Monday - Jul 22, 2019

Elections in Honduras: Nationalist Party wins under suspicion of electoral fraud

A military guards the electoral process in a school in the colony La Travesía, popular district of Tegucigalpa. (PHOTO BY ORSETTA BELLANI)

by Orsetta Bellani

On Sunday, Nov. 24, Honduras showed a devastating situation in the polls: 70 percent of the population lives in poverty and 40 percent is unemployed. The collusion between officials and organized crime is invasive and the militarization of society, on behalf of the fight against organized crime, has caused an increase in murders and the presence of drug-trafficking organizations, which takes advantages of the impunity of 80 percent of crimes.
According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), 80 percent of the drug that transits to the United States crosses through Honduras, and in 2013 the authorities have seized only two tons of cocaine. In addition, the vice-minister of the Defense, Carlos Roberto Funes has recently stated he suspected that “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of a drug-trafficking Mexican organization, is in the country.
The army increased its presence for the elections, and was put in charge of guarding the entrance of each polling venue, as accounted by Azadeh Shahshahani, president of Nacional Lawyers Guild, who went to Honduras as one of 800 international observers, and arrived in a plane from Georgia to Central America, together with Honduran military students from the School of the Americas, who came back to the Central American nation because of the elections.

Since last October, the Honduran military police unit has been reinforced with a thousand members of the new Military Order Police, created to fight drug trafficking. The formation of the elite body has been promoted by presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernández, of the ruling National Party, who won the vote for the presidency of the Central American nation with 34.08 percent.

The campaign of Juan Orlando – conceived by the Venezuelan JJ Rendón, involved in successful campaigns of several Latin American right-wingers, such as “Pepe” Lobo, Enrique Peña Nieto and Henrique Capriles – has focused on the promise of security through the militarization of society. In addition, Juan Orlando has promised the creation of thousands of jobs in maquiladoras (sweatshops), improving the housing situation in the poorest neighborhoods and the expansion of sugarcane crops and African palm. The program of the Nationalist Party has been welcomed by the Honduran oligarchy, the group of people that owns 40 percent of the wealth of the country, mainly concentrated in the maquiladora industry and ended in large monocultures for export, especially African palm.

“In Honduras there are ten families who make the decisions. They control industries, banks, the media, the justice and the government,” says Miriam Miranda of the organization for the defense of the rights of people with African background, OFRANEH. The owners of Honduras have middle-eastern surnames: Facussé, Canahuati, Kafie and they finance the system that ensures the alternation between the National Party and the Liberal Party since 1902.

With her candidacy, Xiomara Castro – wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, forced into exile in June 2009 following a coup organized by the oligarchy – challenged Honduran machismo, that takes the life of a woman every 14 hours and a centenary of bipartisanship at the only Central American country that didn´t have a guerrilla able to challenge U.S. imperialism during the Cold War. Americans have always ruled in what is considered the quintessential Banana Republic, putting  puppet presidents to allow companies like Chiquita exercise a de facto government.

“In 2009 Xiomara Castro was with us in the streets of Tegucigalpa marching against the coup and I support her candidacy, although I do not like some members of her party and I keep the right to criticize her government,” says Tomás Gómez Membreño of COPINH indigenous organization, who met with El Reportero with a few days before the election. “Besides, I’m afraid there will be election fraud, it’s difficult to think that the oligarchy will let Xiomara rule.”

In fact, the Bureau of Analysis on Violations of Human Rights received 60 complaints of irregularities during the electoral process, from the harassment of international observers to vote-buying by the National Party in exchange for food or money.

On the morning of Monday, at a press conference animated by their bases, the Libre Party (Libertad y Refundación) ignored the election results that attributed only 28.92 percent of the votes to candidate Xiomara Castro. Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, former president of Honduras, husband of Castro and general coordinator of Libre, reported that over 20 percent of the ballots had not been registered. Moreover, Zelaya stated he was not seeking an agreement with the National Party and denounced an electoral fraud, but could not present to the international community the necessary evidence to invalidate the election.

According to later statements, Libre would present the evidence to the fraud.