Honduras: Election impasse after threats and intimidation

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

The Honduras 2013 presidential and congressional elections were held on 24 November. With less than two-thirds of the votes returned, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal reported that the ruling right-wing National Party’s candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez had won, leading the count with 34.16% of the votes, whilst Xiomara Castro Zelaya of the LIBRE Party had 28.53%. This is despite the fact that Castro Zelaya, the wife of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, led the polls throughout the campaign.

That evening hundreds of protesters blocked streets in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa in support of Castro Zelaya, who was claiming victory until ‘every ballot is examined’. The LIBRE party (Liberty and Refoundation) was formed in 2011 from the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP), built in opposition to the 2009 coup against President Zelaya, who is now barred from standing for election. Significantly, President Zelaya was toppled by Honduran businessmen and military leaders, soon after Honduras had joined Cuba and Venezuela in ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for Latin America). Castro Zelaya’s campaign demanded the return of pre-coup policies, which included social reforms such as free education and a 60% increase in the minimum wage.

Cooking the election

In August 2013 the Congress illegally named a new attorney general for a five-year term, which gave Hernández and the ruling National Party control over the electoral machinery and the military. To avoid further unpopularity, the government then said that the national budget for 2014 would be announced after the election and not, as legally required, in September 2013. A newly formed Military Police will be used against political opponents.

The day before the election two members of the LIBRE Party were killed, and international observers from El Salvador in Tegucigalpa were intimidated by armed immigration officials. In some stations voting lists disappeared and people arriving to vote were told that they had already voted, or were listed as dead. In some areas the military denied the public their legal right to view the count. On election day five people were killed at a voting centre in Mosquitia region. Ski-masked Military Police attempted to enter a local campaign office of the LIBRE Party in Tegucigalpa less than 36 hours before the elections.

Murdering the truth

Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has been brought to the brink of chaos by Hernandez’s associates in the National Party, with a wave of state-sponsored repression and violence against its opponents. 18 LIBRE candidates or immediate family members were murdered and 15 were attacked between May 2012 and October 2013. In February 2010 plain clothed police had kidnapped LIBRE Party member Manuel Murillo Varela and a colleague, torturing them for 24 hours. He had testified to the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras and the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation that policemen had threatened to kill his family to get hold of video footage he had filmed of FNRP protests following the coup. On 24 October 2013 he was killed.

In May 2012 Juan Carlos ‘El Tigre’ Bonilla was appointed director general of the national police force, while still under investigation for running death squads a decade earlier. In the same month radio journalist Angel Alfredo Villatoro was murdered. The dismembered and burned body of Honduran Radio Globo journalist Anibal Barrow was in found July. Both were critical of the 2009 coup.

Social anarchy

There are 20 reported murders daily in Honduras, the highest rate in the world. A woman is murdered on average every 15 hours. This is the result of the militarisation of society after the 2009 coup, as well as the cocaine cartels servicing the US war on its own working class, and other organised crime.

The outgoing government of President Porfirio Lobo has been isolated internationally following the boycott of the 2009 pseudo-election by the EU, the Carter Centre and the Organisation of American States. Only the US International Republican Institute and the US National Democratic Institute, two of the four core institutions of the US National Endowment for Democracy, had rushed to cover up for the coup plotters. In July 2013 the Honduran government passed an act that allows massive sales of national resources, showing their gratitude for US support.

Given the votes for the other six presidential candidates, Hernandez will get little more than a third of the votes cast and faces a divided Congress. The Nationalists aim to hold onto their immense privileges. Over half of the country’s people live in poverty, and the number working for less than the minimum wage of £220 a month has grown from 28% in 2008 to 43% today. The poorest sections in Honduras have been denied a chance of some relief.

Alvaro Michaels

 

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