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Another stolen election in Honduras

Xiomara Castro, Libertad y Refundación Presidential candidateDespite widespread allegations of massive fraud, Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Council declared ruling National Party leader Juan Orlando Hernández the winner in the country’s presidential election in November. The right wing National Party was adjudged to have defeated Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party candidate Xiomara Castro de Zelaya. Xiomara Castro challenged the official returns and claimed victory. She is the wife of the former president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup.

Details of electoral fraud across Central Honduras were reported by the US-based International Action Center. These allegations included vote tampering and large numbers of Libre supporters unable to vote due to being left off the electoral rolls.

“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,” reported one socialist newspaper.

Widespread repression took place ahead of the election. Honduras is already the murder capital of the world with an average ten people killed each day. Workers World reports:

On October 14, the government ordered another 1,000 military police onto the streets of Honduras, raising their number to 5,000 since the Honduran Congress authorized the creation of a new, militarized police force in August… These forces, who wear black masks covering their faces, have been terrorizing the people of Honduras.”

The night before the election, armed police raided the Libre party headquarters in the presence of international observers – not the first raid on Libre’s offices.

The Guardian reported recently that:

More than half of the country lives 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. Homelessness and malnutrition are widespread.

In June 2009, a military coup overthrew the popular government of Manuel Zelaya. Under his government, free education for all children was introduced, subsidies to small farmers were provided, the minimum wage was increased by 80% and school meals were guaranteed for more than 1.6 million children from poor families. Domestic employees were integrated into the social security system and poverty was reduced by almost 10% during two years of government. Direct state help was provided for 200,000 families in extreme poverty, with free electricity supplied to those most in need. Honduras also aligned with the ALBA, the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas. Less than two and a half years into his presidency, he was kidnapped by the army in a coup that was condemned by the UN, EU and OAS, and forced into exile.

At the Obama Administration’s behest, fresh elections were held under a state of emergency, without the participation of the ousted president, and were subject to widespread fraud and intimidation. Some 800 US personnel oversaw the poll, however, and were quick to proclaim its legitimacy. The Obama Administration hailed the poll as a “very important step forward for Honduras”, despite 23 Latin American and Caribbean nations of the Rio Group refusing to recognise the election and Amnesty International proclaiming a “human rights crisis” in Honduras – there was evidence of voters being herded to the polls at gunpoint. Time magazine headlined its coverage “Obama’s Latin American Policy Looks Like Bush’s”.

Within weeks, US military aid to Honduras resumed. With crime skyrocketing, the Honduran government progressively militarised society, making the country one of the world‘s most dangerous for human rights advocates, trade union and peasant organisers or even journalists.

These latest elections offered Hondurans a real alternative and electoral turnout was very high. But the state’s rapid decision to award the presidency to the incumbent without investigating well-documented abuses now suggests the result has been stolen from them.

Picture credit: Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party of Honduras

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