Friday, November 11, 2005

Honduran Politics (going to the dogs?)

Driving the main highway between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, one wonders if Honduras isn’t an overly religious country populated with Christian fundamentalist. After all, Jesus for President signs are seen, painted on rocks, throughout the countryside. When asked about the signs, I’m told that this Jesus isn’t the Son of God or a Puerto Rico baseball player, but a politician for the National Party who ran for President of Honduras several elections ago. He lost. Yet, his signs on rocks still stands along with newer signs for Pepe and Mel and a couple other minor candidates that are running for the office this year. The Honduran election occurs later this November. Pepe and Mel’s signs, I’m sure, will continue to remain visible until they finally weather away. I’m going to have to find out what kind of paint Jesus’ sign painter used and use it on the trim of my house.

If you’re thinking that Pepe and Mel and Jesus are all first names, you’re right. Actually, with Pepe and Mel, they’re nicknames. Their real names are Porfigia Lebo (I think I got that right) and Manuel Zetaya. Can you imagine what the 2004 US elections would have sounded like if the battle had been between Georgie Boy and Johnny, instead of Bush and Kerry?

Honduras allows a president to serve only one term. In Central America, being elected for a second term allows for one to assume dictatorial powers, so the constitution prohibits one from seeking a second term. I was told the constitution always prohibits the President of Congress from running for President, but that doesn’t stop Pepe, the National (or Conservative) candidate. No one could explain this to me, but then I had a hard time explaining our elections, so we came out even.
Most of the Hondurans I know are mostly apathetic about national politics. Those who vote plan to vote for Mel, the Liberal candidate, but mostly they agree that all the national politicians are crooked. As one suggested, the Nationals (Conservatives) are just a bit more crooked than the Liberals. I nodded emphatically, knowing how they feel. The Liberal Party colors are red; the National Party colors are blue. You can tell which party candidates for mayor and congress are by the colors of their posters.

I got a feeling the Nationals will win this year. Pepe is running on a plan to change the
constitution to allow the death penalty (maybe he’ll do this when he changes the constitution to allow himself be president) as a way to fight the gang violence in the cities. Of course, the Liberals too are concern about violence, but they raise legitimate concerns about the use of capital punishment. After all, this is Central America and trials are not always fair, especially when one is a member of the wrong party.

I had a couple of brushes with political fame in Honduras. A friend, the principal of the school in San Jeronimo, is running on the National Party ticket for Mayor. My other brush with Honduran political fame occurred in Tegoose (short way of saying Tegucigalpa). I was staying with a friend who lives down the road from Mel (Mel lives in a very middle class neighborhood for Honduran and certainly for American President standards). One morning, Mel’s dog (a big puppy) was out roaming the street. I had to get a picture of me with the dog, for it may become a collector’s item. If Mel wins, the dog will be the "First Dog" of Honduras. And if this happens, I may take the picture off the blog and try to sell it on Ebay.

By the way, dogs in Honduran cities (who are generally kept for protection) have a much better life than dogs in the countryside where they’re all scavengers. If Hindu’s are right, one has to have very bad karma to come back as a dog in the villages. And I can’t see Mel’s dog being much of a guard dog, however he did have guards with big guns in front of this house and the neighborhood had guards at its entrance.


  1. Fascinating stuff - i know virtually nothing about Honduras or it's political system I am ashamed to say.

    here from Michelles today, but I'll be back:-)

  2. I was just musing about honduras yesterday. not sure if you know, but what, exactly was going on in the 80's that was politically dangerous for US interests? Anything? Am I imagining things? My father is an architect who traveled to Honduras frequently when I was young and I distinctly remember the words "dangerous" and "be careful" used before every departure. Why? I'm visiting from Michelle's today (did I do the comment game wrong?) and am pleased to have made your acquaintance. I'll be back!

  3. As for the above, it was a dangerous place, it had two civil wars going on on it's borders.
    Ugly ones to.

    That's a nice Dog. I'd vote for him.

    Red and Blue, they have our colors reversed. I'll refrain from more political comment. Interesting though.

  4. Callie, AI is right, in the 80s, there were Civil Wars going on in neighboring states. Two things made Honduras unstable during this period. Lots of the "contras" would come into Honduras from Nicaragua and El Salvador for safe haven. The US also increased its military presence in Honduras to train "our side" in the neighboring battles. All this made the place rather unstable.

    Unlike her neighbors, Honduras never had a large scale Civil War. But there were protest for land reform and the country has in recent years had lots of drug lords operate out of there (the head of a Columbian Drug Ring was captured in Honduras.

    A good book about what went on in Honduras during this time--from a populist/leftest prospective--is DON"T BE AFRAID, GRINGO: A HONDURAN WOMAN SPEAKS FROM THE HEART: THE STORY OF ELIVA ALVARADO by Medea Benjamin.

  5. What an interesting post (and site!) I love learning about other countries, especially their politics. Thanks!

    PS...Michele sent me!


  6. I remember in Costa Rica the one term presidency applied also. I understand them all to be corrupt...and they take the money for highways...pocket it, etc. One of the reasons for the roads being so bad. Just what I remember...hearing.

    The name Jesus, of course pronounced different in a common name also for men....but I'm sure it was surprising at first to see it posted for President...I would have smiled w/joy...of course until I found out otherwise. Perhaps bad karma on painting over it...(smiling)

    Remember too when friends went to El Salvador to surf back then....yes it was dangerous.

  7. I've wondered many times what our pet pig was in a previous life. I mean, if you had to come back as a pig, wouldn't you want to sleep in a house with pillows, blankets & have food steamed for you? I think she probably was a seeing eye dog or performed some lifesaving stunt.
    We could've called Georgie & Johnny...bighead & longface. :)

  8. AI, don't feel you have to refrain yourself!

    Suzie, Yes, Jesus is pronounced differently. I've often wondered why we don't use his name in English (as a proper name for men) but it's so common in Hispanic cultures--at least among ball players.

    Jane, you have a pet pig that lives on pillows and eat steamed vegetables? Do you serve it up with melted cheese or hollandaise sauce? To shift religious philosophies... If the prodigal son got to live like the pig in your house, he'd never become the prodigal! Thanks for stopping bye. I also like your take on Disney's version of the Three Little Pigs (that Walt had something against wolves)...

  9. Why are you in Honduras? Is it work related or what. I'm totally ignorant about the place..thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  10. Wow, come visit from Michele's and get a terrific education on Honduran politics. You've gotta love the internet.

    If you ever figure out what kind of paint they used for Jesus' sign, please let me know because whenever I paint something outside the paint seems to peel off after 6 months.

  11. I've only made it to Panama and Costa Rica. I'm very familiar with so called Politics in those countries. It's really whom you can pay off better.
    Via Michele and Teh west Indies.