Likely top stories this week: Honduras’ election results are still pending; the Dominican Republic deports Haitian immigrants after violence in a border town; Henrique Capriles urges the Venezuelan opposition to vote on December 8; a new report says that most Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants; Juan Manuel Santos and Rafael Correa meet in Colombia to discuss bilateral ties.
Honduran Elections: With a little over half of precincts reporting in Honduras’ presidential election on Sunday, the ruling National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández reportedly has a slight lead over Partido Libertad y Refundación (Liberty and Refoundation Party—LIBRE) candidate Xiomara Castro, who led the polls just a month ago and is the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup. The Honduran electoral tribunal said last night that Hernández had secured approximately 34 percent of the votes, versus Castro’s 29 percent. However, both candidates have claimed victory in the election that saw a record turnout. The electoral authority is expected to release an update on the election tally this afternoon.
The Dominican Republic Deports Haitians After Killings: As of Sunday, at least 244 Haitians have been deported from the Dominican Republic, a spokesman for the Group for Repatriates and Refugees said on Monday. The deportations were sparked after mob violence in a town in the southwestern Dominican Republican led many Haitian immigrants to seek refuge. The violence began when a bungled burglary led to the killing of a Dominican couple near the Haitian border and an enraged mob retaliated by killing a Haitian man. Anti-Haitian sentiments in the Dominican Republic have grown after a September ruling that threatened to strip Dominicans of Haitian descent of their citizenship. Advocates say some of the deported have sought refuge, fearing further violence.
Capriles Urges Venezuelan Opposition to Vote: As Venezuela’s December 8 municipal elections approach, opposition leader Henrique Capriles told his supporters on Saturday that they should go to the polls to express their discontent with the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Thousands of members of the Venezuelan opposition marched through the streets on Saturday, several days after the National Assembly gave Maduro powers to rule by decree for the next 12 months. The president says the new powers will allow him to fight corruption, and claims that his enemies are using “economic sabotage” to discredit his administration.
Majority of Americans Favor Pathway to Citizenship, Report Says: A Public Religion Research Institute report published Monday says 63 percent of Americans favor legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants living in the United States to become citizens. Though the U.S. Congress appears to have abandoned legislation that would offer a plan for comprehensive immigration reform, 60 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and 73 percent of Democrats said that they supported some form of legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens, according to the report. A full 71 percent of respondents said that they would support citizenship for undocumented immigrants who met requirements like paying back taxes and learning English.
Santos and Correa Meet: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa are meeting in the Colombian border town of Ipiales on Monday to discuss bilateral relations and to inaugurate a new bridge between the two countries. Relations between Ecuador and Correa were reestablished in 2010 after the two countries broke off relations when Colombia bombed a FARC encampment in Ecuador without the authorization of the Ecuadorian government in 2008. Ministers from both countries are expected to meet today to discuss security and defense as well as shared commercial interests.
This is not another posting about Honduras. We’ve had enough of those and the back and forth. This is broader: about the general sense of drift of this administration’s policy in the region. (Warning: this is a précis of a future article.)
Is partnership really possible today in the Americas? For all the rhetoric and desire for collective action, the hemisphere is too divided, U.S. politics too polarized, and a number of Latin American countries too willing to shirk responsibility for that to happen.
President Barack Obama’s administration walked into office and the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago talking about partnership in the hemisphere—a welcome refrain from recent years. But if current events are any indication, the region doesn’t want partners it wants a punching bag. Partnership assumes a level of shared values, responsibility and future. The last eight months demonstrate everything but.
First, the sad debate at the Summit of the Americas in April. President Obama came armed with public adulation, a global honeymoon and a promise of partnership. All the presidents of the hemisphere united; the first regional meeting with the newly elected President Obama, and what do the Latin American countries put on the agenda? Cuba.
The Honduran elections on Sunday brought a decisive victory to National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo, winning 55.9 percent of the votes according to figures by the Honduran election authorities. Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party conceded defeat with 30.09 percent of the votes cast. These numbers were consistent with independent verification but a discrepancy does exist with respect to the rate of voter turnout. The electoral tribunal reported a 61.3 percent voter turnout rate while Hagamos Democracia, which conducted the electoral tribunal’s quick count, noted that 47.6 percent of Hondurans voted.
Following his win, Mr. Lobo said, “I am announcing a government of national unity, of reconciliation. There’s no more time for divisions.”
Nonetheless, the hemisphere remains divided on the legitimacy of the elections with some refusing to recognize the results. Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela have said they will not recognize the votes. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said Brazil will not recognize the elections “because it's not possible to accept a coup.” On the other hand, the United States endorsed the elections, called it “a necessary and important step forward.” Similarly, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is confident that the new Lobo government will make “every effort to overcome the difficult situation [in Honduras], to fully consolidate the democratic institutions and to obtain a minimum agreement of national unity.” Peru, Panama, and Costa Rica also stand behind the vote.
Lobo’s four-year term will begin on January 27, 2010. As President, Lobo has promised to increase social benefits and create jobs by attracting private investment to a country where 70 percent of the seven million Hondurans are poor.
Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa, a wealthy landowner from Olancho, is an experienced politician and served as president of congress from 2002-2006. Lobo studied in Russia in the 1980s and was labeled a leftist by his rivals, but now belongs to the country’s conservative party. He ran for presidency in the 2005 presidential election, but lost a tight race to now disposed President Manuel Zelaya. On Wednesday, Honduran lawmakers will vote on whether to restore Zelaya to the presidency until his term expires.