November 20, 2009

Honduras elections: Security

Soldiers in La Ceiba
Z-day, June 28, 2009

The military and police have been in strategy sessions in preparation for election security. Approximately 5,000 reservists have been called in to help as well. The reservists are primarily retired military and these old folks are showing great patriotism and enthusiasm for the task. "We won't have communism in this country!"

In an announcement last night, a military spokesman gave a long list of events that they are completely prepared for, up to and including extraterrestrial landings, he joked. Hahaha.

This is a case where readers from other countries need to adjust your thinking to understand the customs and the culture of Honduras. It is NORMAL to have soldiers assisting the election process and maintaining security at the polling places. Control of the military was passed to the independent Election Tribunal (TSE) on October 29 and will remain with the TSE until the election results are announced, expected to be November 30. This is NORMAL and required by the constitution.

Many voices, loudest of all Zelaya's, are trying to claim that the military presence will intimidate people. Not so, and nobody knows that better than Zelaya, who won the last presidential election while polls were guarded by the military. While it might give you pause in the US to have armed soldiers outside your polling place, this is not the US. This is Honduras, and the vast majority of the population will be reassured to see them. Those who hope to cause trouble, however, will be crying "Oppression!"

Another thing to keep in mind is that Hondurans are used to seeing armed guards everywhere. While it is often surprising to new visitors, it is common in Central America where crime is so high. The military are often used to provide security and to work on special anti-crime projects. Zelaya himself enlisted the military earlier this year in a crime task force. Former President Ricardo Maduro used the military to combat gangs. Right now in El Salvador, the Salvadoran military are being used in a project to support the police.

Honduras has a well respected military. Just the other day, I read that they are considered the best and most professional in Central America. Unlike the police, the military is also admired and well respected by the vast majority of the population. I remember reading a poll a year or so ago in which people were asked to rate various sectors of society as to their respectability and honor. Religious leaders were at the top of the list, followed closely by the military. Police, and politicians of course, were at the bottom.

Channel 10 had a poll which completed yesterday. It asked if viewers felt that the military would keep the elections secure. 94% voted yes.

Related articles:

Honduran elections: The candidates

Honduran elections: The TSE
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