Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lobo Elected New Honduran President

Porfirio Lobo has been elected Honduras new President. Lobo, of Honduras conservative National Party, won 52% of the vote. Lobo also contested the 2005 election which he lost to Manuel Zelaya who was ousted after a vote by the Honduran Congress last June. Zelaya attempted to extend his term even though Honduras' constitution strictly forbids it.

The vote went off as scheduled and was conducted peacefully. Yet Honduras is not out of the woods.

The Honduran Congress is scheduled to vote on Tuesday whether to permit Zelaya to complete his term. Last month, Honduran Interim President Roberto Micheletti and Zelaya had come to an agreement to allow a vote to determine whether Zelaya can serve out his term.

If the vote doesn't go Zelaya's way I cannot help but think his people will stir up violence. But if the vote does go Zelaya's way and he is permitted to return to office I also cannot help but think that he will not relinquish power when Lobo is scheduled to take office on January 27, 2010. This would also likely lead to violence.

Complicating matters is Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, an ally of Zelaya, who says he will not recognize the new Lobo government. Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez and Brazilian President Lula de Silva have also stated they will not recognize the newly elected government. Assuming violence breaks out under the scenarioes I have set out one must also consider if Venezuela and other Latin American goverments might be prepared to send troops into Honduras resulting in a regional war.

Of course, much will depend on how the Obama Administration handles things. So far it appears they will abide by the results even if Zelaya is not returned to power according to a letter Obama wrote to Lula last week. Assuming Obama sticks to his position then things should go better in Honduras. But if Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina decide to test Obama and challenge Lobo's legitimacy with force it remains to be seen if Obama will hold firm. If he doesn't hold firm then heaven help liberty and freedom in Latin America.

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