Thousands celebrated in the streets of Tegucigalpa yesterday when Honduras qualified for the World Cup after defeating El Salvador 1-0.
However, on the political front, it is unclear whether celebrations will soon be in order. And in terms of the economy, prospects are undeniably grim.
An Organization of American States-led envoy has been in the capital since last week urging ousted President Zelaya and interim leader Micheletti to agree on a resolution to the months-old political crisis. Reports are mixed as to whether a clear solution will soon be formed. Both parties have agreed that Zelaya must abandon his efforts to change the Honduran constitution, but no decision has been made as to whether he will be able to serve out the remainder of his Presidential term. Zelaya is calling on his supporters to boycott the rapidly-approaching Presidential election, slated for November 29th, if he is not returned to power today.
In the shadow of this unfolding political controversy, election preparations are already underway. The two leading candidates, Elvin Santos (Partido Liberal) and Porfirio Lobo Sosa (Partido Nacional), have already launched campaigns which emphasize their strategies to improve the Honduran economy. PBS reports:
The Liberal Party candidate, Elvin Santos, calls himself the “employment candidate” in his ads. In another Santos TV spot, his wife, aspiring first lady Becky de Santos, speaks earnestly about her concern for Honduras’s poor, which makes up 70 percent of the population.
The leading candidate, Porfirio Lobo, of the National Party, appears in a competing ad in which he promises to push micro-financing to help women entrepreneurs.
The winner of November’s election (should it occur as scheduled) will inherit a host of serious economic challenges. The Honduran economy, which was already suffering from a contraction in exports due to the global downturn, has been further crippled by the political crisis which cost the country an estimated $50 million per day. The BBC reports that revenues from the tourist industry have declined by 40% in the past three months, and a total of 12,000 maquiladora jobs are expected to disappear by the end of 2009. Experts further estimate that the Honduran economy will see a 2.6% contraction in GDP this year.
The next President of Honduras will face the dual challenge of politically reconciling a deeply divided population, and addressing the needs of the country’s poor. This will be especially difficult in the likely event that such measures threaten the powerful economic elite which played a key role in Zelaya’s ouster.
By Mary Tharin