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HONDURAS
President seeks new term
Latinamerica Press
2/27/2017
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The Supreme Court paved the way for the reelection of President Juan Orlando Hernández despite Constitutional ban.

President Juan Orlando Hernández, of the National Party (PN), has made very open his wish to seek reelection practically since taking office in 2014 for a term that will end on January 27, 2018.

On Nov. 6 of last year, Hernández announced that he would run for reelection in the elections of November 2017 because “he still has much more left to do.”

“I have made the decision to accept the nomination as candidate of the party lines, assuming to fulfill this commitment with respect and to the highest standards,” the President said, adding that he promised “before the people” to only seek one more term, which will end in 2022.

Hernández said that he accepted the request of the movements linked to the PN to be their candidate “under the premise that I want to dedicate myself to the tasks of governance and you will be the ones to carry out the proselytizing campaigns.”

In April 2015, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favor of an appeal presented by former president Rafael Leonardo Callejas (1990-94), also of the PN, to declare as inapplicable paragraph 2 of article 239 of the Constitution.

“No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Designated. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those who support this violation directly or indirectly will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years,” reads the constitutional text, which is part of the “articles set-in-stone” that legally cannot be amended or repealed.

The ruling declared the inapplicability of the article “for restricting, diminishing and distorting fundamental guarantees and rights established in the Constitution and in the Human rights treaties signed by Honduras.”

For the El Faro newspaper columnist, Joaquín Mejía Rivera, the reelection of Hernández “is part of a very well-conceived plan that was forged since the time when he became President of the National Congress during the mandate of Porfirio Lobo Sosa (2010-2014), that emerged from questionable elections organized by the de facto government that came to power after the coup in 2009.”

“We are unquestionably facing a new rupture of constitutional order that is not easy to understand without the context of absolute subordination of the institutions to the Executive Branch. In 2009, those who participated in the coup justified the use of arms and violence to put a stop to the presumed intentions of running for reelection of former President Manuel Zelaya Rosales [2006-2009]; in 2017, President Hernández has consolidated a large network of favors and controls placing at the head of the governmental institutions those faithful party members who will not impede his continuity plans despite committing unimaginable legal aberrations in a state of law and which represents a new blow to the fragile Honduran democracy,” Mejia Rivera said.

Corruption and criminalization
Since 2010, when Lobo Sosa of the PN took office, corruption and criminalization of civil protest have had free reign in Honduras.

In 2015, thousands of people took to the streets demanding the resignation of Hernández after investigations from the Public Ministry discovered the funneling into private accounts of more than US$200 million from the Honduran Social Security Institute, meant for the purchase of medicines and supplies, and the payment of old-age and disability pensions during the mandate of Lobo Sosa. Part of that money ended up in the hands of the governing party.

The murder of over 120 activists in the past seven years have led international organizations to consider Honduras as the most dangerous country for those who defend human rights, the environment and the land.

The most recent victim is José de los Santos Sevilla, the leader of the Tolupán indigenous community, in the municipality of Orica, located 75 miles from Tegucigalpa. On Feb. 17, unknown persons entered the home of the indigenous leader, whom they shot multiple times. The death of Sevilla is added to the murders last year of environmental and human rights defenders Berta Cáceres and Lesbia Urquía, and peasant leaders José Angel Flores and Silmer Dionisio George.

Representatives of Global Witness, organization dedicated to the protection of defenders of the environment and the Earth land, received threats from governmental authorities after presenting the report “Honduras: the deadliest country in the world for environmental activism,” the result of two years of investigations. On Feb. 2, Ben Leather and Billy Kyte requested urgent protection from the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations in Honduras after the Minister of the Environment, José Galdámez, demanded their arrest.

The report issued by Global Witness confirms what Amnesty International, the United Nations and the Inter American Commission of Human Rights, among other bodies, have denounced for years, that the defenders of human rights cannot carry out their work in Honduras without the fear of threats or murder. What has angered the government is that the document reveals the ties of the PN with hydroelectric companies, naming the president of the party, Gladis Aurora López, as the owner of the Los Encinos and La Aurora hydroelectric projects located on the western coast of the country, projected to sell energy to the state.

President Hernández himself qualified Global Witness as “irresponsible” for not presenting proof. “When someone denounces, criticizes, protests, has to show face and say ‘here is the evidence’,” he said.

For Leather and Kyte, the fact that the United Nations had to provide them with protection until the time when they left the country on Feb. 3, goes to show that the government is afraid of what the report reveals, which used more than 250 sources including official documents. —Latinamerica Press.


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