Tuesday, 30 June 2009
A view of the situation in Honduras from a former Salvadorean guerrilla (Rather surprising and very thought-provoking)
Central America is the most fragile region of Latin America; it includes Guatemala-- the bloodiest dictatorship, El Salvador-- the most violent country, two of the three poorest countries--Honduras and Nicaragua and, strangely enoug, the most stable democracy-- Costa Rica. In the 1980s Central America suffered the bloodiest conflict of the whole continent since the Mexican Revolution. Almost one million dead and several millions displaced in a war lasting more than a decade. In those years, the USA tolerated a genocide in Guatemala, occupied Honduras, governed El Salvador, started a war in Nicaragua and ended up invading Panama in 1989.
Central America always had a reputation as a land of frauds, military coups, caudillos, dicataors, greedy oligarchies, assassins and guerrillas. The peace of the 1990s brought the hope of long-lasting democratic institiutions, but the electoral fraud last year in Nicaragua and the recent coup in Honduras give the impression that 'bananna republics' are back in vogue.
Extremely weak states are receiving a simultaneous bombardment of criminal narco-dollars from the USA and ideological petro-dollars from Venezuela. The former buy favours and corrupt, the latter buy political alignments that are destroying the unity of countries: and both are destroying democratic institutions. After the electoral fraud, the government of president Ortega n Nicaragua seems more and more like a resurection of the Somoza dictatorship. Recently in Guatemala a victim accused president Colom of his murder using a pre-recorded video. It now seems as if this was a perverse conspiracy by drug traffikers to bring down the extremely weak government.
In El Salvador, the first Leftist government in its history looks set to become equally weak as a result of the conflict between a president that wants to remain in the Centre Left, like Lula, while his party, FLMN, will do anything possible to align themselves with Chavez. The most explosive situation, however, has occurred in Honduras, where the influence of Venezuela has managed to polarise a party system, with more than one hundred years of history, and has divided Hondurans like never before. The result has been the ousting of president Zelaya by the armed forces with the unanimous approval of Congress, the Supreme Court and all political parties, including the president's own party.
Honduras, a conservative society with a provincial political culture, a long history of coups and a conservative, pacifist Left, was suddenly subjected to debates about the Bolivarian model of constitutional reform, re-election and 21st-century socialism. Fear is the engine of all conflict and Honduras is no exception. The fear produced by the closeness of Zelaya and Chavez led the Honduran political class to do what they know to do in these situations. Legally judging the president would be too sophisticated for Honduras. Now the problem has become much more serious, as a president forced to leave the country in his pijamas never makes a good impression.
Without doubt one must denounce the coup, but the international community should take into account the fact that the authoritarian policies of Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela have become a series of provocations for the conservative and centrist forces throughout the region.
The expropriation of companies, the closure of media outlets, the street-level intimidation, arbitrary judicial decisions, perpetual re-elections and frauds are like gradual coups. The ideological polarisation of Chavism is weakening societies threatened by thousands of gangsters and powerful cartels. Central America could become a bastion of organised crime that gives refuge to mafiosos and terrorists and at the same time generates endemic instability leading to millions of emigrants.
The international community is determined to save the region but the problem is more complicated than it appears. Not only is it a question of violated institutions but also of provocations, fears and reactions which have already been unleashed. The region needs a plan of ideological depolarisation and a plan to defend it. In Central America there have always been wars and revolutions and the demilitarisation of Guatemala handed this country to the drug cartels. The underlying problem is one of the viability of small states with small economies, managed like personal estates by their leaders. Central America would have been better off as a single republic but Britain and the USA went to great lengths to ensure that they would remain divided into banana republics, in order to control them and the Panama Canal more effectively. Now, these states are so weak that they cannot defend themselves and they can be bought by drug lords, such as Chapo Guzman, or by oil-rich dictators such as Chavez.
Joaquin Villalobos, an ex-guerrilla from El Salvador, is a consultant for the resolution of international conflcits.
Translated by Czarny Kot 30/06/09. Source: ElPais.es