As the U.S.-backed far-right Juan Orlando Hernández and left-of-center Xiomara Castro de Zelaya both declare victory in the Honduran presidential race, experts urge caution in an election they say is plagued by irregularities, state repression and violence.
"There must be an opportunity to do a full and accurate count and fully investigate reports of irregularities and intimidation and threats by authorities," declared the Center for Constitutional Rights in a statement released Monday. "Given the context of widespread opposition to the post-coup government and its violent repression of civil society, CCR urges the international community to do everything possible to ensure respect for and protection of Hondurans’ right to free expression, freedom of the press, and peaceful assembly in the coming days."
As of Monday morning, 50 percent of the vote had been counted, with 34 percent going to Hernández and 28 percent going to Castro. Democracy Now! reports that 18 members of Castro Castro’s Libre party were ahead of the election, making their death toll greater than that of all other parties combined.
Numerous reports from the ground indicate election irregularities.
Suyapa Portillo, a professor at Pritzer College in Claremont, California wrote from Honduras in a statement:
The U.S. Ambassador came to my voting center with three different armed groups: Cobra soldiers, secret service like men, and national police with high caliber guns -- she visited the tables and the police with military grade guns blocked the entrances for voters and observers; press were pushed aside and almost dropped to the floor; her visit disturbed the voting process and all the men with guns caused tension and fear among voters. She told one table that was well organized according to her that she would give them a price for high turn out and good organization.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research released a statement declaring:
The international community should pause before offering recognition of the results of the Honduran elections Sunday, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. Weisbrot noted that two political parties had claimed that the official results as reported by the Honduran electoral authority did not match what were transmitted to them. Weisbrot also noted that some voting centers were reported closed during the counting process, even though they are supposed to be open to public scrutiny, and that some international electoral observers reported that officials told them to leave as they attempted to monitor the tabulation process. International observers from a number of organizations reported various irregularities during the voting process as well.
Castro’s husband, José Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown in a 2009 coup that was backed by the U.S. and thrust the right-wing President Porfirio Lobo into power. The U.S. flooded Porforio's conservative ruling party with military and police aid despite widespread human rights violations and repression, including targeted killings of campesino activists. The U.S. support for Porfirio, and by extension conservative candidate Hernández, is largely viewed as a bid to hedge against rising left leaders and movements in Latin America.
Edwin Espinal, a resistance organizer in Honduras who has faced torture at the hands of police and lost his partner Wendy Díaz to police violence, told Democracy Now! on Monday:
The violence, the poverty, the misery has just increased in this country. We cannot just wait until another four years being in this country with Juan Orlando as a president. Me and my family and Honduran people in general, we are so scared that the situation will just get worse and this country. I hope the international community keeps their eyes on this country and help us to put pressure on the government and at least to be transparent with Honduran people because — we witnessed yesterday that the electoral process was not transparent at all.