The Honduran Dam Controversy and Micheletti’s Legacy
Roberto Micheletti’s de facto government is back in the news. Last week, news broke in
In their last days in office, presidents often sign controversial decrees that would have proved too controversial earlier in their term. In the
Almost immediately after Micheletti left power and Congress changed hands, however, the contract came into question. Only days after President Porfirio Lobo took office, the new government placed a hold on the publication of the decree in the country’s official newspaper, La Gaceta. Two weeks later, however, it became clear that La Gaceta had published two versions for January 22, 2010, with the same issue number. One version contained 16 pages, with no mention of the dam contract; the other included an additional 16 pages covering the dam contract and the creation of a new government office of criminal investigation. To make matters worse, the office in charge of publishing La Gaceta, Empresa Nacional de Artes Gráficas (ENAG), apparently only published 20 copies of the second version, and then denied publishing them at all once these copies had disappeared.
While the country awaits the results of an initial investigation by the Ministerio Público, all eyes are on the ENAG and the dam consortium for foul play. Saavedra, no longer president of Congress since the National Party took control, has backtracked and agreed to support the derogation of the contract. Questions remain, however, about the complicity of Saavedra, Micheletti and other powerful figures within the Liberal Party who pushed this contract through without sufficient public scrutiny.
Of course, this issue raises important issues about the transparency of the Honduran political process, long plagued by corruption. But, perhaps more importantly, it further undermines the reputation of honesty and integrity that Roberto Micheletti and his supporters in Congress sought to fashion for themselves after standing by the coup that overthrew Manuel Zelaya. Throughout his time in office, Micheletti presented himself as a humble public servant thrust into an unenviable but necessary position. His supporters (in Congress and the mainstream Honduran media) repeatedly contrasted his behavior with the innumerable accusations of corruption they leveled against Manuel Zelaya.
Congress granted Micheletti a congressional salary-for-life, and now the dam contract scandal has followed. Those in power since last June have continued to sow doubt regarding their credibility. In particular, recent events make it even more difficult to determine the credence of their claims that Zelaya’s government raided the country’s coffers for personal gain. If solid evidence exists, it will now become more difficult to convince the Honduran public and international observers. (Of course, none of this would change the reality of the coup, but it remains important for how the country remembers Zelaya’s term in office, events since June 28, and the role of Roberto Micheletti and the Congress.)
For now, the Honduran media and public have more questions than answers about the gacetazo. What cannot be refuted, however, is that this controversy will further stain the legacy of the de facto government that assumed power after the illegal ouster of Manuel Zelaya.
*Daniel Altschuler is a contributing blogger to americasquarterly.org conducting research in
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