~ Friday, December 8 & Saturday, December 9, 2017 ~
Today, U.S. Charge D'Affaires Heide Fulton visited the Electoral Tribunal (TSE). Fulton gave a statement to the press saying that the US "is ready to work with whoever wins" and stated as quoted in El Heraldo that "we maintain a position to support a conclusion to this process in a credible and transparent manner that reflects the will of the Honduran people." Her statements aired all over Honduran media and radio.
Fulton's statements could be read as a sign that the Embassy is getting behind the TSE's efforts to just get through the contested 4,753 actas and stop any additional counting (described below). The statement about a conclusion to the process is worrisome. Despite legal actions (see below) and the Alliance's demands, the U.S. statement sounds like they are ready for an announcement to be made. Other national groups are also calling for an announcement of the winners after the 4,753 acta count.
Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)
The TSE announced on Friday that they finished counting the 1,069 actas that were flagged for "special revision" (escrutinio especial). Then on Friday, they announced that they are beginning a vote by vote recount of 4,753 actas which were part of the 5,300-ish actas that the Alliance flagged as being suspicious. By Saturday evening as a result of the "special revision", the difference between Nasralla and JOH in the 4,753 ballot boxes was approximately 20% in JOH's favor. Obviously something fishy is going on and there just doesn't seem a way that these results can be possible. As far as I know, this information has not been put up on the TSE's website.
The announcement to count the 4,753 actas represents somewhat of a shift as the TSE and their international backers (particularly the US Embassy) are really trying to make this vote by vote revision look as "legitimate" as possible. I sense that its a last, small effort to give credibility and legitimacy to the TSE while recognizing the institution's willingness to recount contested actas. The US. Embassy, international election observation missions, and members of "civil society organizations" (ASJ, Confraternidad Evangelica) are being used to make the process look legit. Obviously, the U.S and the TSE are trying to contain the fraud by focusing on these last four thousand or so actas while leaving out the broader concerns of the system crashing, the modification of the actas, and other concerns highlighted by the Alliance.
Legal Actions Against Electoral Results
According to the electoral law, legal actions contesting the elections have to be presented within 10 days of election day which expired yesterday. According to the most updated information (that I believe may need to be updated again), the TSE has received 47 "impugnaciones" or motion to annul different electoral results/outcomes that were presented on Presidential level (1 total); 13 congressional; and 33 on the municipal level. According to the TSE, they have 10 days to respond to these motions. Before elections results are announced, I believe these motions have to be resolved.
At midnight last night, Salvador Nasralla and the Alliance presented a motion against the vote counting ("escrutino") of all votes cast at the 18,100 voting centers around the country. There is some confusion with Spanish-English translation with the words 'impugnacion' but what we need to understand is that the Alliance is basically contesting how the TSE has carried out the vote counting process so far. This doesn't mean the Alliance is asking to annul the election results. From what was explained to me, presenting a legal motion like this is the first step of legally challenging the vote counting/procedure done to date by the TSE. The Alliance maintains that it wants a full recount that includes and examines not only every vote but also examines the vote tally sheets (actas) and an examination of the signatures signed by voters when casting their ballots amongst their other 11 total demands.
Yesterday afternoon, Salvador Nasralla also filed a denuncia (legal complaint requesting investigation) in the Office of the Public Prosecutor against TSE President David Matamoros for three charges: Abuse of authority; falsification of public documents; and breach of duties by a public official.
Environment in Tegucigalpa & elsewhere:
There is a significant effort to 'normalize' the atmosphere of the country. I believe this is a strategy to push international eyes away from Honduras and to rein in the focus on the tiny details of the vote counting that fewer people are interested in following.
There are fewer protests in the last few days than last week and the Honduran media are started to report on other stories that are outside of the electoral crisis. The state of exception was also reduced again yesterday for the "economy, tourism, and the general activities of the population." It was totally suspended in the departments of Francisco Morazan, La Paz, the municipality of San Pedro Sula (Cortes), and Tela (Atlantida). In other areas of the country such as Yoro, Colon (exception of Trujillo), Atlantida (exception of Tela), Comayagua (exception Siguatepeque), and Cortes (exception San Pedro Sula) from 10 pm to 5 am.
Protests and Actions In Tegucigalpa & Around the Country
Last night, a section of the Indignados movement that formed when the social security (IHSS) scandal broke in 2015, marched with their torches to the front of the U.S. Embassy. There were approximately 1000 people which should not be taken as a sign that fewer people are coming out to protest. This group tends to just draw a specific crowd. Although I have not been able to confirm this, there were reports of actions in some other neighbourhoods in Tegucigalpa and around the country.
The Alliance is calling for a large march in Tegucigalpa on Sunday at 11 am and encouraging people around the country to continue mobilizing particularly in their neighbourhoods and communities. The pot banging/noise making actions ("Cacerolazos") are dying down at least in Tegucigalpa because the state of exception was suspended but I believe they continue in some places around the country.
Recent Human Rights Issues & Concerns
COFADEH's report from December 6 is a very important outline of the human rights abuses committed against anti-fraud protesters and civilians from November 30 to the date it was published. A lot of the people detained during the state of exception have been prosecuted and are being held in jails around the country. As far as I know, there hasn't been a major follow-up of these detentions, likely because its so difficult to know who is where and for what reason unless the detained people notify or are involved with a human rights organizations, movements or other organizations.
The Movement for Dignity and Justice (MADJ) reported that the elite police unit, the COBRAS, military and other state security forces illegally raided MADJ's training and meeting center in San Juan Pueblo, Atlantida. The state security forces were looking for Martin Fernandez, a lawyer and MADJ leader who has received several threats, been attacked, and targeted over the last several years.