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.