Honduras: Congress to Begin Selecting Supreme Court

TEGUCIGALPA (HPD) — The Honduran Congress will begin this week to elect the 15 members of a new Supreme Court of Justice, in a process with implications for the government of President Xiomara Castro, who has promised a pronounced change regarding the “dictatorship” of his predecessor.

If legislators from Castro’s Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE) party grant her control of the highest court, she will have the same dominance over the three public powers that her predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernández, had.

It was that control that allowed Hernández to seek re-election for a second presidential term despite the fact that it is prohibited by the Constitution. The former president is in the United States awaiting trial on drug charges.

“It is never healthy for the government parties to manage all the powers within the State,” said constitutional lawyer and analyst Juan Carlos Barrientos. LIBRE “before, they spoke of a dictatorship, because the previous government had all the powers, but now that they are a government they want to be dictators too,” he added.

Castro’s party has a majority in Congress, but will need to negotiate with others to select court magistrates. His goal is to have at least eight seats on the court in order to have a majority, said Juan Carlos Aguilar of the NGO Association for a More Just Society (ASJ).

There has even been talk of the possibility of excluding Hernández’s National Party from the court entirely, although that seems unlikely since a supermajority—86 votes in the 128-seat chamber—is needed to confirm a new judge to the court, and LIBRE only has 48 compared to the 43 of the National Party.

“If the National Party is left out, it would be dangerous because it would replicate the model that the National Party came to implement at the time, having control of the three branches of the State,” said Aguilar.

“We know that the rule of law has suffered regressiveness,” he added.

There have been times when the Supreme Court has been used to consolidate political plans instead of issuing legal decisions, Aguilar said, noting the court’s decision that allowed Hernández to seek re-election in 2017.

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