Honduras: A Heavyweight for Foreign Relations

With the presidential election in Honduras over and Juan Orlando Hernández declared the winner by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Mr. Hernández has moved exceptionally quickly to begin the transition process well before his inauguration in January. The day after the election on November 24, he named Honduras' Ambassador to the United States, Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro, to head a committee to ensure a smooth transfer of power from the Lobo administration to the Hernández administration. As one of the most senior and politically experienced and well-connected, as well as respected, members of the Nationalist Party, Ambassador Hernández was an excellent choice for the task.

Ambassador Hernández has served in his current post since 2010, but he also served as Honduras' Ambassador to the U.S. during 1988-1992. In 1987-1988, he was the country's Ambassador to the United Nations. Prior to that, he had been a professor of law at the University of Honduras, an Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Chief of Staff for three different ministers of foreign relations, a member of Congress, and a judge with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica.

In 2002-2005, Ambassador Hernández served as Minister of Justice and Minister of Interior during the administration of President Ricardo Maduro. Afterward, in 2007-2010, he was a judge with the Central American Court of Justice in Managua, Nicaragua.

Honduras does not have many top-notch professional diplomats. Unfortunately, most are political appointees with little or no experience in foreign affairs. That remains a huge problem for Honduras. But there are a few exceptional Honduran diplomats that I would put against the best anywhere in the world. One of them is Roberto Flores Bermúdez, who is a Liberal. Another is Carlos López Contreras, a Nationalist, who served as Foreign Minister under the interim government of Roberto Micheletti during the second half of 2009. I would easily include Ambassador Hernández in this class. This is an extremely intelligent and able diplomat.

Understandably, there is already talk in Honduras about who will make up the next Cabinet. President-elect Hernández has indicated that he has made his decision on all but two of his ministers, but that he will not announce any names until after his inauguration. However, count on three individuals definitely holding key posts over the next few years. One is Oscar Álvarez, who was President-elect Hernández's campaign chief. He'll probably be the next Minister of Security. Note that Mr. Álvarez served as Minister of Security under both the Maduro and Lobo administrations. Another is Ricardo Álvarez, who is the current Mayor of Tegucigalpa but who was perhaps President-elect Hernández's most energetic campaigner. He'll likely be the First Vice-President and Minister of the Presidency, which is akin to Chief of Staff -- an extremely powerful and visible position. He would be the next María Antonieta Guillén de Bográn.

The third person is Ambassador Hernández. Speculating here. He'll be the next Minister of Foreign Relations. President-elect Hernández will require his mature advice, his strategic skills, and his wide breadth of international contacts. Honduras will need a lot of foreign aid, financing, and technical support if its stands any chance of dealing with its fiscal and security crises (as well all its other problems). Ambassador Hernández will be the person entrusted with much of this challenge. He will have his work cut out for him, and he knows it. I truly wish him well.