Honduras: opposition charges fraud in election

With about 43% of the ballots counted in Honduras' Nov. 24 presidential election, Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado, the candidate of the right-wing governing National Party (PN), was ahead with about 34% of the votes, according to electoral officials on Nov. 25. Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, running for the newly formed center-left Freedom and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), was second with 28.4%, followed by Mauricio Villeda of the center-right Liberal Party (PL) with about 21%. Both Castro and Hernández, previously the National Congress president, claimed victory. Castro's husband, former president José Manuel ("Mel") Zelaya Rosales (2006-2009), told reporters that there were "serious inconsistencies" in as many as 400,000 ballots. He said LIBRE supporters "are going to defend our triumph at the ballot box and if necessary will take to the streets." There is no runoff in the Honduran presidential election; the candidate with a plurality wins.

While the results remain in dispute, the election clearly marked a shift in Honduran politics, which the PL and the PN dominated for most of the last century. LIBRE, which grew out of a broad movement resisting the military coup that overthrew Zelaya in June 2009, has now at the very least established itself as the main opposition party, following a pattern seen in many Latin American countries over the past 20 years. (BBC News, Nov. 26 from correspondent; New York Times, Nov. 26, from correspondents)

In addition to voting for the president, Hondurans were choosing the 128 deputies for the unicameral National Congress, 20 deputies for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) and the governments of the 298 municipalities. Some 5.4 million Hondurans were eligible to vote. Hundreds of international observers arrived in the country to monitor the country, some from governmental organizations like the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU), and others from social organizations, including the international campesino movement Vía Campesina and Jubilee South/Americas, a Latin American network focusing on international debt.

In October LIBRE supporters reported a wave of pre-electoral violence against party activists and people active in other social movements. Violence, intimidation and irregularities continued up to election day. Two LIBRE members, María Amparo Pineda Duarte and Julio Ramón Maradiaga, were shot dead the evening of Nov. 23 in Cantarranas, in the south-central department of Francisco Morazán, as they were returning from an election training session. On the morning of Nov. 24 Radio Globo, an independent station, reported that the military had surrounded its transmitter. "We have not requested this presence," an announcer said on the air. "They want to use this to pressure us and shut us up, but Radio Globo will be on the air, whatever it takes."

Widespread blackouts were reported in Tegucigalpa in the week before the elections, threatening possible disruptions in the voting; the neighborhoods affected, including La Mercedes, Kennedy, San Francisco, Hato de Medio, Dilbio Paraleso, Nueva Capital Del Pantanal, Quesada and other marginalized areas, are LIBRE strongholds. International observers reported incidents of harassment by immigration officials and the military on Nov. 22 and Nov. 23. (Adital, Brazil, Nov. 22; Honduras Solidarity Network, Nov. 23, Nov.23Honduras Culture and Politics, Nov.24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, November 24