Election Unrest In Honduras

By Naveed Qazi|  Editor, Globe Upfront

Honduras is experiencing a state of great uncertainty after the 2017 November election. 

The Honduran Electoral Supreme Tribunal (TSE) has examined the election result and has put the current President Juan Orlando Hernandez with a slight advantage over Salvador Nasralla.

To make matters worse, protestors have poured on the streets. They believe that the leftist opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, had won the election.

Amnesty International, the leading human rights group, has criticised the government for using violence and have expressed “irregularities” in the election.

It seems that things in Honduras are not blown out of proportions and the tactics seem to be dangerous and illegal. The opposition believes all over 5000 votes have not been counted and considered.

Salvador Nasralla, a 64-year-old former TV presenter, with little political experience, claims to have a proof of ballot fraud. He believes around “one-third of ballot boxes” have been tampered with. He demands that all ballot boxes be recounted, under the supervision of foreign observers.

In the recent unrest, security forces have extinguished burning tires that had been set across the capital by protestors backing Nasralla’s Alliance Against Dictatorship Coalition.

Journalists had seen roadblocks, north, west and south of this small Central American nation. In the southern province of Choluteca, there had been reports of soldiers, using live ammunition against a TV crew, but no one had been wounded.

Some hundred people had been arrested in the first ten-day curfew, according to the Committee of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). A 19-year-old woman was shot dead and a football-loving kid had been taken to a hospital for surgery after participating in protests.

Regional reporters claim that dozens of shops have been looted and many buildings have been damaged. Queues of cars have rushed to petrol stations to fill their car tanks and shoppers have rushed to supermarkets during the relaxation hours before the curfew escalated.

The former president of the Alliance Against The Dictatorship Coalition, Manuel Zelaya, an ally of deceased Hugo Chavez, believes that it is the United States who wants to impose Juan Orlando Hernandez as the leader of the country.

Honduras is a major source of migrants to the US and it remains vulnerable to its problems. This Central American nation has also been notorious for cocaine trafficking routes and is infamous for its gang culture, having the world’s highest murder rate. As half of the population in Honduras is already poor and need to find jobs, more chaos may slip the country into some disaster.

During 2015, there were similar protests in Honduras against President Juan Orlando Hernandez, over an ongoing corruption scandal. It was believed that through a government scheme, the President sucked millions of dollars from the country’s social security institution. About 3000 people were killed for protesting against the scam.

The President, Juan Orlando has been accused of authoritarian rule and for his neoliberal policies over the years. For this reason, the 2015 scandal erupted the Indignados movement, which organised 24 weeks of torch-lit marches to demand an end to corruption, the creation of an independent anti-impunity commission and the president’s resignation. The movement’s core demands still remain unanswered.

Several of the banners read “Out with narco-dictator JOH” in Spanish. The killing of the two police officers motivated the police to disobey orders and crack down on protest harshly.

The Cobras, a special police force that has received training and funding in the United States, as well as Tigres, another U.S.-trained elite police squad, recently gathered at headquarters alongside rank-and-file members of the transit police, border police, police investigations directorate, and preventative police to engage collectively in curbing down the mass dissent.

The Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) allege that security forces including Cobras and military police have engaged in illegal raids, as they showed up at MADJ property in the northern Atlántida department looking for the group’s general coordinator, Martín Fernández, who has been illegally detained by police in the past and faces ongoing intimidation.

In 2009, Honduras experienced a US-backed coup, where the army had ousted Manuel Zalaya. The arrest of Mr Zelaya was the culmination of a battle that had been simmering for weeks over a referendum that hoped to revise of the Constitution. 

The US poured around $114 million in security aid into the country, despite a poor human right record. The aid, of about $17 million, also goes to Honduran security forces, for counternarcotics and anti-gang programs and to fund an effort to purge the police of corrupt officers and train recruits.

The coup paved the way for National Party Rule. It was believed that this coup was planned in Miami at the Southern Command. Many Hondurans still express resentment over this development as militarisation has drastically increased since the 2009 coup. It seems that there is a military dictatorship going on in Honduras in the guise of democracy.

If the ballot boxes are re-examined, it could take some time for the authorities to compare thousands of ballot boxes with the tally sheets. Quite recently, United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has called on the Honduran government “to guarantee the rule of law” and the “protection of human rights” within the country.


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