Honduras: On the Brink of Conflicts
Honduras: On the Brink of Conflicts
May to June is one of the best times for tourism in Honduras especially during the week long carnival at Laceiba towards the end of May. The level of celebration and festivity may give Honduras an aura of peace and tranquility but this is not always so. Honduras is one country which is always on the brink of internal conflicts, coups or even external military aggression. While many factors play a predominant role in increasing the risk of conflicts in Honduras, culture is an integral component in this level of risk.
Honduras is politically and geographically situated between Guatemala and Nicaragua where it borders the Caribbean Sea and between Nicaragua and El Salvador bordering the North Pacific Ocean. In Central America, Honduras are the poorest and arguably the most backward. A large section of the country is simply rolling ridges that rise to an approximate elevation of 9000 feet. However, an extensive littoral plain can also be found along the Atlantic coast. The Honduras populace is concentrated in the hills where they live in the sleepy villages or in the haciendas.
The capital city: Tegucigalpa is also situated in one of these sleepy villages. With the introduction of banana plantations and modern medicine, Honduras received it initial influences of western civilization. The cultivation of banana as a central economic activity with cultural underpinnings has played a predominant role in Honduran politics. From the time when Honduras declared its independence as a separate and sovereign political entity from the rest of Central America in 1939, politically instability has become the order of the day.
In fact, between 1939-1900, Honduras had sixty four separate presidencies and several juntas. One important aspect is that few of these presidencies of juntas’ ever exited office as prescribed in the constitution. If the 19th century was worse then the 20th century has not been any better. In the 1970s alone, the country was ruled with military strongmen who had no desire of adhering to constitutional principles (Anderson 127). The entire picture of Honduras is thus, a poor, chronically misgoverned, and a Yankee dominated country which is chronically on the brink of not only internal but also external conflicts.
The political development of Honduras has not been without any external gesture. In the 1980s, the United States State Department believed that Honduras could be transformed into a moderate democratic island in the center of turbulence in Central America. The Hondurans themselves have for decades perceived their government with some level of bemuse. To show their bemusement, it is not uncommon to hear the capital Tegucigalpa being referred as Tegucigolpe due to the “high frequency of golpes de estado” (Anderson 128).
Even though Hondurans pride themselves of the level of freedom they enjoy when compared to their neighbors, the Hacendados which live in the remote estates dominate the political scene but ironically, they do not govern Honduras. The campesinos settle in small pieces of land which they independently own. Since they have land ownership, they pride in self worth and independence. What makes this specific group to be influential is their long term unionization culture. Honduras initially had two parties; the Liberal Party constituted in 1893 and the National Party which came into being in 1916.
Currently, the country has a total of five registered parties: The Liberal Party (Partido Liberal de Honduras: PLH); National Party (Partido Nacional de Honduras: PNH); Social Christians (Partido Democrata-Cristiano de Honduras: DCH); Social Democrats (Partido Innovacion y Unidad-Social Democrata: PINU-SD), and Democratic Unification (Partido Unificacion Democratica: UD). Elections have rarely been free and fair. The Liberals and the Nationalists have engaged each other in spirited battles on the campaign trail and also in elections related petitions.
In the 2007 general elections, Manuel Zelaya of the Liberal Party emerged as the winner. The National Party of Honduras challenged the results in court but they were not successful and the inauguration of Manuel Zelaya was carried out on January, 27 2006. However, the presidency of Manuel Zelaya hit turbulence when he tried to push for a national referendum to increase the presidential term limits. The result is an ongoing constitutional crisis in which the Supreme Court and the Congress ruled that the non binding referendum is unconstitutional.
On June 28 2009, the Armed Forces arrested Manuel Zelaya and bundled him to a plane to San Jose, Costa Rica. To fill in the presidential void, Roberto Micheletti also of the Liberal Party was sworn in as interim President till elections after January 27, 2010. The crisis is still ongoing. Culture and Conflicts in Honduras The essentiality of the effect of culture in conflicts is incontestable. Cultures are basically underground rivers that flow through individual lives and the society as a whole. Culture has the potential of shaping a peoples perceptions, ideas of self, judgments and attributions.
Cultures are powerful and they exert powerful influences not only on conflicts but also conflict resolution. Culture cannot be wholly limited to aspects of food, dress and language customs. All over the world, cultural groups have developed and they share specifics of race, nationality, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, political groupings and religious affiliations. Even though culture is dynamic, it prescribes our identities and controls our relationship with others. Cultures are embedded in conflicts because every single conflict is a result of human relationships.
Culture influences conflicts either subtly or gently. Conflicts in Honduras often arise from disagreements in acknowledgment, legitimization or representation of various identities as well as ways of life, being and meaning. Dominance in military or political governance is partially a function of cultural underpinnings (http://www. beyondintractability. org/). Even though the political, cultural, social and economic transition of Honduras is akin to its neighbors on some aspects, it differs on some other aspects.
Throughout Central America, transition has been marked with class struggles, counter revolutions and United States intervention which welcome an era of political transformation and capitalism. However, unlike its neighbors, the Honduran republic has never experienced total breakdown of social order. The political crisis in the 1980s to early 1980s failed to cause a breakdown of social order. Instead, the crisis ushered in an era of the recomposition of the social orders and the changes in political domination (Robinson 118).
The key signs of globalization and neo-liberalism began featuring into Honduras in 1989 with the coming of Rafael Callejas to power. Successive governments deepened these influences. The long period of colonialism and the external military intervention in Central America and specifically Honduras created a society with no respect for the rule of the law. From one presidency to the other or from one military rule to the next, native communities were exploited, power was concentrated among the elites, freedom of action became restricted and the government operated way outside the rule of law.
Formal institutions which largely drew from liberal and conservative thought have been successfully created but their operations have not been in tune with the demands of either liberalism or conservatism. Even though the constitution and the institutions themselves do reflect the honest views of their drafters, their applicability is discriminative in terms of socioeconomic, ethnic and racial terms. Power, which is both a political, cultural and social tool, is an integral component of relationships in the society.
The powerful have for centuries dominated the state affairs. This implies that while the strongest enjoy state resources, the majority who are poor have to contend with the myriad of negative consequences. Power and status are closely related in Honduras. One’s status which is guaranteed by family, clientelismo (clientelism), friendship, godfather/godson and military linkages plays an important role in social linkages (Krause 164). The result is an inequality that may act as a prerequisite to the breakdown of social order through mass social upheavals.
From history, it is arguable that Honduras has developed a culture of violence. Violence has become pervasive in the society and the daily lives of Hondurans are not shielded from violence. Those who oppose the powerful ruling elites can resort to violence to advance their objectives or even force the government to take heed of their grievances. The same pervasive violence has been extrapolated to the civil-military relations between Honduras and the international community.
Thus, it has become commonplace for individuals, or states to resort to violence to resort what is perceived as an era in the government. The current constitutional crisis in Honduras and the ouster of Zelaya attests to the fact that even if the crisis will be resolved, the probability of using authoritarian solutions to solve internal problems may resurface in the future. The hands of the Honduran military cannot be eliminated from the current constitutional conflict gripping Honduras.
It is easy to discern that a majority of the protesters pushing for the return of Zelaya are mainly Garifuna drummers who chant and sing in their ethnic language. Their motivation is Zelaya’s attempt at changing the constitution. Even though many of them may not necessarily support Zelaya, the crisis has given them a visibility, a representation. A constitutional Assembly would have given them a chance to represent their grievances after so many years in the political cold. The Garifunas occupy the Northern part of the Caribbean coast.
Even though these Afro-Ameridians have been marginalized with regard to politics, their music, dance and language is an integral component of the Honduran culture. Only four Garifunas are currently visible in the political sphere but their lives are constantly in danger due to threats and assassinations perpetrated by assassins hired by wealthy land owner’s intent on grabbing the Garifuna’s traditional territories (http://www. ww4report. com/node/7627). It is prudent to note that, the political development of the Honduran state has always been at the threat of internal coups and military control.
The current scenario is therefore age old. There are individuals who have demonstrated that the current conflict and increasing likelihood of external military intervention is directly related to the militarization of Miskitia. In 2006, the former President of the United States of America; George W. Bush and Zelaya me and negotiated for US military to have unlimited access to the Mosquitia region. This region is was crucial for accessing the coastal wastelands and rain forest and hence combating drug trafficking.
In a broad security context, the United States interest in Honduras is driven by the desire to fully convert Honduras into a military base for aggression and subversion in the Latin American region (Chomsky 242). Due to external interest and or involvement in the Honduran crisis, it is prudent to note that Honduras is a classic case of integrating into global capitalism with complete disregard to national histories. It is historically evident that due to the low level of development among subordinate and dominant classes, the state and the economy continued to lag behind comparative to other Central American states.
This limitation, together with the lack of abundant resources will continue to impact on the transition of Honduras under globalization. All factors taken into consideration, it is important to note that the constitutional situation in Honduras needs a speedy resolution before the situation becomes extremely fragile and difficult to resolve. As more time elapses, the situation may be blown out of context or the measures taken by the international community may cause adverse effects on the Honduran citizenry.
Other international players have been quick to point out that the coupists should agree to relinquish power before free and fair elections are held. In context, this scenario implies the removal of de facto president Roberto Michelletti to ensure a speedy resolution of the Honduran stalemate. Without the removal of the de facto President, a precedent may be set where military coups become the alternate method of installing a new government and carrying out elections that are specifically geared towards the desires of the military rulers.
As things stand now, the de facto President remains the coupist while President Manuel Zelaya remains the constitutionally elected president of Honduras. Thus, if his disregard for constitutional rule was to be ruled as being inappropriate, it also follows that the nature of his removal will also remain unconstitutional. Cultural identities can be national, organizational, ethnic, or occupational. The pervasiveness of culture in everyday lives attests that individuals carry multiple cultural identities even if they originate from the same social group.
In cases where there is too much emphasis on culture, stereotyping is promoted and this may stimulate conflicts between groups. Additionally, emphasis on culture may draw undue attention to idiosyncrasies. From a conflict resolution perspective, culture plays an integral role in bringing conflicting peoples together for a common good. Internal political, social and economic strife in Honduras is a result of the ruling elite systematically putting in systems that prevents the vulnerable, poor and disadvantaged ethnic minorities from accessing resources.
Corruption, bad governance and disregard for the rule of law can only be stumped out if conflict resolution mechanisms take into account the influence of culture on conflicts. Conclusion Conflict resolution is a multifaceted framework. Culture is partially responsible for the rise of conflicts and hence their resolution. Given the multi ethnic nature of the Honduran populace, cultural fluency is an integral component of any conflict resolution mechanism. When individualist or communitarian objectives are pursued per se without any regard for conflicting opinions, then escalation in violence may occur.
The current constitutional crisis in Honduras reeks of individualist ambitions which ran into conflicting opinions of the Congress and the Supreme Court. The military ouster of Zekaya attests to the fact that unless cultural underpinnings are solemnized and given a national appeal, culture will continue to play a predominant role in future internal military conflicts or external military intervention in Honduras. Works Cited Anderson, Thomas P. Politics in Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Greenwood Publishing Group, 1988; 120-133 Chomsky, Noam. The Culture of Terrorism. South End Press, 1988; 242 LeBaro, Michelle. Culture and Conflicts. Knowledge Base Easy. Beyond Intractability. July 2003. http://www. beyondintractability. org/essay/culture_conflict/ Krause, Keith. Culture and security: multilateralism, arms control, and security building. Routledge, 1999; 163-168 Robinson, William I. Transnational conflicts: Central America, social change and globalization. Verso, 2003; 117-124