By: Julián Arturo
The following blog is a brief account of the first one hundred days in office of the new president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro. For this purpose, we review the most important events and initiatives of these first three months of the new government's administration.
Rescue of the Rule of Law
In the first months of the administration there were attempts to recover the rule of law through the repeal of laws that had destroyed it, such as the Secrecy Law that kept censored the declaration of expenditures made by the State of the public budget and the issuance of the amnesty law to exempt political charges those politically persecuted during the twelve years following the coup d'état of 2009.
Likewise, the Military Forces were withdrawn from civilian functions such as the custody of prisons, social work in rural areas, etc.
The Struggle to Achieve the Transition of Government
In spite of all the hopeful panorama, the government itself emphasizes that they inherited a State in bankruptcy. Although they have the legal power now, the power structures have become stagnant during the past 12 years.
In principle, the country is in a time of transition of government. Despite the campaign speeches of the intentions to stop the extractivist projects whose licenses have been obtained illegally only remained in discourse, there was never an executive or legislative decree that formalized this political will for change.
The military budget and other security expenses were not reduced at all. Also, an absurd budget to protect public officials and former public officials giving them security guards, armored cars and a stipend to pay expenses and wages for security issues is still in place.
In the same sense, the social funds have been reactivated, which is nothing more than the power of the congressmen to manage projects or, rather, money for their execution. The worrying thing is that this type of unconstitutional contributions for the legislators, encourage the clientelism and corruption that we want to leave behind.
As another strong point in favor of this thesis, we have that this year the State approved less than 1% (0.069) of the national budget to allocate it to institutions that serve victims of human rights violations (CONADEH, sedh, conaprev, ccesct). The Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (MoP) was not allocated a budget increase, despite the fact that its beneficiaries are demanding an increase in the work of this state agency, which has always suffered from a low operational capacity limited by its precarious budgetary conditions.
Clashes with Trade Union and Business Sectors
It is observed that tensions are being created between the establishment and the media. A statement made by the government's undersecretary of press, assured that the government will initiate a frontal strategy against fake news. In response, the Association of Journalists of Honduras stated that this could be an attempt to censor and control the media, which sets off alarms due to similar experiences in the region.
In order to reform the institutions vitiated by corruption, the government has also proposed an energy reform which considers electric energy as a public good of national security and a human right. Hoping to declare an emergency in the sector, which would mean that the government will renegotiate the electric energy contracts with the private generators in order to reduce the rates of the energy service and, in case they do not want to negotiate the reduction of rates per kilowatt, the State will assume the control of the plants, previously paying a compensation for this fact.
However, the private sector has taken the message as something negative, moreover, it is said that it is a hasty decision to solve an issue that has been going on for more than 12 years. In a statement, the US ambassador stated on Twitter: "The energy reform is critical for economic development. We are analyzing the energy proposal and as written we are concerned about the effect it will have on foreign investment and the independence of the regulatory agency".
The statement above raised the concerns about the rejection of the government, for which the Honduran Foreign Minister expressed that such a statement is inadequate for the construction of relations between the US and Honduras.
The Hope of Establishing International Control Bodies as a Way to Fight Corruption
In spite of everything, the government's efforts to clean up the institutions continue from the presidency of the Republic as it was announced that in May a UN commission will come to evaluate the way in which the International Commission against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras CICIH will enter, to support the State in its mission to reform the government's institutions to a point that these are functional. It is noteworthy that the initiative to request a support commission comes directly from the government and not from the citizenry as happened with the defunct Mission of Support Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH).
Socioeconomic panorama of Honduran society
Given this state of affairs and the lack of income and sources of employment, the massive exodus of Hondurans to the United States continues. Although, as of 2020 the caravans have been smaller and many have been returned from Guatemala or Mexico. Now, even people from Venezuela are seen passing through this route to the United States.
All of the above indicates that the institutions of the Honduran government are in a transition stage, with some strong actions towards change and others that have remained in mere political discourse. it is important to recognize the fragility of the progressive government, which continues to hold much of the corrupt system in its entrails.A significant change will require a struggle with the de facto powers that goes beyond the electoral contest.