Honduras, the country where even the police are fed up with electoral fraud and violence

Verenice Bengtsson
Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Opposition supporters protesting during a rally against alleged electoral fraud in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 03 December 2017. A victory by president Juan Orlando Hernandez looms over the horizon over a week after the disputed presidential elections in Honduras. The opposition accuses the government of electoral fraud and won’t recognise the results. The situation could escalate. DPA/PA Images.


In a country that lives from institutional crisis to institutional crisis since the coup d’état in 2009, the current president clings to power despite allegedly losing the elections.


After the elections of November 26, when the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TES) – with an unprecedented 10-hour delay and under pressure from international observers – announced that the Alianza de Oposición’s candidate Salvador Nasralla had an advantage of 5% over the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, citizens celebrated the triumph on social media, even though many citizens still suspected that fraud and institutional complicity before the final count count change the scenario. It also should be noted that the incumbent should not have been a candidate for the presidency to begin with because the Constitution prohibits reelection through an unmodifiable article.


Despite the seemingly irreversible advantage in favor of the opposition, the president of the TSE refused to officially recognize Nasralla’s victory and advised that an announcement should not be made before the final count. In subsequent statements to the Salvadoran digital newspaper El Faro, Ramiro Lobo, substitute magistrate of the TSE, said that the president “did not want to disclose the results because his party, the National Party, was losing”. According to him, the counting system machines, although slow, worked as expected in the first hours and days after, in which “Nasralla had an advantage that already set a trend. But when the system was back up after collapsing for a short time, the trend had already reversed and remained that way”. After the apparent technical collapse and subsequent recovery of the system, the results disclosed by the TSE showed a clear advantage of the pro-government candidate over the opposition candidate. Thanks to the magic of the voting system’s collapse, a trend that seemed irreversible was reversed.


Protests and road blockades were immediate, as were police and military repression. Like a déjà vu, the events invoked the ghosts of the crisis that preceded the 2009 coup. However, determined Honduran citizens remained in the streets. In light of looting of the private sector and under political accusations of being the cause of the chaos, on December 1 the government decreed a State of Emergency for 10 days, in order to keep the population silenced in house arrest. But as in previous times in Argentina, an unprecedented “cacerolazo” – a common form of protest in Latin America consisting of banging pots and pans – came to life in different Honduran cities, breaking the curfew and challenging political power.


Unfortunately, the challenges cost lives. According to the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH), from November 30 to December 4, 12 deaths by Military Police were recorded throughout the country. December 1 was the day that saw the most violent, the date on which the suspension of constitutional guarantees came into force.


The European Union observer mission said that it would remain in the country “until the electoral process ends and each vote cast is taken into account”. Marisa Matias, head of that mission, also said she condemns the post-election riots, deeply regrets the deaths and the people who were injured and asked for clarification on the circumstances.


In another unprecedented event on December 4, police of different ranks and Cobras agents announced that they would not obey the orders from their superiors and declared a sit-down strike – that is, they would not go to the streets to repress protesters. In turn, they asked the TSE to respect the will of the people and to carry out a transparent vote count. However, the Armed Forces and the Military Police, put together by the president, continued – and still continue – to be active, so that it can not be said that the population has been safe from the abuse of the monopoly exercise of force.


Honduras ranks 130th in the Human Development Index and, according to the World Bank, 60% of its population lives in poverty. The basic health service is available only for a third of the population. The high rates of crime and unemployment, the involvement of political and influential figures in drug trafficking, as well as youth gangs and drug dealers, give an idea of the political, economic and social crisis that Honduras is experiencing. With a salary of approximately US$232, it is easy to conclude that many of those police officers who participated in the strike and their families belong to that great majority of Hondurans living in poverty. And that they too, apparently, are fed up with the violence – physical, but above all structural.


While the international community remains unmoved, the president clings to power in a country that has lived institutional crisis after institutional crisis since the coup d’état in 2009. The last straw is undoubtedly the looting and the use of funds from the Honduran Social Security Institute to finance political campaigns of the government party, whose main authors and beneficiaries remain unpunished.


The population has been asking for the president’s resignation since 2015, with multitudinous marches with torches. The pretense of being re-elected despite the constitutional prohibition has been the trigger that explains the extent of the rejection and why the president lost the elections. If he still has any dignity left, he must resign for the good of Honduras. n


This article was previously published by Asuntos del Sur.

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