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Latin American Program in the News: In Honduras vote, new lesson in how the drug war steers politics

Eric L. Olson

This article discusses the recent elections in Honduras and platforms that the candidates each ran on regarding drugs and crime. LAP Associate Director, Eric Olson, discusses what to expect from president-elect Juan Orlando Hernandez.


Hernandez campaigned on a law-and-order platform, vowing to double down on the recent deployment of military policy into the most crime-ridden areas.

Castro promoted a different kind of community-based police force as well as greater social spending, jobs programs and other measures she said would prevent crime.

Hernandez “promised a get tough on crime approach, so I think we can expect that for sure,” said Eric Olson, a leading expert on Central America at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington, DC think tank. “The question is which is a more effective strategy.”

But odds are that Hernandez won’t much improve his country’s dismal record in stopping the thriving trade in US-bound cocaine and synthetic drugs. Nor will it stanch the torrent of young Hondurans — as many as 100,000 a year, by one official count — migrating through Mexico into the United States illegally.

Drug trafficking, murder and poverty all have spiked as the world economic crisis, US-born street gangs and drug cartels have beset the country. The “hard hand” policies of outgoing President Porfirio Lobo, who won office following the ouster of Manuel Zelaya and is barred by law from seeking a second term, did little or nothing to change that reality.


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About the Author

Eric L. Olson

Eric L. Olson

Global Fellow,
Director of the Central America-D.C. Platform, Seattle International Foundation
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Latin American Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more