Honduran Opposition, U.S. Senator Leahy Call for a Recount or New Election; Honduran Police Refuse to Crack Down

Yesterday Senator Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont made the statement below for the public record on the situation in Honduras, where the government is attempting to steal the November 26 election. Unfortunately the 2009 decision by the U.S. State Department to support what it initially admitted was a coup d’etat has led to an emboldened Honduran elite with a repeated disdain for unfavorable election results – they don’t like to lose, so they make certain they don’t. That U.S. support contributed to the nation becoming the most violent and dangerous in the world, particularly for journalists, activists, civic and labor leaders.

The United States’ inability – or unwillingness – to turn the page in its relationship with our Latin American neighbors to the south remains among the greatest foreign policy failures of the Obama Administration. With the Trump State Department being intentionally undermined and under-staffed, it appears that U.S. policy towards the region will likely remain an afterthought, with a continuing reliance on the paternalistic, racist and anticommunist attitudes and ideologies of the past.

Honduran police have now refused to crack down on citizens protesting and enforce a curfew, while the opposition has called for a runoff or full recount.

Continue reading below the Leahy statement for the latest SOA Watch report on Honduras, with links to actions you can take that may help. Your calls to your representatives in Congress and at the State Department can make a difference. Hondurans are standing up to fight this election theft. We can help. Stay up to date on Honduran events via the Alliance for Global Justice. – RR

12.05.17

Congressional Record

Mr. President, I want to alert all Senators to the situation in Honduras.  Those of us who care about Central America have watched the election for Honduras’ next president with increasing alarm.  It has been more than a week since November 26, when the people of Honduras cast their votes.  Since then, repeated delays and suspicious behavior – which suggests either incompetence or fraud – by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) that has been tallying the ballots, have incited large public demonstrations.

Late last week, the government of President Juan Orlando Hernandez suspended constitutional rights and imposed a ten-day, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.  Several protesters, including a 19-year-old girl, have reportedly been shot and killed by Honduran troops, and hundreds more have been arrested.  Salvador Nasralla, the main opposition candidate, called for a new election and reportedly urged the Honduran police and military to disobey orders of their commanders to fire on demonstrators.

Even before the Honduran people went to the polls the prospects for a free, fair and peaceful election faced many challenges.  The most obvious point of contention is that President Hernandez is seeking a second term, since until recently the Honduran Constitution had been interpreted to strictly limit presidents to a single four-year term.

Ironically, in 2009 former President Manuel Zelaya was forced from power by a coalition of military officers, business owners, and conservative politicians including Hernandez, after they accused Zelaya of using a popular referendum on a proposed constitutional convention to extend his own rule.

Zelaya’s ouster was initially labeled a coup by the U.S. State Department, but it was not long before the United States accepted the result and resumed sending economic and military aid to the government of President Porfirio Lobo.  During the next three years the influx of illicit drugs and the incidence of violence, including assassinations of journalists and other civil society leaders, increased dramatically, and Honduras became among the most violent countries in the world.

After Hernandez became president of the National Congress, he and his National Party replaced the Supreme Court with justices intended to support their political agenda.  And in 2013, Hernandez was declared President of Honduras after an election fraught with reports of vote buying and threats and assassinations of political opponents.

Two years later, the same Supreme Court ruled that he could run for a second term – paving the way for last week’s election.  Just eight years after former President Zelaya was pushed out for allegedly proposing that the Honduran people vote on the question of a second term, President Hernandez had consolidated his control by replacing the justices of the Supreme Court, appointing the TSE, maintaining a majority in the Congress, and using the State media to drown out his critics.  It was widely predicted that he would coast to victory.

But President Hernandez’ government, in addition to becoming increasingly autocratic, has been dogged by accusations of pervasive corruption.

For these reasons, and because of the opaque and bizarre conduct of the TSE during the vote tallying process, it is perhaps not surprising that the situation has deteriorated to the point of becoming a national crisis of confidence in the integrity of Honduras’ democracy.

Salvador Nasralla. Image via Democracy Now!

Contrary to past practice, the TSE did not issue early results until the day after the polls closed.  At that time it announced that with 57 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Nasralla, a former TV sports journalist, was leading by 5 percentage points.  This indicated the possibility of an historic upset, and while based on past practice the final count was expected the next day, the process of tallying the votes dragged on behind closed doors with no further announcements.

While Nasralla and his supporters celebrated and the third-placed candidate, Luis Zelaya of the Liberal party, conceded, President Hernandez and his allies in the press insisted that he would come out on top once the rural votes were counted.

The TSE also said the rural vote count was delayed, and on Wednesday, after a long silence, the TSE indicated that Nasralla’s lead had started to shrink.  But the press reported that no technical reason was apparent to explain the delay as the results from all polling stations were reportedly transmitted electronically as soon as the polls closed.

As time dragged on, suspicions of fraud escalated among Nasralla’s supporters, and last Wednesday afternoon the TSE said its computer system had inexplicably ceased functioning for five hours.  Then on Wednesday night the TSE reported that President Hernandez was ahead by several thousand votes, which triggered protests by Nasralla’s supporters, some of them reportedly throwing rocks and lighting fires in the streets, who were met by troops firing tear gas and live bullets.

According to press reports, the opposition is questioning ballots from 5,300 polling places and has called for a recount of ballots from three rural departments.  But yesterday morning, after only a partial recount, the TSE announced its final tally in favor of President Hernandez by just 1.49 percent, a gap of 52,333 votes.

The process has been so lacking in transparency, so fraught with irregularities and inexplicable delays, and coupled with reports of excessive force by the Honduran police and military against peaceful protesters, it is increasingly obvious that the TSE’s announcement made a bad situation worse.  There is too much suspicion of fraud, and too much distrust.

On Saturday, I asked the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa three simple but important questions about the delays, the TSE’s tally of the votes, and the reports of shootings of protesters.  It is late Tuesday afternoon and I have yet to receive answers.  This lack of responsiveness in such a time of crisis is troubling, and I hope it is not a new standard.

Yesterday evening, the OAS issued a statement that “the tight margin of the results, and the irregularities, errors and systemic problems that have surrounded this election do not allow the Mission to hold certainty about the results.”  There were also reports that large numbers of Honduran police officers, many of whom have longstanding grievances, are refusing orders to use force against the protesters.  Earlier today I was informed that there may be at least 15 fatalities, and many people injured, from gunshot wounds.  There are reports that the police and military fired many shots, sometimes in the air, and other times at the crowds.

The importance of this election, which will determine who leads Honduras for the next four years, cannot be overstated.  This is especially so because of the way it came about in the first place.  There was already resentment toward President Hernandez for the double standard of participating in the coup against Zelaya, and then orchestrating his own path to re-election.  As one Honduran was quoted saying, they “are reliving the entire crisis from the coup of 2009, and the majority of people don’t really like that because it brings back some ugly memories.”

Tuesday, Dec. 5 poster calling on Nasralla supporters to bring their pots and pans to make some noise

President Hernandez and Mr. Nasralla offer significantly different approaches to tackling the country’s problems.  Given the debacle of the past week and the growing popular outcry, it is apparent that establishing the credibility of the electoral process and the integrity of Honduras’ democracy requires either recounting the contested ballots from each of the 5,300 polling places in the presence of representatives of the political parties, representatives of civil society, and international observers; or holding a new election.

In the meantime, it is the responsibility of the Honduran government – particularly the police and the military – to respect and defend the right of the Honduran people to freely and peacefully express their opinions.

Honduras faces a defining moment in its modern history.  How the government resolves this crisis will determine the path of the country for the foreseeable future.  It will also determine the extent of validity and support the next government receives from the United States, because only a credible election, accepted widely by the Honduran people as free and fair, coupled with a demonstrable commitment to transparency, to freedom of expression and association, and to the rule of law, will justify that validity and support.

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693

 

 

 

Honduran security forces refuse to repress the people / Fuerzas de seguridad hondureñas se niegan a reprimir al pueblo

December 5, 2017

Yesterday was a remarkable day in Honduras.  The COBRAS, an elite police force, and basic level police officers of the National Police announced they would no longer obey the government’s order to repress the protests and mobilizations taking place all across Honduras.  ’We are the people and we can’t be killing our own people to protect the interests of external persons,’ announced one of the Cobras.  Another Cobra stated, ‘our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them.’  This incredible turn of events comes after violent repression of the massive protests, including numerous murders of protesters by the Military Police and the Armed Forces.

In a tremendous show of integrity, the Cobras and police officers abandoned the protests where they had been sent to repress and returned to their barracks. A huge crowd gathered outside the Cobras in Tegucigalpa, sharing food and water with the police officers arriving there, and celebrating those who have the dignity to refuse to attack their own people for demanding a basic tenet of democracy be respected: the popular vote.

Earlier in the day, the Coordinator of the Alliance in Opposition to the Dictatorship, Mel Zelaya, presented slides of vote tally sheets altered by the election authorities to give more votes to the current President Juan Orlando Hernandez and take votes away from the Opposition Alliance candidate Salvador Nasralla.  Each party receives tally sheets from each voting station and so the Opposition Alliance was able to compare their tally sheets with those posted by the electoral authorities and found that the electoral authorities had frequently altered the results, even creating new tally sheets to increase the number of votes for Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH as he is called) and reduce those of the Opposition Alliance.  The Liberal Party, which came in third place, is also willing to provide its copies of the tally sheets for comparison.  Salvador Nasralla declared he was requesting a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States to present the vote tally sheets.  The Opposition Alliance’s findings suggest a major fraud operation by the electoral authorities, who are firmly aligned with US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernandez, to try to thwart a massive popular vote that roundly rejected his re-election effort.

People in Honduras continue in the streets demanding an end to the fraud and the dictatorship of Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has consolidated power throughout the past 8 years following the SOA-graduate led 2009 coup, and ran for re-election despite the Constitutional prohibition against re-election.  Last night, once again people throughout the country chanted ‘Fuera JOH’ (get out JOH) and banged pots and pans throughout the night in a show of resistance to the curfew and suspension of constitutional guarantees.  Hernandez, whose regime continues to be financed by the United States despite the massively violent crackdown on protesters, is trying desperately to maintain his grip on power despite widespread popular rejection.

The Platform of Popular and Social Movements of Honduras is now demanding the immediate resignation of Juan Orlando Hernandez and thousands upon thousands continue in the streets today.  The momentum is clearly on the side of the Honduran people and the fraud is becoming too obvious to deny.  As Hernandez tries to maintain power, will the US continue propping him up?  Or will it finally acknowledge how corrupt and repressive his regime is and let the Honduran people decide their own future?

Take action in solidarity with the people of Honduras TODAY.  The United States has financed and propped up the Juan Orlando Hernandez regime for far too long and bears responsibility for the murders of those who are simply demanding that the official election results reflect how people actually voted.  Here are several ways to take action:

1. Call the State Department Honduras Desk at 202-647-3505 TODAY and demand the State Department publicly denounce fraud and repression in Honduras and request that the US not recognize the outcome of the elections until there is a transparent process that meets the demands of the Opposition Alliance. (*Note: This is the number published in the Directory of the Department of State. If the operator tells you that it is a wrong number, please ask the operator to share the Honduras Desk’s phone number)  Sample message: ‘My name is ______, and I am calling to urge the State Department to speak out against election fraud and violent repression in Honduras. I am extremely upset that people protesting against fraud have been murdered by the US financed security forces and urge the State Department to suspend US aid to Honduras as well as condemn the violence by state security forces and the massive irregularities in the election results.  The US should not recognize the outcome of the elections unless there is a transparent process that satisfies the demands of the Opposition Alliance with regards to transparency and review of votes, especially in areas where there appears to be inflated vote turnout.’  

2. Tweet at the State Department or post on their facebook page: Call on the US to denounce fraud and violent repression following the elections in Honduras, demand the immediate suspension of aid to Honduras, and demand accountability for the US financing of repression and murder in Honduras.  Twitter: @StateDept, @WHAAsstSecty@WHASpeaks, @USAmbHonduras.  Facebook: @usdos

3. Organize or attend a protest, action, or vigil in solidarity with the people of Honduras.  Contact us for more ideas or to connect with others in your area.

4. Finally, keep on e-mailing and calling your Representative and Senators urging them to support the suspension of US security aid to Honduras and to speak out against election fraud and repression by the US-financed security forces in Honduras.  If your Representative hasn’t already done so, ask him/her to co-sponsor HR 1299, the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act.  

In solidarity,
SOA Watch

Ayer fue un día extraordinario en Honduras. Los COBRAS, una fuerza policial de élite, y oficiales de la Policía Nacional, anunciaron que ya no obedecerían la orden del gobierno de reprimir las protestas y movilizaciones que tienen lugar en toda Honduras. “Somos el pueblo y no podemos estar matando a nuestra propia gente para proteger los intereses de personas externas”, anunció uno de los Cobras. Otro Cobra afirmó, “nuestro trabajo es dar paz y seguridad al pueblo hondureño, no reprimirlos”. Este giro increíble de los acontecimientos se produce después de la represión violenta de las protestas masivas, incluidos numerosos asesinatos de manifestantes por parte de la Policía Militar y las Fuerzas Armadas.

En una tremenda muestra de integridad, los Cobras y los oficiales de policía abandonaron las protestas donde los habían enviado a reprimir y regresaron a sus cuarteles. Una gran multitud se reunió fuera de los Cobras en Tegucigalpa, compartiendo comida y agua con los policías que llegaban allí, celebrando a aquellos que tienen la dignidad de negarse a atacar a su propia gente por exigir que se respete un principio básico de la democracia: el voto popular.

Temprano en el día, el Coordinador de la Alianza de la Oposición contra la Dictadura, Mel Zelaya, presentó diapositivas de las hojas de votación alteradas por las autoridades electorales para dar más votos al actual presidente Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH como se le llama) y quitarle votos al candidato de la Alianza de oposición Salvador Nasralla. Cada Partido recibe copias de las hojas de conteo de cada mesa de votación y, por lo tanto, la Alianza de la Oposición pudo comparar las actas recibidas con las publicadas por las autoridades electorales y descubrió que éstas últimas habían alterado frecuentemente los resultados, incluso creando nuevas actas para aumentar el número de votos de Juan Orlando Hernández y reducir los de la Oposición. El Partido Liberal, que quedó en tercer lugar, también está dispuesto a proporcionar sus copias de las listas para comparar. Salvador Nasralla declaró que solicitará una reunión del Consejo Permanente de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) para presentar las actas de votación. Los hallazgos de la Alianza de la Oposición sugieren una importante operación de fraude por parte de las autoridades electorales, que están firmemente alineadas con Juan Orlando Hernández –quien es respaldado por Estados Unidos-, para tratar de frustrar el voto popular que rechazó rotundamente su esfuerzo de reelección.

El pueblo de Honduras continúa en las calles demandando el fin del fraude y el fin de la dictadura de Juan Orlando Hernández, quien se ha consolidado en el poder durante los últimos 8 años posteriores al Golpe de Estado liderado por graduados de la Escuela de las Américas en 2009, y que se presentó a la reelección a pesar de la prohibición constitucional de ésta. Anoche, una vez más, personas, en todo el país, cantaron ‘Fuera JOH’ y golpearon ollas y sartenes durante toda la noche en una muestra de resistencia al toque de queda y a la suspensión de las garantías constitucionales. Hernández, cuyo régimen sigue siendo financiado por los Estados Unidos a pesar de la represión masiva y violenta contra los manifestantes, está tratando desesperadamente de mantener su control del poder a pesar del amplio rechazo popular.

La Plataforma de Movimientos Populares y Sociales de Honduras exige la renuncia inmediata de Juan Orlando Hernández y miles y miles continúan hoy en las calles. El momento está claramente del lado del pueblo hondureño y el fraude se está volviendo demasiado obvio como para negarlo. Mientras Hernández intenta mantener el poder, ¿Estados Unidos continuará apoyándolo? ¿Los Estados Unidos finalmente reconocerán cuán corrupto y represivo es su régimen y dejarán que el pueblo hondureño decida su propio futuro?

Actúe en solidaridad con el pueblo Hondureño HOY. Estados Unidos ha financiado y apoyado el régimen de Juan Orlando Hernández por mucho tiempo y también es responsable de los asesinatos de aquellos que simplemente exigían que los resultados oficiales de las elecciones reflejen el voto real de quienes participaron. Aquí hay varias formas de actuar:

1. Llame HOY al Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos, al 202-647-3505, y exija que éste denuncie de manera inmediata y pública el fraude y la represión en Honduras. (*Nota: Este es el número publicado en el Directorio del Departamento de Estado. Si la operadora le comenta que es un número equivocado, por favor pida a la operadore que le comparta el número telefónico de Honduras). Solicite que los Estados Unidos no reconozcan el resultado de las elecciones hasta que haya un proceso transparente y que satisfaga las demandas de la Alianza en Oposición.

Mensaje de muestra: ‘Mi nombre es ______, y llamo para instar al Departamento de Estado a que se pronuncie en contra el fraude electoral y la represión violenta en Honduras. Estoy extremadamente molesto/a porque las personas que protestan contra el fraude han sido asesinadas por las fuerzas de seguridad financiadas por los Estados Unidos. Exhorto al Departamento de Estado a suspender la ayuda estadounidense a Honduras y a condenar la violencia de las fuerzas de seguridad estatales, además de las masivas irregularidades en los resultados electorales. Estados Unidos no debería reconocer el resultado de las elecciones a menos que haya un proceso transparente que satisfaga las demandas de la Alianza en Oposición, aludiendo a la transparencia y la revisión de votos y actas”.

2. Envíe un tweet al Departamento de Estado estadounidense o deje un mensaje en su página de Facebook. Llame a los Estados Unidos a denunciar el fraude y la represión violenta después de las elecciones en Honduras, exija la suspensión inmediata de la ayuda a Honduras y exija cuentas por la financiación estadounidense de la represión y el asesinato en Honduras. Twitter: @StateDept, @WHAAsstSecty, @WHASpeaks, @USAmbHonduras. Facebook: @usdos

3. Organice o asista a una protesta, acción o vigilia en solidaridad con el pueblo de Honduras. Contáctenos para obtener más ideas o para conectarse con otras personas en su área.

4. Finalmente, continúe enviando correos electrónicos y llame a su Representante y Senadores. Pídales que apoyen la suspensión de la ayuda de seguridad de los Estados Unidos a Honduras. Exíjales que denuncien el fraude electoral y la represión de las fuerzas de seguridad financiadas por los Estados Unidos en Honduras. Si su Representante aún no lo ha hecho, solicítele que sea copatrocinador de la HR 1299, la Ley de Derechos Humanos de Berta Cáceres en Honduras.

En solidaridad,

SOA Watch

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