Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Day For Democracy

November 29, 2009 has finally arrived for the citizens of Honduras. Today they go to the polls to democratically elect their new president. I've had the television on since a little before 7:00 a.m. this morning when the polls were to open. So far, very little in the way of problems for the voters. The only thing I've heard is that at one polling place, a small group of 'resistencia' members tried to block the way to the school where voting was to take place. They were calmly removed by the police with no violence or excessive force used.

Observers and 'reporters' (those who are in attendence to report if there appears to be any questionable activity) are present at all polling places, as are journalists from around the world. Local TV has been interviewing people who are in line to vote and all are excited about the chance to choose their new leader. The polls close at 4:00 p.m. and preliminary results should begin coming in within 2 hours after the polls close.

Ballots began arriving in the very early hours today in cardboard boxes, with military personnel guarding them. Each voter will cast a ballot in each of 3 boxes, or 'urna' as they are called. The ballots all have color photographs of each candidate for President, as well as the members of Congress and other local elections. To my knowledge, there is no computerized way of counting the votes, so it will all be done by hand. Observers will be there to make sure it's all on the up and up. I'm optomistic that things will go well and a new president will be announced later tonight or tomorrow.

As for Citizen Zelaya, I've heard that Spain has turned down his request for political asylum and he has applied to Nicaragua. I would rather see him across the ocean than right next door. Being so close could be problematic for Honduras.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed and trying to be positive about today's election. Good for Honduras. Even better for the people of Honduras. Show the world that you came through this crisis with your head held high and your constitution intact!

(Thanks to Mitch Cummins of Roatan for the picture.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let There Be Peace

Election day here in Honduras is almost upon us. The country will finally elect their next president. Roberto Micheletti has voluntarily stepped down, moved aside or otherwise removed himself from the picture in an effort to further legitimize the election in the eyes of the world, stating that if there were problems he would return immediately. With Congress left in charge, the country is once again under the rule of appropriately elected officials. The country has been functioning much better since the sudden involuntary departure of Manuel Zelaya in June but, nevertheless, the urgings from the US that Micheletti 'take a vacation' seems to have made sense to him.

The ballot boxes destined for cities some distance from the capitol have left the building where they have been stored and are in trucks on their way to the schools where they will be ready for Sunday's election. The schools have been closed for some time since they are the polling places for elections. As sad as it is, they've been empty pretty much all year due to the teacher's participation in many of the violent demonstrations by the pro Zelaya supporters. You see, the teachers have a very strong union. They don't pay taxes. They get paid whether they are in the classrooms or not. They get paid to demonstrate. And to think they are responsible for the future generations of Honduras...what a shame.

The only 2 candidates I've heard anything about are Pepe Lobo and Elvin Santos. They've been doing their best to convince the masses that they deserve their vote. I have no idea which one would be better for this country but odds are either one will be better than the previous president. I really hope, for the sake of the people of Honduras, that there have been some lessons learned as a result of this political crisis. There have been plenty of examples of what not to do, that's for sure. But with a history of years of corruption to overcome, whoever does win will have quite a battle to reinvent Democracy in the Honduran government. So much should be learned from what has happened during the past 5 months...and even before that.

The next few days will be interesting. Zelaya has torn apart the recently signed accord, paragraph by paragraph, by not abiding by its content. He has called for a boycott of the elections and in return, it was announced that anyone found promoting this action is subject to 6 years in prison. There are rumors flying about a 'toque de queda,' or curfew, beginning Friday afternoon. It's my guess that it will happen, if for no other reason than to make sure things are calm before the election on Sunday. And I would guess that if they do it for Friday, it will extend through Saturday also. With bomb threats and grenades appearing more and more often, it seems logical to call for a curfew to keep people off the streets.

I pray that things do remain calm and peaceful and that the elections take place without any questions of legitimacy or violence. There are observers coming from all over and even possibly a delegation from Washington. With the world watching, let's hope that no one does anything stupid.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday the 13th, Honduran Style

I'm not at all superstitious. I walk under ladders. I love black cats. I step on cracks without a second thought. However, this particular Friday the 13th wasn't a very good one for the people of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The day began with a report of an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) explosion but with very little details. As information began to come in, it was determined that it was most likely shot from a small plane and the target was the building here in Tegucigalpa where the election materials ('ballots' comes to mind) are stored, awaiting distribution to the polling places. It failed to hit its target, instead most likely hit an electrical line, resulting in an explosion in the air but very close to the ground near the building. In today's El Heraldo online newspaper reports (, officials stated the RPG was from Nicaragua.

As the day progressed, 2 bomb threats were reported, one at a building several blocks from the American Embassy, the other allegedly at Toncontin International Airport. After bomb squads searched both areas, no bombs were found. However, it is apparent that those who would make these threats have one motive...disrupt the lives of the Hondurans. Cause fear and intimidation. Make people think twice about voting.

Elections are just a little over 2 weeks away and Mr. Zelaya's supporters are ramping up their efforts to cause whatever problems they can to stop/disrupt/discredit the elections. The vast majority want this election to take place. They want to choose their next president but if Zelaya has his way, it won't happen. From inside his 'headquarters' in the Brazilian embassy, he is calling the shots. He is giving instructions to boycott the election, cause chaos and confusion, intimidation and fear. He claims that the world cannot recognize any new government unless he is reinstated as president. This week, President Micheletti offered to resign on the condition that Zelaya cease his efforts to be reinstated, request political amnesty from Brazil and retreat to some other country. Spain has been mentioned. So far, no response from Zelaya.

Today's papers had photographs of 3-pointed spikes that were seized by authorities, intended to be put in the streets so that trucks could not deliver the ballots to the polling places. I guess that was Plan B since Plan A's RPG missed its target.

Let's go back to Mr. Zelaya for a minute. He is a spoiled child who, when he realized that he wasn't going to get his way after the signing of the Tegucigalpa/San Jose Accord, threw a tantrum and refused to play with anyone. He is totally unpredictable and cannot be trusted to abide by any agreement he enters into. He has a history of this as President. The thought of having him back in the presidential palace calling the shots is pretty scary. I do understand that the goal of the United States is to have a democratically elected president in place when the elections take place. I must add here that there is tape of Zelaya in a news conference admitting that he won that election (by the narrowest margin) by fraud. So many Hondurans fear that if he is in power for even a day or two, let alone 2 months, the damage he could do is mind boggling. El Heraldo had a quote from Mr. Zelaya today:

"El ex presidente Manuel Zelaya dijo que el gobierno de Estados Unidos lo ha dejado 'en medio del rio diciendo que ahora la prioridad son las elecciones' en Honduras.


The ex-president Manuel Zelaya said that the government of the United States has left him 'in the middle of a river, saying that now the priority is the elections' in Honduras"

Wait a minute...isn't that exactly what we want...fair elections? You mean Zelaya isn't the main object of our attention?? How dare we do that...

My tour here ends in May and I will be on my way to Muscat, Oman. There are certain events which must occur before the State Department will begin evacuation procedures of Americans in an embassy. There's a list outlining these events. I'm told we aren't close to taking that action but there have been meetings so everyone is prepared should it come to that. I think Zelaya's thugs have more tricks up their sleeves. I really don't want to leave until May. I want to see this crisis resolved, a fair and decisive election and the inauguration of a new president for these Honduran people. They all so deserve some good in their lives.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Update on the Honduras Political Crisis

Last Friday, representatives of both Manuel "Mel" Zelaya (or Citizen Mel as I call him) and President Roberto Micheletti signed what is referred to as the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Basically, it states that Congress will decide if Mel is to be allowed back in power, along with several other bullet points (pun intended). However, for everything to happen, the stars must align with Mars and Pluto and you have to hold your tongue just other words, it's far from a done deal. Pay no attention to the jubilous celebrating that occurred Friday night by the Zelaya supporters. So much could go wrong and things could be worse than before. I believe the problems are far from being solved for Honduras.