Thoughts on Honduras’ institutional crisis
By Ricardo Flores G. – San Salvador, July 1st, 2009.
Another institutional crisis in Latin America is taking place right before our eyes, this time in the Central American country of Honduras.
Using the expression “institutional crisis” is so sophisticated that it is generally not understood or at best is misunderstood by most people.
For example, people think that an organization (a company, a church, a foundation) is an institution; they use the words synonymously. Hence, one could change the phrase to “organizational crisis”. This does not sound so bad.
However, when an institutional crisis erupts what is really and generally happening is that the “rules of the game” are not being followed by all the players of the game. Someone is not complying; cheating in order to inappropriately take advantage while bending or circumventing the rules to his/her own benefit or interests.
Properly, in a modern democratic society, those rules are the laws that regulate the interaction among its members and between them and the government. The formal institutions form the framework that defines the scope and limits to individual freedoms and to what the government can and cannot undertake. And generally, the formal institutional framework of a society is founded and rooted on a Constitution, i.e. the fundamental law upon which all other laws are based and with which they should comply.
Whether those rules and laws are good or whether we like them or not, is another issue to ponder. But here, the key point is that an institutional crisis has to do with the breakdown of the edifice of formal rules that govern a society and allow it to work. The crisis could be considered more critical when the very foundation of the institutional framework of a country is at stake.
In Honduras, the institutional crisis started because president Zelaya was twisting and breaking the Constitution and the law to serve his own purposes and interests. Instead of enforcing the law, president Zelaya was repeatedly disregarding it and all the institutional warnings from the other branches of the state.
It seems that, as the head of the Executive, Zelaya thought he had no restraints and was not accountable to the Congress’ scrutiny or the Supreme Court’s orders. Zelaya thought that “good intentions” were enough for advancing and promoting government actions that were beyond the powers entrusted to him by the Constitution when he took office.
On the other hand, probably as fruit of desperation, lack of wisdom and proper counsel, the other powers also delegated with constitutional compliance, made a critical mistake when they ousted president Zelaya from office using the military. Overnight, the rapist became the raped. Zelaya’s crimes against the Constitution were overshadowed by this event, which undercuts legitimacy from the due actions undertaken by the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General.
All this is too sad for a nation and society that does not deserve more political instability, uncertainty, and now increasing international pressure, which should have came up months ago when president Zelaya was abusing the Constitution and making fun of the institutional framework of Honduras.
Is there any solution to this mess? I think one way out could be negotiated among all parties involved, with no intervention of Venezuela or any other biased government. President Chavez should take his hands off Honduras politics and stop threatening a country as sovereign as Venezuela. But the real challenge is how Hondurans will restore the confidence in their institutions.