Honduras: The Secret Meetings Between Juan Orlando Hernández and Manuel Zelaya

11/13/2013 10:28 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Honduran political analyst Jorge Illescas believes that there is some sort of secret arrangement between the conservative National Party and the socialist Libre Party. According to Mr. Illescas, Nationalist presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernández has had a series of secret meetings with the General Coordinator of Libre, Manuel Zelaya. Mr. Illescas asks, "Why are these meetings secret?" While he fails to speculate as to the reason behind the meetings, the insinuation is that they were aimed at finding ways to undermine the Liberal Party. There must be some plot at hand, suggests Mr. Illescas, because the Libre candidate, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, has remained relatively passive in the face of a constant barrage of attacks by Mr. Hernández against her and Libre.

"Why hasn't she denounced him?" asks Mr. Illescas, who notes that Mrs. Zelaya has never criticized Mr. Hernández. "When has she pointed out the corrupt initiative of the [security] tax, the purchase of the [public surveillance] cameras that didn't work... when has she singled out the purchase of Lps 1.2 billion of cement," Mr. Illescas asks. So, of course, the logical conclusion is that there must be a secret pact by which Mr. Hernández attacks Mrs. Zelaya, and in response Mrs. Zelaya remains quiet. The automatic trip from point A to point B requires some silly mental gymnastics, but there you have it.

One might speculate that this arrangement has the effect of making Mr. Hernández appear strong and aggressive, thereby making Liberal Party candidate Mauricio Villeda appear weak and less macho (as most Hondurans naturally prefer their political leaders), thus diminishing Mr. Villeda in the eyes of the public. By doing so, Libre and the Nationalists succeed in isolating the Liberals and turning the race into one exclusively between Mr. Hernández and Mrs. Zelaya. The underlying assumption here is that the fourth major candidate, Salvador Nasralla of the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) is not really a serious threat to win the Presidency, but that Mr. Villeda, who represents the traditional rival to the National Party, is.

There is also the underlying assumption that Mr. Villeda has his hands tied and is unable to attack Mrs. Zelaya because he remains hopeful of attracting many Libre supporters back to the Liberal Party, and so he doesn't wish to risk angering them. This point was made recently by La Tribuna columnist and political analyst Juan Ramón Martínez.

The problem with the Illescas analysis -- besides the fact that Mr. Illescas doesn't provide a solid motive for the secret encounters between Mr. Hernández and Mr. Zelaya -- is that it is painfully superficial. The answer to the supposedly key question of why Mrs. Zelaya has not denounced Mr. Hernández and responded in kind to his attacks may be as simple as... it's just not Mrs. Zelaya's style. If you listen to Mrs. Zelaya's speeches and interviews over the past two years, it is obvious that she is not, by nature, an overly aggressive person. In fact, one of her biggest attributes is that she is a kind and graceful lady.

Mrs. Zelaya also has a tendency to stick to the same general script when she speaks in public. She talks repeatedly about the need to convene a National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Honduran Constitution. She goes over and over again through her well-rehearsed litany of promises of what she will do when she becomes President of Honduras. She seems to prefer not to veer too far from her comfort zone. That's one likely answer to Mr. Illescas' question.

Of course, you can always choose to be cynical and imagine all sorts of nefarious reasons for the trysts. But usually the truth is never so complex.

It's worth noting that the cynicism is not exclusive to Mr. Illescas by any means. Practically everyone in Honduras is accusing someone of being in cahoots with someone these days. Mr. Villeda believes the National Party has been funneling cash to Libre and Andrés Pavón of the UD-Faper Party has regularly accused Mr. Nasralla of being secretly allied with Libre. The presidential election is only two weeks away, and it's going to be a very close one; the winning candidate will not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, or likely even 40 percent. So everyone's a little jumpy.