[private]Another election year, or as some here say, “another political year,” is upon us on the Bay Islands.
It always amuses me to hear some candidates explain their reason for running. “People throughout the island have been approaching me and begging me to consider running for public office,” they would have us believe. Nobody ever says, “I have decided to heed the clarion call of my insatiable need for attention.”
The political landscape in Honduras is fragmented to such a degree that it’s doubtful any presidential contender will be given a clear mandate. No candidate will likely receive a majority of the votes. In purely political terms, that means the winner would have to negotiate with other political parties and form a coalition to be able to govern. As it is now, President Lobo has a clear majority in Congress, and it is difficult to get anything done.
Now is the appropriate time for the candidates to spell out in detail their ideas for moving the country forward. These would-be leaders should tell us what their plans are for combatting crime and corruption, which go hand in hand.
Honduras is in a shambles. When the attorney general admits that only one in five homicides are even investigated (let alone solved), you know there is practically no rule of law. The current judicial system lends itself to corruption. Everything is done behind closed doors. Democracy dies behind closed doors.
The number-one priority for the country should be providing security for its citizens. By that standard, President Lobo is failing miserably. An article in the Miami Herald some months ago concluded that an unholy alliance among the police, prosecutors, judges, politicians and drug dealers had turned the country into a shooting gallery. Honduras now has the highest per-capita homicide rate on the planet, with San Pedro Sula leading the way as the most dangerous city in the world (not including those at war).
Honduras has millions of hard-working citizens, it has beautiful beaches and ancient ruins to attract tourists. So why is it such a mess? The answer is simple and no secret. Honduras is not the safe and prosperous country it should be because of its corrupt government and the corrupt politicians who run it. Politicians in Honduras are solely concerned with power and promoting their own interests.
Political parties no longer have visions. Without a vision of the common good, a party is just a faction seeking to promote the interests of its members with no sense of responsibility for the country as a whole.
Daron Acemogly, co-author of Why Nations Fail, says nations thrive when they develop inclusive political and economic institutions and fail when those institutions become extractive and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of a few. Honduras needs a leader who can combine a spirit of inclusion with a brutal honesty to tell the people that so many years have been wasted that we really need to start over by strengthening education, shrinking the state, stimulating entrepreneurship, empowering women and reforming the police and judiciary.
An old German proverb says, “To change and to improve are two different things.” We can improve if the elections produce a broad national unity government. There is still a chance the country will be able to manage the problems that it can no longer avoid and perhaps still avoid the even worse problems that it cannot possibly manage.
American journalist Eric Severeid once said, “The difference between the men and the boys in politics is, and always has been, that the boys want to be something, while the men want to do something.”[/private]