Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Challenges of Honduran Dialogue

The Alianza de Oposición in Honduras says it will accept Juan Orlando Hernández's offer of dialogue if there is an international mediator. Further, it called for protests and blocking highways on January 20, which is inauguration day, that would go almost a week.

But where does this go? A statement from the Honduran Bishops' Conference helps explain the dilemma.

In an open letter addressed to both Hernandez and Nasralla, the Honduran episcopate stressed the importance of transparent communication between the parties and all sectors of society. The religious delegation stated “the absence of dialogue” was the actual cause of the nation’s current political crisis.
The congregation of bishops suggested a respectful, earnest and fair exchange between the two politicians to give proof to their love of the Honduran people. This meeting should avoid awarding concessions to either party in order to quell the region's anxiety and settle on a solution which best suits the society.

This does not bear much resemblance to reality. A lawless elite power grab was the actual cause of the crisis, not absence of dialogue. And dialogue that never involves concessions automatically means favoring Juan Orlando Hernández and the status quo.

So what is the point of the dialogue? The protests apply pressure, but for what? The Alianza says that in the short term, it is about examining all the election evidence. In the long term, however, it is the creation of an "Asamblea Nacional Constituyente Originaria" and specifically that JOH is removed from power.

It stands to reason that the dialogue will focus on the election itself. This is an uphill battle since the government and the army currently have no interest in revisiting it.  The army claims the protesters aren't even Honduran!

Inevitably, JOH will be looking for signals from the United States, where he will see John Kelly winking at him in approval (I doubt Kelly is a winking person, but whatever). There is no public regional pressure that I have discerned, and Mexico has already congratulated JOH. The OAS has been loud but it has no leverage.

All the Alianza has right now is protest so it's primary challenge is to avoid protest fatigue. It will be hard enough to convince the army that it should pressure the government, and it will be impossible if the protests fizzle out. Honduras is not Venezuela but it's poor and people cannot afford simply not to work for days on end. Convincing them that real change is possible is tough--that's just not what Honduran political history has taught them.


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