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.