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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:15PM   |  2 comments
Supporters of President Manuel Zelaya shout and hold posters bearing pictures of Zelaya, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 3, 2009 (REUTERS/Henry Romero)

President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military in a June 28th coup, after he planned to have a vote on a non-binding resolution on constitutional change.

If voters had approved such change, a referendum authorizing a commission to change the country's constitution to allow presidents (including Zelaya) to serve more than one term, could have been held this November. However, Zelaya denied that he intended to stand for re-election. In any case, the Supreme Court and the Congress voted that the change was illegal, and that Zelaya could not fire the head of the armed forces, Romeo Vásquez (who had opposed his plan). When Zelaya did not accept the rulings by the Supreme Court and Congress (as well as the county's human-rights ombudsman), they voted to remove him from office.

It was feared by many that Zelaya (allied with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Cuba's Fidel Castro) was working to seize power. Protests and sanctions by other governments have wracked Honduras since his ouster. The United States and many other countries (as well as the Organization of American States) have said that the crisis concerning Zelaya must be resolved or the upcoming November 28 election will be considered to be illegitimate. Polls indicate that Zelaya has the support of about one-fourth of Hondurans.

Zelaya is now being protected by Brazil, in its embassy in Honduras. Interim President Roberto Micheletti (a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party) has stated that Zelaya can leave the embassy "either through political asylum or by obeying the courts." And last week, Micheletti suspended civil liberties and banned protests.

Meanwhile, six candidates for the Honduran presidency are now campaigning, but without the typical rallies. The campaign posters that are put up are almost immediately destroyed and/or taken down, but TV spots have continued to be aired.

Elvin Santos (the Liberal Party candidate) is trying to be get elected by being friendly with both Zelaya and Micheletti. "We may have profound political differences," Santos declared. "But that doesn't mean I can't hug any Honduran I want, as I did when I greeted President Micheletti, when I greeted President Zelaya."

Porfirio Lobo Sosa (candidate of the conservative National Party) has stated that there is no "constitutional crisis," but rather a regular scheduled election to be held. Lobo is ahead in the polls. He has condemned the suspension of civil liberties.

Honduras is a tiny nation, which has a population of only about 7.5 million people. It has held fairly democratic elections since the late 1980s, after two decades of military repression and political intervention. The history of Honduras—a country with an unemployment rate of almost 30%—is filled with civil wars (which took the lives of an estimated thirteen thousand citizens between 1892 and 1924) and elections often marked by fraud and military force, frequently followed by presidential dictatorship and domination of Congress. The derogatory name “The Banana Republic” was given to Honduras in the early twentieth century, after the United Fruit Company bought the country’s banana company, and began to exercise undue influence. Honduras became the world’s sole country whose primary export was bananas. To learn more about the political history of Honduras, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.

Sources:BBCNews, "Q&A: Crisis in Honduras"; Jose de Cordoba, "Honduras Lurches Toward Crisis Over Election," Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009; The Economist, "Zelaya Swaps Exile for Embassy," September 26, 2009, pp. 47-48; Rui Ferreira, "Profile: Honduras' Presidential Candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa," PODER360o, September 29, 2009; Blake Schmidt, "Honduras Candidate Says Crackdown May Undermine Vote (Update1),", September 30, 2009; Mark Stevenson, "Honduran interim leader: No meeting with Zelaya," Associated Press, September 25, 2009.

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