is presently in exile.