Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Nov. 25 — The Honduran people remain in a state of organized “tense calm” a day after the country’s Supreme Electoral Council (TSE) declared ruling National Party leader Juan Orlando Hernández the winner in the polls, supposedly defeating Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. Hondurans had turned out in record numbers to vote for Castro de Zelaya, and Libre has denounced the TSE for committing fraud in the elections, and is organizing its base, made up of all sectors of Honduran working-class society.
The national committee of the Libre party is scheduled to meet in the morning of Nov. 26, and the party asked its supporters to gather in front of the meeting in a massive show of support.
Some Libre members and supporters, along with international delegates from Chicago-based La Voz de los de Abajo and other groups, already held a demonstration today. They were protesting the decision of some international election observers who claimed that the elections were “clean and fair” and that the National Party had won. For the most part, however, the highly organized masses are following the instructions of the Libre party’s leadership and waiting until Nov. 26 to protest.
In solidarity with the people of Honduras, delegates from around the world arrived in Honduras in recent days to help monitor the situation before, during and after the elections. The groups included a delegation of some 160 people from La Voz de los de Abajo, the International Action Center, and a group of lesbian-gay-bi-trans-queer human rights activists from the U.S., along with others.
Widespread vote tampering and fraud
The IAC delegation monitored polling places in Siguatepeque, Taulabé, Otoro and Comayagua, in central Honduras, and received a number of reports of vote tampering and fraud. In Siguatepeque, the local news reported that election tabulation results for its polling places had been found in a local home, already filled out and signed before the election had even begun.
Many people arrived at their polling places to find that although they had registered to vote and possessed the proper identification, their names were not on the registration lists, so they could not vote. Others were listed as deceased, while some noted the names of people who had been dead for years, with imposters voting in their places.
One Libre party member in Siguatepeque was told she was registered to vote in Puerto Cortez, some 100 kilometers to the north — an area she had never been to in her life. The IAC delegation was also able to intervene in a situation in Tualabé, in which an elderly person in a wheelchair was being denied access to vote.
The delegation also heard reports of more serious violations throughout the country, as in Copán, where armed people went into a polling place and forced people wearing Libre T-shirts to leave the voting lines. In the department of Francisco Morazán, two Libre members were killed on the morning of the elections. In Otoro, the Libre candidate for mayor, Jesus Ruiz Maldonado, was followed by a white Ford with no license plates in the days before the election.
National Party tries to bribe voters
One woman described how, in a clear attempt to bribe Honduras’ poor population, the government in Otero recently offered a cash assistance voucher to citizens, but then announced that the vouchers could not be used until the Tuesday after the elections. Voters were then told that they would only be valid if the National Party won.
The TSE has refused to recognize certified votes from voting places in the more rural areas of the country — areas with more Libre supporters. One IAC delegate went with an election official to deliver the ballots to a TSE office, only to find it had been closed prematurely.
Like the U.S., Honduras has historically had a system in which the presidency is passed between two parties — the Liberal Party and the National Party — often with the handover bringing little meaningful change. When Liberal Party President Mel Zelaya began working to improve the lives of Honduras’ working poor and challenging the hegemony of multinational corporations and U.S. imperialism in the region, he was overthrown in a U.S.-sponsored coup in 2009.
The coup, however, birthed a militant and massive resistance movement in Honduras, organized under the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP). By running Castro de Zelaya as president under the newly formed Libre party, the resistance movement hopes to fundamentally disrupt the inequality, militarism and poverty now rampant in Honduran society.
All the parties involved in the election, excluding the National Party, initially condemned the TSE’s fraudulent count. (Four of them had significant votes in the published results.) As of now, with the exception of one other new party, they have lined up behind the National Party candidate in declaring Hernández the victor.
Dowell is a member of the IAC delegation, which also met with campesinos occupying lands, LGTBQ activists, and family members of prisoners killed in a prison fire in 2012. Look for more articles by this delegation in future issues.