When Mauricio Villeda announced last week that he would not run against to be the Liberal Party's candidate for the presidency of Honduras in 2017, he said that the reason was that he wanted to focus on reorganizing the party following its losses in last year's general elections -- losses that have effectively downgraded the Liberal Party to the third political force in Honduras, behind the conservative National Party and the socialist Libre Party. Not only did the Liberals convincingly lose the presidential election, they also took severe hits in congressional and mayoral races.
Clearly, the Liberals have a lot of work to do to attract more supporters, particularly those who left the party in protest to the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 and went on to form Libre. Liberals hope to skim off some of the Libre people who may not be completely comfortable with the extreme leftist politics of their party -- individuals such as the Subcoordinator of Libre, businessman Esdras Amado López, who originally left the Liberal Party out of loyalty to Mr. Zelaya, but do not feel at home within Libre.
But the Liberals have a lot more to worry about than just their severely diminished voter rolls. It turns out that the party is effectively broke, financially. According to Eduardo Maldonado, who is the treasurer for the Central Executive Council of the Liberal Party (CCEPL), the party only has Lps 350,000 -- slightly more than US$16,500 -- in the bank. That's the bad news. The good news is that the party has apparently paid off all its debts, so at least it's in the black.
More good news: Each of the 27 Liberal members of the National Congress is reportedly willing to cough up Lps 1,500 (US$71) in dues to the party on a monthly basis. Each representative has one alternate, who would also pay monthly dues to replenish the CCEPL's coffers.
"The CCEPL is our home, and it only needs to provide us with the procedures and amounts for us to begin making our financial contributions as representatives," said Marco Antonio Andino, the head of the Liberal block in Congress. "Even though we are already willing to pay Lps 1,500 every month and are ready to do it, we obviously need the CCEPL to set up the channels for transferring funds. Sometimes we're unclear about how to make the payments, and that's a problem."
Assuming the 54 Liberal representatives and their alternates each pay Lps 1,500, that would bring in Lps 81,000 (US$3,850) per month, or Lps 972,000 (US$46,300) per year. Still doesn't sound like much for a major political party, particularly for one that has been so divided and demoralized over the past five years and is going to require a vast warchest if it hopes to be competitive in the next elections. It's a good thing Mr. Villeda isn't running. The Liberals are in much greater need of his administrative skills and discipline than having him out on the campaign trail.