Honduras: more candidates join election boycott

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 A member of the center-right Liberal Party (PL), Padilla joined a growing number of candidates who have withdrawn from the race in order to protest the control of the process by a de facto government put in place after a military coup removed President José Manuel Zelaya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.

  1. Honduras Candidates
    Manuel Zelaya argues that the present election is a sham that should not be recognized by the international community. Keep in mind that recently, when Zelaya entered the Brazilian Embassy, about 3,000 people gathered to recieve him and that his largest concentration of people was in his attempted airport landing, when almost 40,000 people from all Honduras gathered to greet him.

    Well, the electoral process consists of 7 independent, yet simultaneous projects:
    (1) Administration of the electoral material (logistics)
    (2) National census and voting table distribution
    (3) Electoral documentation
    (4) Promotion of the Election
    (5) Transmission of Results
    (6) Electoral training
    (7) National and international observation

    Currently, there are about 250,000 people working directly for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in permanent or temporary positions. These do not include colateral government offices such as the Census Bureau (RNP), which is working overtime to ensure that all voters have their Honduran IDs, or the police and Armed Forces with over 33,000 persons in charge of security. It also doesn`t include about 14,500 candidates campaigning for amost 3,000 positions as Presidential, Congressional and Municipal authorities. Neither does it include almost 153,000 voting table delegates representing the 5 competing political parties. It also doesn’t include about 2,500 national and international observers from 70 different countries.

    In all, over 600,000 Hondurans are aready taking part in the election, without counting voters, estimated at 4.6 million. Members of the Armed forces are not allowed to vote.

    But lets consider the voting population. At the outset of the campaigning period, about 80 Zelayista boycotters tried to disrupt a political rally by the second most popular candidate (according to some polls) in the southern town of Choluteca. They were met with fierce resistance from about 4,000 political activists who were gathering for the rally. Although no police were present (only media), this is one of the cases in which Human Rights activists from the OAS and other political organizations claim police brutality. The only person hospitalized was an elderly gentleman who was attending the political rally (not boycotting). Since then, hundreds of thousands of political activists have gathered in all corners of the country in support of one or the other candidate.

    Considering that over 13% of the voting populatin are already taking part in the election and that simply this amounts to more than 10 times Zelaya’s peak support, international calls to not recognize the results of the election seem like a futile, undemocratic and insulting attitude to the REAL Honduran people, not to be confused with the populist “people” of Zelaya’s rhetoric.

    Padilla Sunceri doesn’t mention that he has criminal charges against him for misuse of govt funds. It should also be noted that in all, about 5 candidates of 14,500 have withdrawn.

    1. Who are the “REAL Hondurans”?
      This comment tries to make a comparison between the 600,000 Hondurans reportedly involved in the electoral process and the tens of thousands of Hondurans who have protested the coup. Somehow the person who wrote this seems not to have noticed that the election workers are paid to participate, the candidates are seeking offices, and the soldiers have no choice–while the people protesting the coup are, of their own free will, facing arrest, tear gas, beatings and possibly death when they go to a demonstration.

      What’s really disturbing, though, is the writer’s distinction between “REAL Honduran people” and “the populist ‘people’ of Zelaya’s rhetoric.” We have to listen to this same sort of rightwing nonsense here, about “REAL Americans.” The polls show the majority of Hondurans opposing the coup–are they not real Hondurans? The protesters are real Hondurans, just as the golpistas are real Hondurans, along with the people in the middle.

      History shows that it’s not that big a step to go from denying people their reality to denying them their existence.

      The comment is correct, however, about San Pedro Sula mayor Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri: he is facing corruption charges, and our sources should have reported that. (One source also misspelled his name as “Sunceri,” which we mistakenly used.) Padilla Sunseri has challenged the charges, which didn’t seem to be a big problem until he fled the country after the June 28 coup. With his legal problems and his absence from the campaign, the mayor had sunk to 10% in the October CID Gallup poll, so his resignation from the race was mostly symbolic.

      See La Tribuna 7/8/09 and El Tiempo 10/27/09.

      For an analysis of the complexities of the municipal races, see the article by Daniel Altschuler in Americas Quarterly for 11/17/09.

      David L. Wilson
      Weekly News Update on the Americas

  2. AFL-CIO rejects Honduran electoral farce
    From the AFL-CIO’s Now Blog:

    Trumka: Free Elections Not Possible Now in Honduras
    The continued repression of trade unionists by the regime set up in Honduras after a June 28 coup makes it impossible to hold free and fair elections, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a Nov. 13 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Trumka points out that delegates to the AFL-CIO Convention in September passed a resolution calling on the U.S. government to suspend military aid to Honduras until President Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected leader, is returned to office and human and trade union rights have been restored…

    With an illegitimate government in power, scheduled elections later this month cannot be fair, free and open, Trumka says.

    The violent and coercive repression of political opposition to the de facto coup regime, including trade unionists, has continued. At least 12 trade unionists have died in the violence since June 28. National and international human rights organizations report ongoing human rights violations committed by state security forces, including killings, severe beatings, sexual violence, the imprisonment and torture of activists, as well as the arrest and detention of President Zelaya’s supporters.

    Trumka calls on Clinton and the U.S. government to oppose national elections in Honduras unless Zelaya is reinstated and to implement the recommendations in the AFL-CIO resolution.