Honduras: From Repressive Dictatorship to Participatory Democracy

Enrique Alberto Flores Lanza
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A proposal to get out of the worst social, economic and political crisis of our recent history.

REFOUNDATION AND SOCIAL CONSENSUS.

In Honduras every citizen who enjoys freedom of conscience, and submits to the force of reason, agrees on the need to end the opprobrious and repressive Dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, which has destroyed the country. The challenge is to agree to define where we want to go, what we seek to achieve, and what is the path to follow. It is not enough to remove the Dictator, and then everyone follows the path on their own. Nor is it enough to repeal each and every one of the opprobrious laws imposed by the usurper government, including the ZEDES, and to punish those responsible for the most scandalous cases of public corruption.

It is a matter of formulating a proposal, a plan that will allow us to get out of the worst social, economic and political crisis of our recent history, but, above all, a program that can have broad support from the population, in such a way that it will allow us to achieve a social consensus for reconstruction and national reconciliation.

The Libertad y Refundación LIBRE Party, an important member of the Opposition to the Dictatorship, proposes to REFOUND the country, a term that should not arouse fear, because it is nothing more than achieving the necessary social consensus to draft and sign a new Social Contract, which allows the construction and development of a democratic, inclusive, participatory, tolerant, but above all fairer and more humane society.

Refoundation is synonymous of reconstruction, of reconciliation of wide polarized sectors to outline common objectives, to lay the foundations of a new stage of our history, to build a new society. We cannot continue patching, weaving patches, plugging holes in a failed, servile, moribund system that has only caused exclusion, misery, authoritarianism, injustice and violence.

This task is difficult, and at the same time crucial, but we would be fooling ourselves if we believed that these changes can be made by a President alone. We would be mistaken if we thought that these transformations can be made by a Party, a Government or a Congress. These necessary and urgent changes and these great transformations can only be made by the sovereign, only by the people, broadly and democratically represented in an original Constituent Assembly. Precisely, the famous consultation of the Fourth Ballot Box was the beginning of a path of the Honduran people to the Constituent Power, but also, unfortunately, interrupted by a pretext to execute the coup d’état against participatory democracy. The United States of America, using the most retrograde and obscure sectors of national politics, and the armed forces at their permanent service, denied the Honduran people the right to be consulted, and preferred to end and give a blow to the democratic institutionality.

That was a non-binding consultation but the darkness is afraid of the slightest ray of light that points to the participation of the people because they are afraid of the exercise of their will. The right of the people to be consulted and to democratically decide their own destiny has been demonized. They have gone so far as to affirm that pretending to change the stony articles of the Constitution and convene a Constituent Assembly is a crime and a betrayal against the homeland.

IS IT A CRIME AND TREASON TO PROPOSE TO CHANGE THE CONSTITUTION?

Yes, it is when changes are made behind the backs of the people, and the sovereign will is bypassed.

The social contract, as a political theory, explains the origin and purpose of the state. The essence of the theory proposed in 1762 by Jean-Jacques Rousseau is as follows: “in order to live in society, human beings agree to an implicit social contract that grants them certain rights in exchange for giving up the freedom they would have in the state of nature. Thus, the rights and duties of individuals constitute the clauses of the social contract, while the State is the entity created to enforce the contract. Similarly, human beings can change the terms of the contract if they wish; rights and duties are not immutable or natural.”

Evidently, people are the supreme end of the interests of Society and the State. Laws are only a means to enable social coexistence and to achieve the ends of the State. The laws are a product of human societies, as these are transformed, care must be taken to adapt the laws to the new and changing reality, otherwise, the laws far from contributing to development and peace, become an obstacle to social change, and serve as a trench to the most reactionary and obscure groups that oppose change and the common good. Laws are a means, not an end. NO LAW is an infallible, stony, immovable, untouchable sacred text, which subjects and limits the human being in perpetuity; the law is simply an instrument of social coexistence, which, gathering the agreements and aspirations of a society, regulates it for the achievement of the general welfare of the population. When laws cannot achieve the social and economic welfare of the population, they are repealed and others are passed to achieve that purpose. THE IMPORTANT THING IS THE PEOPLE. IF THE LAWS DO NOT MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY, IT IS URGENT TO CHANGE THEM.

THE NATIONAL REALITY AND THE NECESSARY NEW CONSTITUTION

If twelve years ago the country required a new Constitution, today it cannot be postponed. Honduras is not only one of the poorest countries in the Americas, but also one of the most unequal societies in the world, in addition, we have been pointed out for having one of the highest rates of violence and public corruption enthroned in the very structures of the state apparatus, in addition to the deep institutional crisis and lack of legitimacy: There is no separation of public powers, there is no legal security, we do not have effective controls, and drug activity is entrenched, and eating away at the country from the Presidency of the Republic where superior orders are given to the Armed Forces and the Police where radars are turned off, and criminals pass freely on private highways, through the National Congress where crime is shielded, and coexisting among cotton wool in the Justice Administration System where they enjoy a broad protective cover.

In addition, we must emphasize that we have an exclusionary economic model, with anemic education and health systems, with collapsed public services, and natural resources, and the entire nation’s territory, which is the property of all, given away to foreign interests. A distorted tax system whereby those who pay taxes are the poorest, who also bear the burden of the country’s obligations on their backs, while the rich enjoy a tax haven, and continue to support to the last consequences a dictator who pardons their taxes. Faced with this reality, we consider and remain convinced that we have a failed economic model, and the need to build a new democratic, humanist society, with development, justice and peace becomes evident. All this can be built on the basis of the celebration of a new social pact, written in a new Constitution, and signed with the consent of the people. This is what we were aiming for with the Fourth Ballot Box.

In practice, the power groups and the political class, have adopted the habit of setting aside the Constitution, and violating it as many times as necessary to favor their interests with the cynical formula: “FOR THIS ONE TIME ONLY”, but in the same way, they defend it with blood and fire when it suits their interests, with the hypocritical formula: “THE CONSTITUTION IS SACRED”.

Now it is urgent to shout firmly ENOUGH, ENOUGH AND ENOUGH. THE CONSTITUTION IS SACRED WHEN IT ACHIEVES THE HAPPINESS OF ITS PEOPLE, IF THE CO-CONSTITUTION BECOMES AN INSTRUMENT OF OPPRESSION FOR THE SAME PEOPLE, IT IS NECESSARY TO CHANGE IT.

But who could carry out the necessary changes to reach social consensus and ensure compliance with the Constitution, a President, a Government, the National Congress, NO, NO. Only the people, broadly represented in a National Constituent Assembly, can arrive at a new social pact, after discussing, analyzing and reaching consensus on the great issues of the country, which constitute great challenges, and are still pending to be solved. For this to take place, the following steps would have to be followed:

1.- The National Congress would have to issue a Law to regulate a Plebiscite in which all the citizens of the country would be democratically consulted if they want a constituent process to be convened, and a new Constitution to be drafted.

2.- If the people in the Plebiscite decide that they want a Constituent Assembly to be called and a new Constitution to be drafted, the National Congress must issue a Special Law that regulates the election of the representatives of the people that will integrate the National Constituent Assembly.

Once the representatives to the National Constituent Assembly have been elected and installed, the Assembly will proceed to internally regulate its organization and operation in order to comply with the mandate of the Sovereign.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR AND IMPORTANT ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED BY THE NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY TO BE EMBODIED IN THE NEW CONSTITUTION?

Having received the mandate of the People, the National Constituent Assembly becomes the Original Power and therefore has absolute freedom to determine, establish and choose the issues that will be part of the new Political Constitution of Honduras, but we can advance some issues that will undoubtedly be debated and resolved by the new Constituent Congress:

1.-TOWARDS A NEW POLITICAL MODEL:

A. FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

NEOLIBERAL RULE OF LAW OR SOCIAL WELFARE STATE

The Constituent Congress will have to define if Honduras will continue to function as a FORMAL NEOLIBERAL LAW STATE, with secondary laws that behind the back of the Constitution of the Republic reproduce the Wild Capitalism of “every man for himself” that has given rise to so much misery, exclusion, inequality, injustice and violence or we must transcend to a SOCIAL WELFARE STATE, that seeks economic growth with social justice and peace.

B-CITIZEN PARTICIPATION.

We aspire to move from a representative democracy to a participatory and inclusive democracy, with efficient mechanisms for citizen participation. We will create and develop effective instruments and mechanisms of Social Control: Plebiscite, referendum, recall of mandate, citizen roundtables, popular debates, social audits, and structures of regional popular power.

As a multiethnic and multicultural society, we must reach a consensus on the most effective way to recognize and guarantee the collective rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of minorities, gender equity, the rights of minors, LGTBI groups, people with disabilities, and the elderly. All this will be achieved with the accompaniment and the protagonist participation of the comrades of these sectors.

C.-SOCIAL CONTROL OVER THE POWERS OF THE STATE.

In order to guarantee the division of powers we can agree on efficient mechanisms of social control over the actions of the powers of the State, officials, judges, deputies and all public servants.

Strengthening and modernizing the Justice Administration System and the State control institutions, the electoral system to strengthen democracy.

Establishing a Tax System with redistributive justice based on the economic capacity of the taxpayer, without the collections resting on the backs of the poorest.

Redefining the role of the Armed Forces and establishing effective controls over them, with decentralization of command and submission to civil authority.

And all other issues and aspects that arise in the debates and contributions of the different sectors of our society in the National Constituent Assembly. This is called PARTICIPATIVE DEMOCRACY.

2. TOWARDS A NEW ECONOMIC MODEL.

A. Neoliberalism has pragmatically imposed itself on the obligatory nature of the present Constitution of the Republic, because with so many violations it has become a weak and vulnerable constitution. It is necessary to have a primary norm that expressly prohibits, with binding and obligatory mechanisms, the operation of an economic model that kills life and social coexistence, that curtails rights, that limits opportunities, and that is a great brake on change.

B.-RESERVATION OF THE RESOURCES OF OUR TERRITORY AND SOVEREIGNTY IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF STRATEGIC ECONOMIC RESOURCES.

As a result of the situation generated by the ZEDES, the issue of the protection of the national territory acquires special relevance, in addition to complying with the clamor of the citizens to repeal this opprobrious regime of sale of our territory, we must agree to guarantee that our strategic natural resources are exploited in a sustainable manner and for the benefit of the people, and repeal all the decrees of concessions and privatizations of leonine concessions and privatizations.

B. Mining concessions, forests, rivers and other natural resources vital to our development must be reviewed in the light of sovereign interests.

C.-Rescue public companies in the face of privatization processes.

D. It is urgent to have a strong State that at the same time guarantees private property, freedom of investment and freedom of private, public, cooperative and social enterprise, and ensures minimum living conditions.

E. That the State redistribute wealth and economic income to achieve a more egalitarian society and correct the imperfections and excesses of the market.

F. That taxes be paid by those who benefit most from the structures of the State to increase their wealth, and that the tax burden be lightened for the poor.

H. Public financial policies should be created for easy access to bank credit for the creation of medium-sized private enterprises, small private enterprises, cooperatives, family enterprises, mixed enterprises and social enterprises.

3. TOWARDS A NEW SOCIAL MODEL

A.- EFFICIENT PUBLIC SERVICES.

The raison d’être of the State is to achieve the welfare of the population, which requires efficient public services, provided with a human and solidary vision.

B.-We will protect, develop and prioritize public education and public health. All of this cannot happen without the participation of the protagonists: teachers, parents, health workers, unions, residents, etc.

C.-We must agree on how to benefit the country and consumers with efficient public services at a fair price.

D.-We must encourage and control strategic areas such as electric power, drinking water, telephony, highways, today in the hands of private interests.

E. Universalize the system of access to health care for all, especially for the most vulnerable.

F. Universalize the social security and pension system.

G. Create sources of employment in the public and private sectors and the creation of economic self-management structures.

H. To create instances of popular power.

4. TOWARDS A NEW CULTURAL MODEL.

1. It is necessary the constitutional recognition of different nationalities existing in our country as the indigenous peoples who have their own language, their own culture, their own institutions, their own traditions and customs, and it is necessary the recognition of forms of resolution of their internal conflicts within the context of juridical pluralism. So that our country is multiethnic and multicultural, and not to assimilate the existence of these human groups as mere beings of folklore.

2. It is necessary a bilingual and multicultural education for the indigenous peoples, so that their languages do not become extinct.

3. It is necessary to create the basis for the vulnerable, the poor, the disabled to have access to university, and not to close the door to higher education with tests and examinations typical of an education marked by elitism and exclusion. We must respect the equality of those who are treated as unequal.

4. We must plan systematically to put an end to the illiteracy of 100% of the population.

5. Education at all levels must be free, and to avoid school dropouts, children and adolescents must be provided with a daily snack, because education with hunger is torture.

6. It is necessary the creation of recreational and thematic parks to manage leisure spaces.

7. It is necessary to disseminate the culture of books and reading, and to avoid commercialization in all educational instances.

8. It is necessary to develop, through strategic investment plans, the film, plastic arts and performing arts industries.

9. Universalize free Internet access for students at all levels.

Enrique Alberto Flores Lanza. Former Minister of the Presidency of José Manuel Zelaya Rosales. Political Exile.

Original Article