[News] Honduras: Violence and Fraud at the Polls
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 6 11:42:40 EST 2013
Weekend Edition December 6-8, 2013
*Will International Observers Look at the Evidence?*
Honduras: Violence and Fraud at the Polls
by MARK WEISBROT
Election results are often contested, and that is one reason why
governments sometimes invite official observer missions from
inter-governmental bodies such as the Organization of American States
(OAS) or European Union (EU). But there are times and places when these
outside organizations don't provide much of an independent observation.
On Sunday, November 24, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new
president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about
whether a free and fair election was possible
the climate of intimidation and violence
that prevailed in the country. As I noted before
vote, members of both the U.S. House of Representatives
the U.S. Senate had
in the prior six months, written to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
expressing their concerns.
Their worst fears proved justified. During the weekend of the election,
three LIBRE party activists were murdered. This has received little
attention from the media, but imagine if 120 Democratic Party organizers
(scaling up for the population of the U.S.) were assassinated in the
course of a U.S. presidential election. (A fourth LIBRE party activist
was murdered on November 30
LIBRE is the party formed by Hondurans who opposed the 2009 military
coup that ousted the democratically-elected, left-of-center President
Mel Zelaya. Their presidential candidate was Xiomara Castro, who is
married to Zelaya.
Both letters also expressed concern about the electoral process, and
here the result was beyond their worst nightmares. According to the
official results <http://siede.tse.hn/escrutinio/index.php>, Xiomara
Castro received 28.8 percent of the vote, behind the ruling National
Party's 36.8 percent. Another newly formed opposition party, the
Anti-Corruption Party headed by Salvador Nasralla, received 13.5 percent
in the official tally.
Reports of fraud, vote-buying, the buying of polling-place party
representatives by the National Party, and other irregularities came
from observers during the day of the election
following. Of course, these things happen in many elections, especially
in poor countries, so it is generally a judgment call for election
monitors to determine if the election is "good enough" to warrant
approval, or whether it should be rejected. But there are two very big
things that stand out in this election that raise serious doubts about
the legitimacy of the vote count.
First is the compilation of votes by the LIBRE party, released on Friday
The parties are able to do their own vote count after the election
because their observers receive copies of the tally sheets, which they
sign, at the polling centers. The LIBRE party was able to salvage 14,593
of the 16,135 tally sheets (some LIBRE observers were reportedly tricked
or intimidated into turning their copies over to the electoral
authorities). They compared these tally sheets to the official results
posted on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) website, and found
enormous discrepancies: for example, an 82,301 overcount for the
National Party, and a 55,720 undercount for the LIBRE party. This by
itself is more than 4.6 percent of the total vote, well over half of the
National Party's lead in the official tally.
Hopefully the LIBRE party will post its tally sheets online so that
these counts can be verified. If true, these discrepancies are so large
that by themselves they would mandate the recount that the LIBRE party
is demanding, if not a new election altogether.
The second big thing in this election has been the defection of a
delegate from the official EU observer mission, Leo Gabriel of Austria.
In a press interview with Brazil's Opera Mundi
Gabriel explained why he breached protocol and denounced the EU's
/"I can attest to countless inconsistencies in the electoral process.
There were people who could not vote because they showed up as being
dead, and there were dead people who voted. . . the hidden alliance
between the small parties and the National Party led to the buying and
selling of votes and [electoral worker] credentials . . . . During the
transmission of the results there was no possibility to find out where
the tallies where being sent and we received reliable information that
at least 20% of the original tally sheets were being diverted to an
He also noted that the majority of his fellow EU observers disagreed
with the mission's report but were overruled by the team leaders.
Gabriel concludes that although "EU missions have played a relevant role
and have appropriately dealt with lack of transparency in electoral
processes," this was not the case in this election, where "political,
economic, commercial, and even partisan interests prevailed."
The most important partisan interest is that of Washington, which put
$11 million dollars (that we know about) into the election and wanted to
legitimate the rule of its ally, the National Party, just as it did in
the more blatantly illegitimate election
years ago after the U.S.-backed
coup. The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in
elections in Haiti
changed its 2000 report on presidential elections to support U.S.
efforts at "regime change," and in 2011 took the unprecedented step of
reversing an actual election result
without so much as even a recount -- again in line with Washington's
But the battle over this election is not over yet. Thousands of
Hondurans have taken to the streets
in spite of the increasing repression and militarization of the country.
The response of the international media and observer missions will be
relevant: will they investigate to see if the charges of electoral fraud
are true? Or will they simply watch as the National Party government
consolidates itself with repression and support for the results from the
U.S. and its allies?
*/Mark Weisbrot/*/ is an economist and co-director of the Center for
Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of
Social Security: the Phony Crisis
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