[News] Honduras: Violence and Fraud at the Polls

Anti-Imperialist News 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


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 
<http://www.fidh.org/en/americas/honduras/14291-elections-in-honduras-militarisation-and-serious-attempt-to-the-judiciary> in 
the climate of intimidation and violence 
<http://rightsaction.org/sites/default/files/Honduras-Violence-Political-Campaign.pdf> [PDF] 
that prevailed in the country. As I noted before 
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/29/honduras-democracy-presidential-election> the 
vote, members of both the U.S. House of Representatives 
<http://grijalva.house.gov/news-and-press-releases/reps-grijalva-honda-hank-johnson-urge-secretary-kerry-to-speak-against-militarization-of-civil-society-ahead-of-honduran-election/> and 
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 
<http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/the-americas-blog/honduran-elections-live-blog> and 
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 
preliminary report:

/"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 
illegal server..."/

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 
<http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/honduran-elections-marred-by-violence> four 
years ago after the U.S.-backed 
<http://www.cepr.net/index.php/op-eds-&-columns/op-eds-&-columns/top-ten-ways> military 
coup. The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in 
elections in Haiti 
<http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/oas-in-haiti>: it 
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 
electoral choices.

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 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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