Ongoing political instability threatens to seriously undermine long-term development gains in Honduras, one of Central America’s poorest nations, Catholic agency Progressio and a number of its locally-based partner organisations say on the eve of the country’s presidential elections on Sunday 29 November 2009.
Six months after the military coup which ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Hondurans are preparing to head to the polls in just two days’ time.
Yet Progressio says its local partners report that incidents of violence and unrest are still widespread. Unless democracy prevails, they say, the country’s poor and marginalised will face an uphill struggle to make their voices and concerns heard in the years to come.
“The coup has meant a setback for the strides women’s movements have made over the last twenty years,” said María Elena Méndez of Honduras’ Women’s Studies Centre.
“The dismantling of democracy brought about by the coup has weakened state institutions. In addition, domestic violence has soared amidst the prevailing climate of impunity,” she added.
Honduras has found itself in limbo following the ousting of the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, on 28 June. A number of civil society organisations have been forced to suspend relations with the de-facto government while reports of human rights violations are common. One human rights organisation alone (COFADEH, the Committee of Families of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras) has registered 4000 human rights abuses since the coup.
Concepción Aguilar of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations in Honduras (ASONOG), said: “Before the coup, things had started to move forward, as far as [Honduras’] national Poverty Reduction Strategy goes. After the coup, we suspended relations with the de-facto government, so many projects are frozen. Plus, funds from international donors have shrunk.”
Jesús Garza of the Honduran Coalition for People’s Action commented: “So long as there is no genuine democratisation…and a model of citizen participation that is truly inclusive, electoral processes will not make an actual difference in the country. It is only by opening participative spaces to people…that we will be able to solve the ongoing crisis.”
Lizzette Robleto, Progressio’s Advocacy Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “After almost 70 years of development work with the world’s poor and marginalised, Progressio knows only too well that people rely on democratic structures to enable them to grow and prosper. We, and many of our partners, are worried it could be difficult for truly democratic elections to take place this weekend. The democratic process is being undermined meaning future development gains will almost certainly be more difficult.”
“That’s why the continued support of the international community to help uphold the values of democracy in Honduras is more important than ever,” Robleto continued. “Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in Central America – we cannot allow positive steps made during 27 years of democratic rule to be reversed.”