Okay, here's the main reason Liberal Party presidential candidate Mauricio Villeda will win the election in Honduras on November 24: He has run a vastly smarter and more disciplined campaign than have his opponents during the final weeks before the election. While Mr. Villeda has excellent personal traits and skills, including his unquestioned integrity, high degree of intelligence and steady temperament, these can only take a candidate for the Presidency of a country in turmoil but so far.
During these closing weeks, National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández has been busy lobbing attacks and doomsday warnings against Xiomara Castro de Zelaya and her socialist Libre Party. Apart from that, Mr. Hernández has been talking a lot about the Military Police and how it is the answer to Honduras' security crisis -- something that sounds good in a stump speech but which most Hondurans sense is just not true.
Mrs. Zelaya has continually been talking about her prized National Constituent Assembly and the idea of rewriting the Constitution, and how these will solve most of Honduras' problems -- again, something which most Hondurans sense is simply not true. She habitually paints such a rosy picture of a socialist Honduras that anyone who sees what's going on in Venezuela has got to be wondering about her sincerity or grip on reality. All the while, her husband, Manuel Zelaya, shadows her every move, seldom leaving her side -- a constant reminder of who the "real" President would be in the event Mrs. Zelaya were elected.
Meanwhile, Salvador Nasralla of the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) has consistently been making the headlines accusing of corruption practically everyone he can think of, but without offering anything in the way of solid evidence. The effect has been to anger a lot of people -- some of whom have threatened to sue Mr. Nasralla for libel. Then there has been Mr. Nasralla's ongoing feud with Andrés Pavón of the other socialist party, UD-Faper. Mr. Nasralla and Mr. Pavón dislike each other on a personal level, and it clearly shows. Mr. Pavón has repeatedly described Mr. Nasralla as a "clown", and that characterization may be sinking into the public psyche.
Oh yeah, Romeo Vásquez of the Patriotic Alliance Party? He's been promising he will solve Honduras' security problems in six months if elected. Right. "I'm going to establish order... regardless of who it hurts," said Mr. Vásquez. Now that's definitely a winning phrase.
Through all of this, Mr. Villeda has avoided attacking anyone, preferring instead to run a largely positive campaign focusing on specific issues. Not exactly what you would describe as exciting or entertaining, but certainly refreshing, given the seriousness of Honduras' situation. You get a feeling that maybe this person is capable of actually solving a handful of big problems and implementing some administrative competency to an ineptly-run government. Using a pen belonging to his father, Ramón Villeda Morales, who was President of Honduras during 1967-1963, candidate Villeda has signed a series of executive decrees (at campaign events) he will implement if elected. More than symbolizing the promises Mr. Villeda is making, the decrees and their signings have served to highlight some key issues that need to be effectively addressed to begin to establish order in the country.
The first of Mr. Villeda's executive decrees, which was signed outside the Marco Aurelio Soto national penitentiary in Támara, seeks to reduce the threat of extortion by restricting the telephone signals within and outside of the penitentiary. It also forces the companies providing cellular phone services to register all calls going in and out of the facility. The second decree, signed on the grounds of the Central Warehouse for Medicines, aims to put an end to the corruption in the procurement of medicines and guarantee sufficient supplies for the public hospitals. The decree authorizes the Ministry of Health to open up the provision of medicines to a competitive bid process, thereby doing away with the current supplier monopoly and ensuring lower costs and a more efficient shipment system for the hospitals. The third decree strives to ensure that the funds from the government's so-called "Security Tax" are distributed more evenly among all of the country's 298 municipalities.
But the broader and most powerful impact of the decrees is that they portray Mr. Villeda as the next President of Honduras, rather than just another candidate throwing around slogans and launching personal attacks. The visual effect of Mr. Villeda signing decrees is priceless, and it is precisely this image that will make the difference for Mr. Villeda, particularly among the as yet undecided and independent voters.