And don’t miss: Jesse Freeston and Adrienne Pine interview President Manuel Zelaya (en Español)
The Quixote Center report on the election is up. An excerpt:
Low Participation With the exception of San Pedro Sula [which had demonstrations and violent repression], the streets of Honduras were mostly empty. …
Media Manipulation Despite the low numbers on the streets, Honduran corporate media consistently reported high turnout. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal went so far as to extend the voting day an extra hour, to lend the impression that polling stations were packed. …
Threats and Fear These “elections” took place in a latent environment of fear, intimidation, and militarization. The same state security forces responsible for more than a dozen deaths and countless beatings and detentions of peaceful protesters were responsible for the safekeeping of the ballot boxes. Rumors flew that the leaders of the anti-coup resistance movement would be assassinated …People were told there would be violent retaliations against them by police and military forces if they did not vote….
Economic Manipulation Farmers in rural areas were told by local officials that they would be fined the equivalent of three months’ earnings if they did not vote. Army reservists were offered large sums of cash to work to protect ballot boxes on election day… Large corporations offered 40% off for consumers who came into their stores with inked fingers, the mark of having voted…
Impunity The courts were illegally closed on election day, so that writs of habeas corpus could not be filed on behalf of those detained.
Revistazo published a critique of corruption, cronyism, and exaggeration of benefits delivered to the poor under Zelaya, using as its source Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa. It’s worth listening to such critiques seriously:
- Zelaya had one big advantage: in 2006, Honduras received a debt abatement of $4B to reduce poverty, equivalent to the national GDP
- The teachers staged a strike in March, 2005 and Zelaya devoted 70% of the debt abatement to salary rises for teachers and health workers
- The other 30% of funds were distributed according to political ends
- The rise in minimum wage was one of the few things Zelaya did for the poor, but it was done at the worst moment in the global economic crisis, costing 15,000 jobs
- The cascade effects included a strike at the UNAH for over two months.
- Zelaya was director of the Honduran Social Investment Fund which “lost” $40M (nothing was proven against him).
- Zelaya named a crony, Marcelo Chimirri as general manager of Hondutel. Chimirri was convicted of self-enrichment of over $1M and Latin Node pled guilty to paying $1.1M in bribes to Hondutel
- The dictatorship alleged that Zelaya spent $1.6M on travel, $4.2M on consultants, and $1.7M on undocumented professional expenses
- Zelaya never offered a 2009 budget
- Zelaya spent $4M on the Constitutional Convention
I answered them, pointing out that they’d missed a few of his good deeds, like holding down the price of petroleum and helping deal with the large landowners; that they don’t seem to understand that politics is in part about rewarding your friends; and that if all the the dictatorship could come up with was a few million of questionable expenditures, they obviously have never heard of the Pentagon which manages to lose sums of money that are large even by American standards. My response was not particularly well-written, but hopefully it’s intelligible.