Ruling party in Honduras votes to depose 4 Supreme Court justices
Political crisis further cripples failing country
By Alberto Arce Associated Press
Posted: 12/14/2012 10:52:08 PM MST
December 15, 2012 5:55 AM GMTUpdated: 12/14/2012 10:53:46 PM MST
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Members of the ruling party met behind closed doors, bartering all night for votes to depose four Supreme Court justices who had rejected the president's plan to weed out corrupt police. Ominously, soldiers and police surrounded the National Congress.
As the hours ticked by, representatives inside puffed on cigarettes in violation of their own anti-smoking laws and jokingly accused each other of vote-buying. Then shortly before dawn Wednesday, President Porfirio Lobo's National Party overwhelmingly and, many say illegally, approved the judges' dismissal.
That was a risky move.
"We don't know when we leave after the vote if there will be prosecutors waiting to detain us," admitted Sergio Castellanos of the Democratic Unification party, who voted with the majority. "Here you have to be ready for anything."
On global rosters of failing states, Honduras doesn't even crack the top 50, yet by many grim measures the troubled Central American republic is barely clinging to its status as a functioning country.
1. The article points out previous reference to Honduras as a "banana republic".
Long before political scientists began to talk of failed states, Honduras was known disparagingly as a "banana republic."
In the late 19th century, U.S. companies like United Fruit and Standard Fruit owned vast tracts of land and relied on the Honduran military to quell labor rebellions. The elites then formed the country's two major political parties in support of the fruit companies, cementing ties between Honduras' business and political interests, said Marvin Barahona, a historian at a Jesuit think tank in the capital.
With wealth concentrated in the hands of a few families, Honduras remained poor. Decades later, as U.S. aid poured into government coffers, many citizens complained that their country had been converted into Washington's client state, a base for the U.S. military and U.S.-backed Contras fighting the Sandinistas in neighboring Nicaragua.
Hondurans say corruption and crony politics have deprived state coffers of revenue thanks to politicians who enact laws to favor their own business interests.