Dealing in the Politics of Self Interest

  • Written by  Wendy Griffin

It is curious why Honduras, which is so much smaller than the United States infinitely less powerful and active in the world, requires three Vice-Presidents instead of just one. This is the way it has been since 1957. In Honduras, the VPs are called "designados presidenciales" (presidental designees). President-elect Juan Orlando Hernández's designados presidenciales are Ricardo Antonio Álvarez Arias, Ava Rossaura Guevera Pinto, and Lorena Enriqueta Herrera Estecer. It has been common for most of the last 20 years for at least one of the Honduran VPs to be a woman, and she is usually given a symbolically important post of supervising committees that deal with women's issues.

Mr. Álvarez, who is the "No. 1 VP" (in terms of succession) is the outgoing mayor of Tegucigalpa, but more importantly he was Mr. Hernández's main opponent during the National Party's primary in 2012. During the primary season candidates in Honduras are referred to as "pre-candidates". Mr. Álvarez, along with former Minister of Pubic Works, Transportation and Housing Miguel Pastor, were the losing Nationalist pre-candidates.


During the Liberal administration of President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009), the three-VP custom was eliminated and there was only one VP, Elvin Santos, who resigned early in order to run for president. That is why when Mr. Zelaya was overthrown by a coup in June 2009, there was no VP to assume power. Instead, the National Congress voted for Roberto Micheletti to take over as interim president during the second half of 2009 and most of January 2010. Mr. Micheletti was the president of the National Congress and had been an important member of the Liberal Party for decades, so he seemed the logical choice.


Often, Honduran politicians at the national level work out deals, in which one pre-candidate promises another pre-candidate a good post in his or her government in exchange for the losing pre-candidate's total support. Since Honduran presidents are constitutionally limited to one term in office, they often try to groom or mentor certain individuals in their party whom they think would be good for them personally or for the party (as opposed to the country) to be the next president.


Every Tegucigalpa-based politician I heard mentioned as having worked for the campaigns of Presidents Roberto Reina (1994-1998), Carlos Flores (1998-2002) , and Manuel Zelaya when they were candidates have either themselves become president or where pre-candidates for president and then were awarded ministerial jobs to thank them for their support. Both Mr. Flores and Mr. Zelaya were given ministerial-level positions prior to becoming president.


Hondurans have a popular, and certainly cynical, saying about their politicians which perfectly summarizes why the vast portion of them are poor and have a hard time getting ahead: "Hoy para mi, mañana para ti.”  It means: "Today you help me and then tomorrow I'll help you." The latter part of the deal always tends to falls short. (1/10/13) (image courtesy Internet)



Note: Wendy Griffin is the co-author of the book "Los Garifunas de Honduras" (1995) and was previously a reporter for Honduras This Week about Honduran ethnic groups including the Garifunas and an anthropology professor for the UPN in La Ceiba. Since 1996, she has split her time between living in the US and volunteering and living in Trujillo... in or near the Garifuna neighborhoods there.


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