Speaker: Michael Shifter, President, Inter-American Dialogue
By any standard, the 2017 presidential election in Honduras was a major setback for democracy. President Juan Orlando Hernández’s decision to run for reelection was fraught with constitutional problems. The electoral authorities mysteriously stopped counting votes when the opposition candidate was ahead. When counting resumed, Hernández was somehow in the lead. Calls from the Secretary General of the Organization of American States for a new election went unheeded by the Honduran government, the country’s neighbors, and the United States. Despite the many valid criticisms of the flawed and mismanaged process, it is difficult to see how pro-democracy actors in the hemisphere might have prevented the crisis. In reality, the election controversy is only part of a longstanding set of democratic deficiencies and institutional failures in the country dating back to the 2009 coup d’état and before. It offers a sobering set of lessons about what can be done to prevent similar crises in the future.
Michael Shifter is president of the Inter-American Dialogue. Since 1993, Mr. Shifter has been adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where he teaches Latin American politics. Mr. Shifter writes and talks widely on U.S.-Latin American relations and hemispheric affairs. His recent articles have appeared in major U.S. and Latin American publications such as The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Journal of Democracy, Harvard International Review, Clarin, O Estado de S. Paulo, and Cambio, and he is co-editor, along with Jorge Domínguez, of Constructing Democratic Governance in Latin America, published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Prior to joining the Inter-American Dialogue, Mr. Shifter directed the Latin American and Caribbean program at the National Endowment for Democracy and, before that, the Ford Foundation’s governance and human rights program in the Andean region and Southern Cone where he was based in Lima, Peru, and subsequently, in Santiago, Chile.
Moderator: Steven Levitsky, Professor of Government at Harvard University