In a press conference in Managua, Nicaragua, on Nov. 13, the mayor of San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city, confirmed that he was no longer running for another term in general elections scheduled for Nov. 29. “The people don’t believe in this process, because these are elections where absolutely nothing is going to get elected,” Mayor Rodolfo Padilla Sunceri said. A member of the center-right Liberal Party (PL), Padilla joined a growing number of candidates who have withdrawn from the race in order to protest the control of the process by a de facto government put in place after a military coup removed President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales from office on June 28. Padilla was the frontrunner in polls taken before the coup. The Nov. 29 general elections are intended to elect the president, the 128 members of the National Congress, 20 deputies to the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), and members of the country’s municipal governments.
Independent presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes officially withdrew from the race on Nov. 9. A former unionist with strong links to the grassroots movement against the coup, Reyes was third in a field of six candidates, according to polls. The frontrunner is Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the right-wing National Party (PN); Liberal candidate Elvin Santos trails him by 15-20%, according to political analyst Gustavo Irías. Santos is badly damaged by a split in the PL between supporters of President Zelaya and supporters of de facto president Roberto Micheletti Bain; both are members of the party.
The mayoral candidates boycotting the election include Heber Iván Gómez Mendoza, PL candidate in Morolica, Choluteca department; Luis Alberto Posadas Alfar, an independent candidate in Danlí, El Paraíso; and Gladys Gloria Ebanks Campell, an independent candidate on Roatán island, Islas de la Bahía department. The small leftist Democratic Unification (UD) is badly split, with presidential candidate César Ham planning to continue in the race while many other candidates want to withdraw; the party will lose its place on the ballot and government matching funds if too many candidates drop out. The Party of Innovation and Social Democratic Unity (PINU) is also split. The leadership supports the coup, but many candidates for Congress oppose it and may withdraw, so that this party too could lose its ballot position. (EFE, Nov. 13; Comun-Noticias, Nov. 13 via Honduras Laboral; La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 14)
Who is behind explosive attacks?
During the night of Nov. 12 an explosive device was detonated in a Tegucigalpa residential neighborhood without causing any damage or injuries. The police and the media originally said an airplane flew over the city and dropped a bomb on a location where ballots were being stored for the Nov. 29 elections, even though no damage was reported there. The airplane turned out to be a commercial flight from Guatemala. Later an RPG-1 grenade-launching device was discovered in the area, and the military announced that unidentified persons had attempted to hit the storehouse but had overshot it. “We have preliminary information about some actions which people who are from the left are carrying out,” Armed Forces head Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez said at a Nov. 13 press conference. “We know where these artifacts come from,” said Gen. Miguel Ángel García Padgett, the army’s commander. “[T]hey cross over the border and are artifacts of Russian or Chinese origin, and they are precisely the ones used by people of a leftist tendency.”
Unionist Juan Barahona, a coordinator of the National Front of Resistance Against the Coup d’Etat, insisted that the opposition’s strategy was a nonviolent boycott of the elections. “The people don’t have the ability to do these things [bombings]. Here the only ones who have this ability are the police and the Armed Forces.” He charged that the military had used similar tactics in its campaign against the left in the 1980s. “They are the ones responsible; they’re generating an environment so that later they can generate the repression they’ve got planned and can consolidate the coup,” he said.
The Front has been focused on printing up and distributing handbills and posters calling on people to boycott the voting. (EFE, Nov. 13; LJ, Nov. 14; Adital, Brazil, Nov. 13)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 17
See our last post on Honduras.