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Inside Story Americas

Will Honduras have free and fair elections?

The wife of the deposed president has been elected head of an opposition group looking to break up the two-party system.
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2012 09:38

This is a week of key political developments in two of Latin America's emerging nations.

In Colombia, FARC rebels have announced a unilateral two-month ceasefire with the government, which could be a sign that five decades of conflict may be coming to an end.

To discuss the implications of the ceasefire, Inside Story Americas with presenter Shihab Rattansi, is joined by guests: Laura Gil, a columnist for El Tiempo and former consultant to the Organisation of American States, and James Jones, a development specialist who has worked extensively in FARC-controlled areas.

"A ceasefire creates a better atmosphere for negotiations, it doesn't matter what they will be negotiating first. The fact is that a ceasefire is what civilians in Colombia were expecting. And this is very unusual for the FARC, so it is a very good sign."

- Laura Gil, a Colombia political analyst

Meanwhile, in Honduras, the three main political parties have been choosing candidates for next year's presidential election.

Honduras has been ravaged by violence since President Manuel Zelaya was deposed in a military backed coup in 2009.

The country has the highest murder rate in the world, and the run-up to Sunday's presidential primaries had seen yet more violence. Several opposition candidates are amongst the dead and targeted.

In addition, since the coup, 23 journalists have lost their lives, with regular attacks on the rural poor, opposition groups and indigenous communities.

The US says it is currently withholding tens of millions of dollars in aid for Honduras, specifically for units directly controlled by the country's police chief. There are allegations that he has links to death squads, while the death of 15-year-old Ebed Yanes in May raised further questions.

He was shot after driving through a military checkpoint, by Honduran soldiers trained and equipped by the US.

There remains a high level of co-operation between the US and Honduran security forces. Reports say there has been a large increase in the US military presence in the country at several bases.

"Xiomara Castro Zelaya is the candidate for the Libre Party .... This is absolutely unprecedented in Honduran history. It looks like she got at least a quarter of all the votes that were cast. There has never been an opposition party in Honduras that got more than three or four per cent .... It's a tremendous threat to the entrenched elites and their lockdown on power."

- Dana Frank, a Honduras historian

Meanwhile, in a significant development from Sunday's primaries, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of the deposed president, was elected as the presidential candidate for the Liberty and Refoundation or Libre Party.

Honduran politics has traditionally been dominated by the National and Liberal parties, and Libre was formed after the coup as an attempt to break up the traditional two-party system.

In next year's election, Castro will face Mauricio Villeda of the Liberal Party and Juan Orlando Hernandez who appears set to represent the governing National Party.

So, will the elections in Honduras be free and fair?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas is also joined by guests: Dana Frank, a historian of Honduras who teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Pamela Spees, a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents the parents of Isso Murillo, a 19-year-old demonstrator who was shot and killed in the aftermath of the Honduras coup in 2009. 


FACTS: HONDURAS

  • Honduras held primary elections on Sunday 
  • Candidates were also chosen for parliament and municipal councils
  • The general election is to be held in November 2013 
  • President Porfirio Lobo Sosa was elected after the coup in 2009 
  • The army ousted then President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 on the supreme court's orders 
  • Honduras' congress chose Roberto Micheletti as the new president following Zelaya's ousting
  • Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world with 92 murders per 100,000 people
  • Fifteen-year-old Ebed Yanes was killed in May by Honduran soldiers
  • Ebed Yanes' father found evidence of a cover-up by officials 
  • Three Honduran soldiers were charged in connection with Yanes' death 
  • The unit that killed Yanes was vetted and equipped by the US government 
  • US law forbids aid to foreign units that violate human rights 

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Source:
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