Terrorizing the Anti-Fraud Resistance: Human Rights Abuses Committed by US and Canadian-Funded State Security Forces in Honduras

PART ONE: COFADEH Report, Disappearances, Arrests & Criminalization

Protests and road blockades continue around the country. The Opposition Alliance has called for actions throughout the month of January, specifically January 6th (today) in the area of San Pedro Sula. Thousands of Hondurans came out to greet Salvador Nasralla in the streets of several cities and towns in northwestern Honduras yesterday including in El Progreso, Agua Blanca Sur (just outside of El Progreso to the south), Quebrada Seca, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, Villanueva, and other small towns and cities in the region. Nasralla attended several of these mobilizations and stopped to visit some of the families of the people that have been assassinated in the protests by state security forces.

Many of these towns and cities organized very effective protests and road blocks in November and December and faced or are still facing the harshest forms of repression. Various points of protest on the major highways in the region reported various types of repression over the last two months: live bullets fired against anti-fraud protesters in the streets; raids targeted at specific houses or whole neighborhoods; state security forces entering neighborhoods in the middle of the night with lists of people to arrest or find; disappearances; assassinations committed by paramilitary groups and death squads believed to be connected to the state; trumped up charges and criminalization; among other tactics used to incite terror in the population.

Yesterday, the Convergence Against Re-election held a press conference in the office of the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH). Family members of anti-fraud protesters that have been assassinated or injured participated in the conference, together with union leader Carlos H. Reyes, the General Coordinator of COFADEH, Bertha Oliva, and Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo). The communique (in Spanish) from the press conference can be found on the HSN’s Facebook page. One particularly important part of the communique clarifies a misreported understanding of the violence occurring throughout the country and highlights the significant imbalance of power between unarmed protesters and state security forces:

“[t]he imposition and implementation of the electoral fraud to complete the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez in violation of the rule of law and the Honduran Constitution, places us again, before another coup d’état. This has provoked the indignation and protest of an unprotected and defenseless population whose weapons are chants, rocks, sticks, burned tires, and trees dragged across roads, against strong repression by the State armed with tanks, tear gas, live bullets, manipulation of the media and that fulfill the orders of a regime strengthened with the recognition of foreign governments that with their decision, favor the grave violation of human rights.”

According to COFADEH, 30 people have been assassinated between November 30 and December 28, 2017, 14 of which have occurred in the northwestern region of Honduras. There are other numbers of assassinations that have been reported other than what COFADEH has published as of December 28th. Some are reporting assassinations as high as 37 or 40 people. The discrepancy between other reports and numbers published by COFADEH have to do with different methodologies of designating assassinations as politically or election crisis-related; incidents that have occurred since COFADEH published their data; the difficulties of confirming and investigating cases; and the fear associated with public denunciation of abuses by family members and friends of the victims.

 List prepared by COFADEH. 

List prepared by COFADEH. 

COFADEH map 28 de dic.jpg
COFADEH breakdown of abuses.jpg

According to COFADEH, 21 of the 30 assassinations were committed by the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP). Its important, especially for US and Canadian citizens denouncing the role of North American governments that fund and train Honduran state security forces, to note that although the involvement of the Military Police has been extremely violent and somewhat distinct from other state security forces, the National Police and the Honduran military have also committed various abuses including assassinations and torture. During the alleged work stoppage by the National Police, there are reports that police were involved in torture (including waterboarding), shooting live bullets, and at least one assassination in Agua Blanca Sur, just south of El Progreso. These reports are not unique to just one area of the country either. Giving the impression that the Military Police are the only force committing abuses is limiting the extent of the involvement of various branches of the government including the Ministry of Defense (which commands the Military and the Military Police) and the Ministry of Security (which commands the Police) in the systematic violation of the rights of protesters and the general population. There have been hundreds of detentions and charges laid against protesters, bystanders, and citizens that have been arbitrarily arrested but that have no involvement in protests at all. This demonstrates how various branches of the State are contributing to the violence and fear being used against the entire Honduran population since, and before of course, the November 26 elections.

Independent journalist, Sandra Cuffe made an interesting point about the on-going repression against the Honduran population since the electoral crisis and fraud. Cuffe tweeted on December 26, “Today marks exactly one month since the Nov. 26 elections in Honduras. In the past 30 days, more than 30 people have been killed in the context of the ongoing political crisis. In comparison, in the 30 days following the 2009 coup, there were 5 documented political killings.”

Since there are so many cases of injuries, assassinations, disappearances, persecution, detentions, and criminalization processes, here is part one of a broader summary of some of the major human rights concerns and cases:

Disappearances and Death Squads

There are reports of at least three disappearances of individuals that were last seen being taken away and detained by Military Police. The case of Manuel de Jesus Bautista Salvador (22 years old) is better documented than the other two cases involving disappearances which occurred in the Lopez Arellano neighborhood in the northern city of Choloma allegedly on December 6th. The HSN or Honduran human rights organizations will put out more information about these other two cases from the Lopez Arellano in the coming weeks.

There have been other reports of disappearances where individuals were detained by Military Police or National Police and not seen again until their dead bodies were found. There are two separate cases in the San Pedro Sula region where young men were picked up by unmarked cars and their bodies both turned up the day following their disappearances with signs of  torture. One young man was strangled with his shoe laces. The other man’s body was found with his head shaved, tips of his fingers cut off (likely to avoid identification via fingerprinting) and all of his teeth had been pulled out. These are clear examples of death squad killings intended to generate fear and target individuals involved in any sort of resistance or protests against the government. In at least two cases of disappearances, when family members have gone to the police and state institutions in search of their loved one, the police have told them that the person they are searching for will be released in 6 months to one year and do not give any information as to their whereabouts, reasons for detention, status, location, etc. 

Manuel de Jesus Bautista has been missing over a month after he was arbitrarily arrested by Military Police on December 3. According to the legal complaint filed by Bautista’s family: “he left the house and headed towards the local store to buy food to cook. Since then he hasn’t turned up anywhere. According to what I’ve been told by the neighbors, my brother along with a friend came across the Military Police who immediately started to beat them up. They let my brother’s friend go but my brother, to this day, hasn’t turned up.”

 Manuel de Jesus Bautista, disappeared on December 3 in Naco, Cortes. Photo by: Unknown. 

Manuel de Jesus Bautista, disappeared on December 3 in Naco, Cortes. Photo by: Unknown. 

His family and local human rights defenders have searched everywhere for him and a lawyer presented a Habeas Corpus on December 24. The search for Bautista continues. As one human rights defender wrote about the search: “I was looking almost all day yesterday for the young man from Naco, disappeared by the Military Police since December 3. He was 22 years old and for 3 continuous years worked with the Lear Corporation in Naco. He had his entire life ahead of him. We lost him. The more we strived to find him, we couldn’t, not in the police stations, military battalions, hospitals, not even amongst the cadavers in both morgues. There is no trace of him. The only thing we found was a unrecognizable, decapitated cadaver impossible to identify because of how badly the person was tortured.”

Arrests & Criminalization

There have been several arrests carried out during mobilizations, in neighborhoods around the country where protests have been based, and in communities days after well-attended actions were carried out to denounce the electoral fraud. A spokesperson for the Inter-Institutional Task Force known as FUSINA told the Honduran media that 501 people were detained nationwide just on Saturday, December 2 during the state of exception, and 96 people were charged as a result. On the same day, the Honduran national police reported that of all people detained in northern Honduras, 33 people were sent to the new maximum-security prison “El Pozo” and 24 to a jail in El Progreso, Yoro.

These statistics and numbers were from earlier in December and fewer detentions have been reported since, but they give an idea of arrests and criminalization processes that are underway as a result of the anti-fraud protests and the State’s backlash against protesters.

The types of detentions overviewed above are allegedly a result of the violation of the state of exception (being on the street after 6 pm after the permitted hours outlined by the state) and also, are arrests made of people in the vicinity of anti-fraud protests. These types of arrests continue to occur, but the Honduran state is also arbitrarily arresting and charging people in communities where the resistance and protests are the strongest and/or where police stations were burned or destroyed, usually following the murder of an anti-fraud protester or bystander. 

 US-trained, funded, and vetted TIGRES elite police force at a road blockade in Tegucigalpa. Photo by: Honduras Solidarity Network

US-trained, funded, and vetted TIGRES elite police force at a road blockade in Tegucigalpa. Photo by: Honduras Solidarity Network

One of the most worrisome cases of targeted persecution and criminalization is an on-going legal case against 11 people from the community of Pimienta in the northern department of Cortes. On December 26, 14 people from Pimienta were arrested in a joint military-police operation that began at approximately 3 am in the morning. 3 people were later released. Residents of Pimienta told the Honduras Solidarity Network that the raids and arrests were carried out by the Intelligence Troop and Special Security Response Group (TIGRES) – an elite police unit that is trained, funded, and vetted by the US government. When asking individual TIGRES officers who they report to, at least four in different occasions have told the HSN that their Commander(s) is in direct contact with the US Embassy. In the raid in Pimienta, the TIGRES were accompanied by the Directorate for Police Investigations (DPI) which is also trained by the US government.

According to a family member of one person arrested: “They began surrounding the house at 3 am, we were sleeping when they arrived but we started to hear noise. They began to bang on the door and they yelled ‘we have a search warrant’ – they were the TIGRES and the DPI. We were really scared and he [one of the men arrested] opened the door and they told him “we have a search warrant” and he responded, “ok, you can look, we have nothing to hide in this house” and then they pulled him out of the house, handcuffed him, and put him into the patrol car. I was getting dressed when they arrived and they told me after pulling him out of the house, that they were searching the house and that I could be present. I responded, “of course I’m going to be here, this is my house and we have nothing to hide. You can search wherever you want.” They started to search, they left a big mess in the house, they were looking for something, they even looked under the beds, the pillows, they wanted to find weapons or drugs, but they didn’t find anything. So when they finished messing up the entire house … my kids were so scared, they are under 6 years old. They treated us like we are big criminals, pointing at us with their weapons and when they finished searching everything, they asked me to come and sign something. They told me that they didn’t find anything – drugs, weapons, absolutely nothing, the house was clean. And so I said, ‘so if there are no weapons or drugs, why are you arresting him?’ They told me ‘Because we have to investigate.’ And so they took him where they had all the other people they detained. And now they are saying that they arrested them all together. That is a lie! They came and took him out of the house. And now they are accusing him and many in the group of things they did not do.”

Other people reported significant damage to their houses like broken-down doors, and violent searches and arrests carried out in the early hours of the morning in front of small children. Some residents said that they were never shown any search warrants. Others reports that some of the people arrested had nothing to do with the protests and have no idea why they are being targeted.

Initially 14 people were arrested in Pimienta on December 26th during the early morning raids. After a legal hearing, 3 people were released and the 11 remaining accused were sent to the new maximum-security prison known as “El Pozo.” Their heads were shaved for some unknown reason and family members were denied entry to see the prisoners.

 Some of the 11 people arrested in Pimienta, Cortes as retaliation against the local population. The men are waiting outside the courthouse in San Pedro Sula for their initial legal hearing. Their heads were shaved and they were sent to a new maximum-security prison modeled off US-style prisons. Picture by: Unknown. 

Some of the 11 people arrested in Pimienta, Cortes as retaliation against the local population. The men are waiting outside the courthouse in San Pedro Sula for their initial legal hearing. Their heads were shaved and they were sent to a new maximum-security prison modeled off US-style prisons. Picture by: Unknown. 

On December 29, the initial hearing was held in San Pedro Sula. All are being accused of property damage, arson, and two of the 11 people, illicit association. In the initial hearing, the judge ordered the accused to be jailed while waiting to the next hearing that has not been scheduled. Since the December 29th hearing, 10 people are being held in the same maximum-security prison, forced to sleep on the floor, and facing threats that they will be disappeared.

Residents in Pimienta and human rights defenders accompanying the case believe that the community is being targeted because of incidents that occurred during protests and road blocks on December 20th near the community. Pictures circulated on social media of individuals, known to be police officers, sitting on the ground, without their clothes on and with their hands tied behind their backs. Guns, cell phones and police uniforms are scattered on the ground around them and people, likely protesters, many with their faces covered are standing around them.

According to witnesses, people involved in blocking the main road close to Pimienta in protest of the electoral fraud, confiscated and carried out citizen arrests of individuals who were sitting in an unmarked vehicle taking pictures of the protesters. The arrest and charges laid against the 11 people from Pimienta are believed to be related to the arrests of the individuals – later discovered to be police after their vehicle was searched – as retaliation and an attempt to “set an example” for similar incidents throughout the country. The police station in Pimienta, like in at least 6 other areas in Honduras, was burned, according to community residents, in protest of the number of assassinations committed by state security forces against anti-fraud protesters.

There are several other cases of criminalization of people arbitrarily detained by state security forces and accused of arbitrary crimes. Two men in El Progreso – Gustavo Adolfo Caceres Amaya and Johnny Andres Salgado Fuentes were arrested on December 21st in different parts of the city of El Progreso and neither were very active in the anti-fraud protests. On December 25th, three more people were arrested in El Progreso and are being accused of incidents related to the burning of a police station during anti-fraud protests. In addition, two more young men were arrested in El Progreso on December 29th, accused of being responsible for the death of a police officer Maikin Enoc Ramirez who suffered a head injury during an anti-fraud protest in December. 

The arbitrary arrests and criminalization of individuals from towns and cities around the country are believed to be a strategy to incite fear and discourage people from protesting. There have been several reports including in neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa and Sambo Creek on the north coast, that state security forces enter the communities with lists, sometimes in the early hours of the morning, with lists of people that they are seeking to arrest and target. 


PART TWO of Human Rights Summary Coming Soon And Will Provide Case Examples of Assassinations, Injuries, and Defamation Campaigns Against Anti-Fraud Protesters and Community Leaders. 

Day 37 - 2017 Election Crisis & Fraud UPDATE

- January 5, 2018 -

Political activities slowed down in Honduras as one would expect, over Christmas and New Years. Just a quick recap of some key activities that occurred in late December since the last update, and also what to expect as we move into 2018. I will post a human rights update separately since there are so many cases and issues to overview.

US & Canada's Support for Fraudulent Elections & JOH

On December 22, the US State Department recognized the election results and Juan Orlando Hernandez's (JOH) fraudulent victory. From the statement, the US makes references to the importance of a "robust national dialogue" which would act as a "significant long-term effort to heal the political divide in the country and enact much-needed electoral reforms." In almost utter disbelief given the well-established national understanding of the complete absence of the rule of law and due process, the State Department statement recommends political parties to "use the avenues provided by Honduran law" to file challenges before the Electoral Tribunal (TSE). The US also "reiterate[s] the call for all Hondurans to refrain from violence." This last line is written in a way that suggests the violence is coming from both sides and equating the power held and violence used by state security forces and anti-fraud protesters. The statement completely disregards the role of the U.S. government and Honduran state in the assassinations, injuries, terror, and abuses committed by state security forces.

 Embassy of the USA, don't have a double standard. The electoral fraud is in the TSE. Picture taken during a mobilization in front of US Embassy, December 2017

Embassy of the USA, don't have a double standard. The electoral fraud is in the TSE. Picture taken during a mobilization in front of US Embassy, December 2017

In the Honduran press around the time the State Department recognized the fraudulent election results, US Chargé d'Affaires Heide Fulton in Tegucigalpa made a few interesting statements. La Tribuna reported that Fulton told the Honduran press that Honduran law does not allow new elections. This statement was met with a strong reaction in Honduras including from Father Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo) from Radio Progreso and ERIC who tweeted, "Ms. Fulton says that 'repeat the elections isn't in the law ...' Is relection in the law? Is killing protesters in the law? Ms. Fulton, with respect I'm telling you: don't be a hypocrite, say the authentic reasons that your government endorses the illegality of JOH."

Immediately following the US announcement in support of JOH's victory, the Canadian government followed suit via a tweet from the Foreign Policy Canada account:  "Canada acknowledges confirmation of Juan Orlando Hernandez as President of Honduras. We urge the Government to protect human rights and ensure that those responsible for violations are held accountable. Political dialogue is urgently needed for peace and stability for all Hondurans." Its worth mentioning that the Embassy of Canada in Tegucigalpa closed on November 30th "due to security reasons," one night before the Honduran government declared a state of exception. Shortly after the US recognized JOH, other countries followed including (not in any particular order): Costa Rica, Belize, China, Brazil, Russia, Peru, Japan, among others.

Opposition Alliance

On December 22, Salvador Nasralla held a press conference in the absence of Mel Zelaya, to announce that his participation in the Alliance had ended given that the Alliance was an electoral project and thus ended following the elections or needed to be renewed. After denouncing the US recognition of the JOH government, Nasralla expressed hope in the OAS pushing for new elections. In late December, Nasralla made several statements that generated confusion and doubt in the unity of the Alliance. Nasralla began calling for an inclusive national dialogue and mentioned forming a "National Democratic Anti-Corruption Front" that included all sectors of society including "good" military and the "honest" business sector. As outlined below, Nasralla seemed to have slightly changed his discourse now in 2018 and is now more in line with the Alliance's public position (see more below).

Organization of American States' Election Mission Final Report

On December 27, the OAS's Electoral Observation Mission published their final report about the Honduran elections. A lot of what is in the final report reiterates what the Mission reported in their preliminary report published on December 6th that highlights many of the irregularities in the electoral process that cause the Mission to have serious doubts about the process and thus the results. In response to the final report, Mel Zelaya tweeted that the OAS's final report makes no mention of new elections anywhere in its report despite General Secretary Luis Almagro's public statements and tweets mentioning new elections as a possible way out of the electoral crisis. In late December, Almagro also posted the December 21st letter led by Congressional representative Norma Torres' office calling for new elections as well as WOLA's statement in favor of new Presidential elections. In late December and early January,  Zelaya remained very critical of the OAS's (mostly via Almagro's statements in his capacity as the OAS General Secretary) weak position on calling for new elections. Zelaya has stated several times that the OAS position is a trap and that he is still waiting to hear back from the OAS about being reinstated after being overthrown in 2009, something which the OAS said they supported and then failed to follow through on, in the months after the 2009 coup.

On the issue of human rights, in late December, the OAS formally asked the Honduran government to allow a special delegation to visit Honduras to investigate the human rights situation, the government's response to rights violations, to speak with the family members, and to visit people that have been detained. The Honduran government rejected the request and published a two-page letter in response.

Social Movements & the Convergence Against Re-election

On December 28, the Convergence Against Re-election held the "National Gathering of Organizers Against Re-election." There were several organizations and groups that are part of the Honduran social movement that attended, particularly small neighborhood collectives from Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula area. The Convergence will meet again in January to continue the important discussions that began at the gathering. A key topic of discussion was about actions (gatherings, forums, protests, etc) to be planned in various sectors (departments, regions, cities, neighbourhoods, etc) of the country in late December and early January in preparation for nation-wide actions expected throughout January but particularly on Jan 27th when Juan Orlando Hernandez will be inaugurated for his second term.

Moving Forward Into 2018

To kick off the New Year on January 2, the Opposition Alliance held a press conference in Tegucigalpa and published a communique that picks up activities and calls for protests during the month of January. Together, Manuel Zelaya, Salvador Nasralla, representatives from the smaller PINU party that forms part of the Alliance, continued emphasizing the illegitimacy of the Juan Orlando Hernandez government and the election results. Nasralla clarified that the Alliance has not dissolved and that it is "more solid than ever." Nasralla's appearance along with Zelaya dismissed some of the previous concerns about Nasralla's position and what seemed like an effort to distance himself from the Alliance.

As mentioned above, discussions of a national dialogue keep coming up, particularly in the Honduran media, known all to well for their promotion and close ties to the JOH government. On January 3, El Heraldo published an article about JOH's third meeting of a "national pre-dialogue" with representatives from the banana and African Palm industry and other sectors. There seems to be a significant push by the US Embassy, the JOH government, and "civil society organizations" like Association for a More Justice Society (Asociacion por Una Sociedad Mas Justa, ASJ) to move forward with some sort of national dialogue which is seen as a solution to the electoral crisis. Its worth mentioning that the "civil society" representatives like representatives from ASJ are heavily criticized by Honduran organizations as they receive a huge proportion of their annual budget from the US government agencies including USAID and the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Agency (INL).

In the January 2nd press conference, Nasralla rejected any calls by the JOH government for a dialogue, stating various times that JOH is a thief and lacks national credibility and legitimacy. Nasralla reiterated that any dialogue must be mediated by international mediators that all parties agree to. Luis Zelaya of the Liberal Party, also rejects JOH's call for a dialogue and insists on international mediation as well.

In the same press conference, Mel Zelaya once again denounced the role of the US government in supporting the JOH government and other dictators throughout history. Nasralla also denounced that JOH is arming paramilitary groups in the northern region of Honduras with weapons and ammunition that are being used to kill anti-fraud protesters and Alliance supporters. He cited the assassination of Wilmer Paredes killed on January 1st in the municipality of Esparta in northern department of Atlántida. (More about this case in the human rights summary)

 Wilmer Paredes. Assassinated on January 1, 2018. Picture by Criterio.hn

Wilmer Paredes. Assassinated on January 1, 2018. Picture by Criterio.hn

Finally, the Alliance called for and later published in a communique, a series of calls for actions in the month of January. On January 6th, the Alliance is calling for a protest in San Pedro Sula and will be accompanied by Nasralla. The week (Jan 20 to 27) leading up to the day of the inauguration, the Alliance is calling for "total mobilization." The communique also instructs congressional representatives that were elected in November, to not participate in JOH's inauguration, and rejects any type of "direct dialogue" with JOH or any government institutions. Finally, the Alliance convokes a meeting in northern Honduras today (January 5th) of the National Coordinator of the LIBRE Party, and current and elected congressional representatives to discuss resistance strategies for the coming month.

Day 22 - 2017 Election Crisis & Fraud UPDATE

- Wednesday, December 20 -

The human rights situation in northern Honduras is so dire that its hard to describe with words. Northwestern cities including Choloma, San Pedro Sula, Villanueva, El Progreso, and the small communities between or around those areas are literally living in a war zone. There are countless videos circulating that show the terror tactics being used by state security forces particularly the Military Police against anti-fraud protesters and the general population. The state is getting increasingly violent around the country but particularly in that area because the resistance is, arguably, one of the strongest. San Pedro Sula area is also the economic center of Honduras. Its the main location of U.S. and Canada-owned sweatshops of all types (automotive, textile, call centers, etc). A lot of the road blocks in that area are also located on the Panamerican highway that leads to the shipping port in Puerto Cortes. Puerto Cortes is the largest shipping port in Central America, and the majority of goods being imported or exported from U.S. and Canadian markets into or out of Honduras, pass through that port.

On December 15th, COFADEH published a list of 22 people that have been assassinated during the electoral crisis since November 30th. This number has increased in the last few days although its hard to say exactly by how much. Based on what the HSN has been able to gather, five more people have been added to the death toll. There are also at least five unconfirmed cases where protesters or bystanders were reported as seriously injured over the last few days and their health status is unknown. Of the 22 cases reported by COFADEH, half have occurred in the northwestern area I describe in the previous paragraph. There have been a total of eight assassinations in the northwestern city of Choloma including 14-year old Katherin Nicole Carranza Enamorado who was killed yesterday.

 Katherin Nicole Carranza Enamorado (14- years old) killed in Choloma yesterday.

Katherin Nicole Carranza Enamorado (14- years old) killed in Choloma yesterday.

Every day, Hondurans living in or around El Progreso, San Pedro, Choloma, and Puerto Cortes maintain 24 hour road blocks and protests. The determination of people while facing such extreme repression is indeed inspiring but also very worrisome because of the terror, violence and repression they face as a result. It is clear that people want JOH out of power so badly that they are willing to stand in front of weapons and go to the streets despite the uncertainty that they might not return home.

This afternoon, the Opposition Alliance called for a gathering in Tegucigalpa outside of the headquarters of the Honduran Armed Forces (Estado Mayor Conjunto). Speaking to the crowd, Alliance Coordinator Manuel Zelaya strongly criticized the historical role of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras: "The gringos supported the 2009 military coup and now they are supporting electoral fraud." Standing in the back of a pick up truck carrying a sound system, Zelaya made clear that he is not convinced of the OAS's proposal for a new election. "Calling for elections is an OAS [Organization of American States] trap - we don't need another election, the President elect is Salvador Nasralla" he told the cheering crowd.

 Honduras carry crosses at the event today in front of the headquarters of the Honduran Armed Forces in Tegucigalpa today. Each cross represents people that have been killed by state security forces during the 2017 electoral crisis and fraud. Picture by Edgardo Soriano.

Honduras carry crosses at the event today in front of the headquarters of the Honduran Armed Forces in Tegucigalpa today. Each cross represents people that have been killed by state security forces during the 2017 electoral crisis and fraud. Picture by Edgardo Soriano.

In contrast to Zelaya's position, Nasralla, who just returned from Washington D.C. today, seems to support the idea of new elections. Honduran political analysts believe that the OAS's position is an (another) attempt to split the Opposition Alliance by dividing Nasralla and Zelaya's position on the issue of calling for a new election. With good reason considering the OAS's soft position after the 2009 coup, Zelaya does not trust the OAS's proposal.

Some countries, many of which are U.S. allies, have come out and recognized Juan Orlando Hernandez's (JOH) victory. Colombia was the first followed by Guatemala, South Korea, Israel, and Mexico. Its unclear what Spain's position is although JOH seems to think (as per a tweet) that Spain recognized his fraudulent victory. The U.S. has not officially recognized JOH's victory but is suspected to make some sort of declaration on Friday which is five days since the Electoral Tribunal's announcement was made and the time frame in which challenges to the results can be presented. The US's statement demonstrates nothing but all out support for the fraudulent JOH government. Holding up the Honduran legal system as a legitimate form of "challenging the results" completely glosses over the fact that JOH controls the judicary which is the same judiciary that allowed JOH to illegally run for reelection in the first place. It is also the same judiciary that has caused and enabled a 90% impunity rate in Honduras for the past 8.5 years. There is no rule of law in Honduras for any legal issues to be made or challenged. The US is well aware of this. US support for JOH, explicit and implicit, comes of no surprise to the Honduran population protesting in the streets. There is a lot of clarity from anti-fraud protesters about which side the US is on.

As for Honduran social movements, Radio Progreso published an elaborate proposal calling for a new election. The Civic Council for Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) put out a statement rejecting the announcement by the TSE that JOH won the elections. COPINH calls for JOH to leave his position as President immediately, and failing that, new elections supervised by the "international community" that respect the positions and needs of popular social movements. The Platform of Popular and Social Movement of Honduras (PMSPH) call for pressure to foreign governments to speak out against the "electoral coup"; demand that the OAS, European Union, United Nations and the U.S. respect the will of the people who elected Nasralla as their President. Finally, both the PMSPH and COPINH denounce and call for justice of the human rights violations and assassinations committed against the Honduran population and anti-fraud protesters, and call for on-going protests against the fraud.

The Alliance has called for continued protests. In a public letter released yesterday, the Alliance called for protests at specific meeting places in Tegucigalpa over the next few days. Today, as mentioned above, the Alliance called for a protest in front of the Headquarters of the Armed Forces. Student movements from the public university (UNAH) have called a protest at the northern exit of Tegucigalpa early in the morning. In the afternoon, the Alliance is calling on people to meet at three different points in Tegucigalpa and will march towards the U.S. Embassy to "condemn the support to fraud and financing to the repressive institutions that violate human rights." On Friday, the Alliance is asking people to take to the streets again at 6 am. Even though these calls are being made to protest at distinct times and places, its worth mentioning that many people, particularly on the north coast, maintain 24-hour road blocks or protests or spontaneously, especially at night as is the case in Tegucigalpa, meet in the streets to protest.

 Protesters in northern Honduras take the shield away from the police and decorate them with "Fuera JOH"

Protesters in northern Honduras take the shield away from the police and decorate them with "Fuera JOH"

Day 19 - 2017 Election Crisis & Fraud UPDATE

- Sunday, December 17th, 2017 -

 In La Kennedy neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa shortly after the OAS Electoral Observation Mission gave their declarations. Sunday, December 17, 2017.

In La Kennedy neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa shortly after the OAS Electoral Observation Mission gave their declarations. Sunday, December 17, 2017.

Tonight, the Electoral Tribunal announced official results declaring Juan Orlando Hernandez President elect with 42.95% of the votes and 41.24% for Salvador Nasralla. Almost immediately after, the European Union's Election Observation Mission held a press conference outlining and reviewing the recommendations from their preliminary report issued on December 4th. The mission basically concluded that the TSE had met their recommendations.

Right after the TSE announcement, Hondurans went into the streets all around the country. The Opposition Alliance Coordinator, Manuel Zelaya called for Hondurans to protest in public spaces shortly after the TSE's declarations. The Alliance also held a press conference rejecting the TSE's declaration; calling on the Armed Forces and National Police to follow Nasralla's command; denouncing aspects of the EU's statement; and calling Hondurans to protest, among other points.


Earlier today in the afternoon, Salvador Nasralla held a press conference in the Tegucigalpa airport outlining the agenda for his trip to Washington DC. Nasralla is now in Washington DC and over the next few days (if he doesn't rush back to Honduras because of today's announcement), planned to meet with the State Department, OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro, former U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, WOLA, U.S. Senators, and the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights. The title of the Alliance's communique from tonight reads "they deceived Salvador Nasralla by taking him to Washington."

At 9 pm local time, the OAS Electoral Observation Mission held a press conference (while Hondurans were already in the street throughout the country). The OAS Mission representative read a 13-page report which includes one of the final lines: "the Electoral Observation Mission considers that it observed an electoral process of poor quality and therefore, we can't say for sure that the doubts about the process have been clarified." Before the TSE announced the final results earlier in the afternoon, OAS General Secretary Almagro tweeted twice providing a hint that the OAS Observer mission may come out against the TSE's declarations. His tweets were: "Uncertainty leads me to request not to make irresponsible public declarations until final reports from the OAS Electoral Observation Mission in Honduras" and "Reports from the OAS Electoral Observation Mission in Honduras conclude that serious doubts about results persist. Press conference soon." And then after the OAS press conference, Almagro tweeted: "General Secretariat of the OAS proposes new elections in order to guarantee peace and harmony in Honduras given the impossibility of certainty of the election results." It is unclear as to what will happen next given different statements from the EU and OAS observation missions.


By the time the OAS press conference concluded, road blocks and protests were growing all around the country. At 10:40 pm, the Platform of Social and Popular Movements of Honduras (PMSPH) reported 88 protests nationwide. As of 11:08 pm, there were 28 road blocks and protests just in Tegucigalpa. People on the street did not seem surprised by the TSE's declarations but were the spark that got them into the streets. The EU and OAS's declarations seemed largely irrelevant and unsurprising to people. Many anti-fraud protesters that I spoke to tonight are saying that this week will be the most important, saying that 'this is it,' meaning they need to do everything possible in terms of protests and actions to stop Juan Orlando Hernandez from winning and taking power. Before today's declaration by the TSE, the Alliance had already called another National Mobilization day for tomorrow, Monday, December 18th.

This is going to be a very difficult week in Honduras.

A few hours after the protests started and late into the night/early morning, reports are starting to come in that military & military police are repressing protesters. COFADEH reports that approximately 20 anti-fraud protesters were detained in southern city of Choluteca. In Tegucigalpa, Honduran media UNETV are reporting that the Honduran military were firing on protesters in the El Sitio neighbourhood. Its still too difficult to confirm a lot of this information because it literally feels like the country is going to explode. 



Honduran human rights organization, the Committee of the Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH) released updated information about the number of assassinations committed by state security forces from November 30 to December 15th. According to COFADEH, 22 people have been murdered, some anti-fraud protesters and some bystanders in various parts of Honduras, many of which are committed by the Military Police (PMOP).

Its hard to overstate just how bad the human rights situation is here. Since the last update on Day 13 and 14, reports around the country about abuses by state security forces have worsened. The number of people assassinated during the electoral crisis and fraud, just does not tell the whole story about the widespread abuses, terror campaigns, disproportionate use of force, and the complete free reign of state security forces, particularly the Military Police, to do what they want, when they want, and against whoever.

 Many protesters suffered gun shot injuries during the National Mobilization day on Friday December 15th when state security forces opened fired on protesters. This picture was taken in San Pedro Sula where at least six people were injured. 26-year old Bryan Noe Mejia Gonzalez, an anti-fraud protester, died the following day.

Many protesters suffered gun shot injuries during the National Mobilization day on Friday December 15th when state security forces opened fired on protesters. This picture was taken in San Pedro Sula where at least six people were injured. 26-year old Bryan Noe Mejia Gonzalez, an anti-fraud protester, died the following day.

The terror tactics being used against the population have worsened since Thursday, December 14th. By the National Mobilization Day on Friday December 15th, videos, pictures and reports from all over the country documenting the terror, were circulating. Some of the videos were reposted on the HSN's Facebook. The following are some examples of the widespread abuses and terror being used against the population:

The north coast of Honduras, particularly the San Pedro Sula area (Villanueva, Choloma, and El Progreso) and San Juan Pueblo in the department of Atlantida, have seen some of the worst abuses in the last few days. Testimonies of a woman living in Choloma tells about how Military Police showed up in poor, marginalized neighbourhood in the middle of the night, yelling, shooting their guns and tear gas. She told me that when she took a few steps outside the front of her house to see what the commotion was, Military Police began shooting their weapons at her and she was hit in the leg.

Another community leader and organizer in another part of Choloma had Military Police show up at his house at 5 am as he was arriving home from work. The Military Police broke into his home, dragged him out to the front of his house, threw him on the ground, tasered him, pointed guns at his head, and threatened to disappear him if he continues to go to the protests. Various people from the man's community began crowding around him and the Military Police ended up leaving. The following day, the Military Police broke into his home three times with their faces fully covered with black balaclavas, ransacked the house on one occasion, demanding to know where the same man that they had threatened the day before, had gone. The leader was forced to leave his home but state security forces continue to hunt for him, asking people where he is. The same leader says that other houses are being arbitrarily broken into by Military Police and police in the same neighbourhood and they are calling those that they are hunting for, gang members and looters. These forces show up at random hours including in the middle of the night to terrorize the neighbourhood. This is not a unique occurence in Choloma. Similar incidents have been reported in southern Honduras as well.

 This was posted on social media. The picture shows Military Police surrounding Delmer and not allowing people to reach him and take him to the hospital after he was shot.

This was posted on social media. The picture shows Military Police surrounding Delmer and not allowing people to reach him and take him to the hospital after he was shot.

On Saturday, December 16th, Delmer Josue Medina died after being shot by Military Police in Cofradia in the northern department of Cortés on Friday during the National mobilization day. Family members and bystanders report that the Military Police would not give them access to Delmer for approximately an hour after he had been shot.

Similar abuses are being reported in Atlantida. The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) reported on Friday evening that state security forces were beating and detaining protesters and launching tear gas into residential areas in the northern city of San Juan Pueblo in the department of Atlantida. San Juan Pueblo and specifically, MADJ's training and meeting center have been targeted previously by state security forces. The same is occurring with COPINH, who has sent out communique's outlining repression and targeting against their members during actions that they are participating in, in western Honduras.

CESPAD Report: The Decisive Role of the United States in the Official Results of the November Elections

Written by: Gustavo Irías Sauceda, Executive Director CESPAD, December 10th. With Support from: The Center for Studies for Democracy (CESPAD) & the World Lutheran Foundation

Original Spanish version: http://cespad.org.hn/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Analisis-2-final.pdf

 Photo by: Cesar Fuentes

Photo by: Cesar Fuentes

Until the afternoon of December 7th the balance of power widely favored the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship, in the struggle to ensure a democratic outcome for the electoral and political crisis triggered by the fraud[1] of November 26-27.

The observer missions from the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union (UE), at least until December 7th, went from mere observers to guarantors in the efforts towards transparent results. The missions exercised a veto over the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) by preventing them from making an official declaration about which candidate won the elections. This is due to the fact that these observer missions had detected inconsistencies and “systemic” irregularities before, during and after the elections, concluding that it was impossible to determine which candidate won the elections.

The two international missions provided a number of recommendations which request the following[2] points:

  • A comparison of the 1,006 vote tally sheets (actas) that were submitted to special scrutiny with the original copies of the vote tally sheets.
  • A verification of the 5,174 records that were not transmitted on election night and conducting a recount of vote tally sheets that show inconsistencies.
  • A revision of voting participation in the departments of Lempira, Intibucá and La Paz including 100% of the Polling Stations (MERs) from each of the departments.

In the afternoon of December 5th a surprising statement from the Official Secretary of the OAS indicated that “if existing irregularities prove to be of such an extent”, the Mission “reserves the right to make any additional recommendations it deems pertinent, on any aspect therefore, without ruling out the possibility of recommending a new call for elections with guarantees that they correct all the identified weaknesses that led to the serious irregularities detected”[3] (italics are ours).

In a report published by CESPAD on December 5th, it is stated that at the moment, the US Embassy supported the recommendations made by the Electoral Observer Missions “on the measures to increase the transparency of the process” (Official Statement from the US Embassy in Honduras, December 4th of 2017).

There was also a statement in a press conference from former presidential candidate Luis Zelaya, acknowledging the electoral triumph of Salvador Nasralla[4]; thus taking from the National Party, a permanent ally during the last eight years of government.

What Happened in the Morning and Afternoon of Thursday, December 7th?

Aside from the highly publicized mobilization from the National Party supporting Presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernández[5], many pieces were moved on that day towards reversing the uncomfortable balance of power for the current power holders. It is also possible that, within the Opposition Alliance, it was difficult to come to a consensus on next steps in order to take advantage of an extraordinarily favorable moment that the party was going through and settle on initiatives that bring about a democratic solution to the crisis.

What appears certain is that on Thursday, December 7th, the Coordinator of the EU Observer Mission Marisa Matías, disappeared from the post-electoral scene along with Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, the OAS Mission Coordinator. In the place of these missions, without being an electoral observer, U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Heide Fulton took the center stage, assuming a role of quasi-governor in a country that has been traditionally deemed as her country’s “backyard”. This clear media exposure hadn’t happened since the 1980s counterinsurgency war in Central America, a period when US officials never concealed that they make the fundamental decisions in the country.

What is it that happened? It’s not so complex: The OAS subordinated its mission to the interests of regional hegemonic powers; the European Union exited the process accepting the hegemony of the United States of America in this area of the world. By doing this, the Honduran electoral process was left under the geopolitical interests of the US government and not a sovereign decision, of people casting their ballots.

In an unexpected press conference, David Matamoros, President of the TSE, at the side of the US Charge d’Affaires, announced that that TSE had chosen to scrutinize “4,753 vote tally sheets and review the votes from the departments of La Paz, Intibucá and Lempira” under the observation of the OAS, delegates from civil society and the US Embassy, “in order to grant certainty to the country and support the new Honduran president.”[6] This happened without the agreement of the main contending political parties and the TSE worked around a protocol that “would increase the transparency of the process” defining, among other points, the way to approach inconsistencies, the comparison of records and signatures and the use of voter signature booklets.

On the contrary, the TSE’s unilateral position was imposed at a moment where it was most discredited. This was made possible through the open political support from the US Embassy, which enabled the TSE to proceed by performing the final scrutiny of the votes and to declare a winning candidate within the shortest possible time frame. This happened with full support from civil society organizations and NGOs working under US policies implemented in the country.

To complete the panorama, while the recounting was happening, former President Manuel Zelaya Rosales issued a letter where he published a “recommendation” made by the OAS and the US government to candidate Salvador Nasralla that urged him to “disengage completely from former President Zelaya because he’s a Chávez supporter promoting Democratic Socialism” (December 9th, 2017). This last points provides a complete image of how during the last days and hours, specifically in the electoral scenario, the US government mobilized actors, repositioned others and attempted to divide the Opposition Alliance by resetting the balance of power in favor of their geopolitical interests.

The Position of the US Government Before and After the Electoral Process

Publicly, the US government has been silent, a situation that has caught the attention of well-known analysts of the region’s right. Such is the case of Andrés Oppenheimer, who affirmed that “President Trump has done the right thing to strongly denounce the authoritarianism of presidents” from the left in Latin America, “but he should do the same with Honduras’ right-wing president.” Oppenheimer has also regretted the delay from the United States in issuing a statement regarding the “generalized irregularities of the November 26th elections in Honduras”. Concluding that “by ignoring a right-wing autocrat, the United States loses moral authority to denounce autocrats from the left”.[7]

Despite its silence about the elections, the US Department of State just two days after November 26, in the middle of the electoral crisis, certified that the Honduran government “has been fighting corruption and supporting human rights, clearing the path so that Honduras can receive millions of dollars in aid from the United States.”[8] The serious violations of human rights during the protests against the electoral fraud between November 30th and December 5th have not modified this certification, constituting a clear message of support from the US Department of State to the Juan Orlando Hernandez’s government.

Regarding these human rights violations, Amnesty International prepared an in situ report establishing that “the Honduran government is deploying dangerous and illegal tactics to silence any dissenting voices in the aftermath of one of the country’s worst political crisis in a decade including preventing lawyers and human rights activists from visiting detained demonstrators.” It emphasized that “Evidence shows that there is no space for people in Honduras to express their opinions. When they do, they come face to face with the full force of the government’s repressive apparatus”[9]. According to COFADEH,[10] the protests against the fraud have left 14 people assassinated, 844 detentions, among other human rights violations as of December 5th.

Recounting and Final Results of the Electoral Process

On the day before the final recount by the TSE, the US Charge D’Affaires made “a strong call to the political class” to accept the result from TSE and announced that “they are ready to work with the elected candidate”[11].

This reaffirmed the role of the US government as the great elector of this electoral process.

The final recount of the 4,753 vote tally sheets was concluded without novelties, with the same results transmitted on previous days by TSE, reducing the observations of inconsistencies and serious irregularities noted in the moment by electoral observation missions. The result generated from the small recount was the following: 50.11% in favor of Juan Orlando Hernández against 31.54% for Salvador Nasralla.[12] This result was added to the remaining vote tally that were not recounted and resulted in the following: Juan Orlando Hernández (42.98%) and Salvador Nasralla (41.38%), exactly the same result from days before, which was considered irregular and lacking transparency and credibility by national and international actors.

Before the final declaration, the TSE has to resolve the Liberal Party’s legal appeals (impugnaciones) that requests the total annulment of the presidential election results. The TSE also has to resolve the appeal of the Opposition Alliance that demands to annul the count and result of the process, and requests a total recount of all vote tally sheets at the presidential level. However, the issue is not that simple for the TSE. Because in addition, Salvador Nasralla has presented a criminal complaint against David Matamoros for abuse of authority, violation of the duties of a public official, and abuse of authority. If the law is applied, this complaint leaves Matamoros unqualified to resolve the appeals and should be removed from his position. This legal reality has constituted a new battle field of a contested balance of power.

The remaining outcome of this process is widely negative, with an electoral system nationally delegitimized and in the eyes of the international community. As a result, it has caused a deterioration of electoral democracy with a setback of over 30 years in transparency, credibility and peaceful presidential succession. On the other hand, its pertinent that we ask ourselves: In the 21st century, are we returning to a sad and shameful period when foreign powers impose who governs this country?[13]

 Where Are We Going?

We are in the middle of a political and electoral crisis; it’s a fact that final election results, still not made official by TSE, will not be accepted by the Opposition Alliance and even the Liberal Party.

Social objection goes on in the streets and its very likely that when the TSE announces the final winner, civil protest will intensify along different territories, similarly to what was seen on November 30th and December 1st.

Furthermore, the active presence of the National Party’s social base must be highlighted, as well as the economic groups in support of Juan Orlando Hernández’ regime, the corporate media, the Military Police and the Armed Forces.

Prospectively, what is unfolding is the continuation of the political-electoral conflict, now expressed between the population challenging the regime that arose from fraud and efforts to reaffirm and legitimize the continuation of the current government.

This is a political crisis, in the same context of the 2009 political crisis, while the problems that the elite had no will in resolving, with new difficulties generated by the current context. There are common elements throughout: the deterioration of state institutionality and the exhaustion of their democratic content, as well as human rights violations in all varying dimensions. An element adding greater complexity to this crisis is the US intervention in favor of one of the contending forces.

We inevitably move towards greater social and political polarization in a society where, as part of the same democratic crisis, spaces for dialogue and the construction of mutual agreements for democratic governance, are worn out. The country is advancing toward “Africanization”, not only because of its similar levels of poverty and exclusion, but also the high levels of intolerance, authoritarianism and policies of state militarization which make it harder to democratically manage conflicts.

The political crisis has been blown open and is still developing. In this moment, it is too complex to project its duration and outcome without an in-depth analysis that incorporates new and constant developments. Of course, the duration and outcome will depend on the social support base of the regime and the opposition; the policy of alliances (national and international) of each of the forces; and how the legitimacy and illegitimacy of the regimen is constructed. But regardless of its ups and downs and pauses, we face a long-term political crisis that sustains itself in a space where democratic structural deficits limit complex resolutions.


[1] Even though the reports of international observer electoral missions (OAS and EU) never mentioned the word “fraud” their statements in terms of inconsistency and systemic irregularities, as their impossibility to determine who was the winning candidate, point toward the typology of a fraudulent process.

[2] OAS, preliminary report of the Electoral Observer Mission in Honduras. December 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwUFL6Ad1Xc

[3] http://www.oas.org/es/centro_noticias/comunicado_prensa.asp?sCodigo=C-090/17

[4] http://www.elheraldo.hn/eleccioneshonduras2017/1130045-508/luis-zelaya-acepta-derrota-del-partido-liberal-y-felicita-a-salvador-nasralla

[5] http://www.latribuna.hn/2017/12/07/juan-orlando-hernandez-la-voluntad-del-pueblo-hondureno-no-se-juega/

[6] http://confidencialhn.com/2017/12/07/honduras-autoridad-electoral-escrutara-cuatro-mil-753-actas-ee-uu-avala-medida/

[7] http://www.elnuevoherald.com/opinion-es/opin-col-blogs/andres-oppenheimer-es/article188812744.html

[8] http://www.elpais.hn/2017/12/05/ee-uu-certifica-honduras-defensor-derechos-medio-crisis-electoral/

[9] https://www.amnesty.org/es/latest/news/2017/12/honduras-government-deploys-dangerous-and-illegal-tactics-to-silence-population/

[10] 10 COFADEH. Honduras crisis política post electoral y su impacto en los derechos humanos. 2017.

[11] http://www.latribuna.hn/2017/12/10/eeuu-llama-los-politicos-una-determinacion-imparcial-pacifica-elecciones/

[12] http://www.latribuna.hn/2017/12/10/tse-presenta-informe-oficial-escrutinio-especial/

[13] Some examples: In 1911 president Miguel Dávila is deposed, substituted by Francisco Bertrand, resulting from Conferences with Tacoma, with direct intervention from the US Department of State https://histounahblog.wordpress.com/7-4-iii-unidad-honduras-historia-politica-del-siglo-xx-grupo-6-sec-17-03/ Successive invasions by the US to defend the interests of banana plantations keeping or deposing presidents of the republic were made in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924 y 1925 (www.laizquierdadiario.com/La-invasion-de-los-marines-a-Honduras)