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WSJ: The Cult of the Caudillo

Authors: David Luhnow, José de Córdoba, and Nicholas Casey
July 13, 2009


The strongman may be Latin America's most important contribution to political science. The crisis in Honduras has many terrified that power-hungry leaders are making a comeback.

Excerpt: In the tile-roofed presidential palace near downtown Tegucigalpa, a man sits behind a long wooden desk claiming to be the country's president. But in the eyes of the international community, Roberto Micheletti took charge through an old-fashioned coup.

Nearly two weeks ago, on June 28, his predecessor, Manuel "Mel" Zelaya, was rousted from bed by soldiers and sent out of the country in his pajamas. Mr. Micheletti, next in line for the presidency as head of congress, was sworn in later that day.

Tied to wealthy business interests and brought to power by the military, the provisional government brings back memories of the coup in which Chilean Augusto Pinochet tore down the Socialist project of Salvador Allende in 1973. On the streets of Tegucigalpa nowadays, some protesters have scrawled graffiti that merges the names of Mr. Pinochet and their new, unelected leader: "Pinocheletti."

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