After weeks of nationwide protests in Honduras over allegations of election fraud in the nation's November presidential election—in which the incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández ultimately claimed victory—opposition parties are calling for a sustained uprising and a new election as human rights groups and families of protesters who have been killed in the military police's brutal crackdown are demanding justice for those who have died in the streets.
Protesters, who have been met "with security forces who used teargas, water cannon, and live ammunition," believe that Hernández's leftist challenger, Salvador Nasralla, rightfully won the election. Following the initial outbreak of protests, the government conducted a recount of more than 5,000 polling stations, overseen by an observer mission from the European Union (EU), which led the Tribunal Supremo Electoral to confirm Hernández's victory in mid-December.
Although demonstrations slowed over the holidays, on Tuesday Nasralla and fellow opposition leaders held a press conference to announce upcoming "protest actions"—including a march this weekend in San Pedro Sula, the nation's second-largest city—and encourage supporters to maintain a presence in the streets leading up to Hernández's inauguration near the end of the month.
"Our objective is that on January 27 the popular will come to pass, regardless of what the electoral officials want to say," Nasralla said, according to Democracy Now! "The electoral officials have to respect my victory. If they don't respect it, then the people will respect my victory."
"The president is Nasralla," former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya—who was ousted by a U.S.-backed coup in 2009 and now serves as the leftist opposition's chief coordinator—reportedly declared. "Nobody should obey a usurper government."
Human rights experts from the United Nations and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have said they are "alarmed by the illegal and excessive use of force to disperse protest," and Amnesty International has criticized the Honduran government for "deploying dangerous and illegal tactics to silence any dissenting voices."
A local human rights group, the Committee for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras, told the Guardian at least 31 people have died in the political crisis, and more than two-thirds of them have been killed by members of La Policía Militar del Orden Público (POMP), the country's military police force that was initially created to combat violent street gangs.
Relatives of those who have been killed said "they have been threatened by troops" and raised alarm about the fact that "human rights prosecutions involving security forces are overseen by the same taskforce that helps coordinate PMOP operations."
In spite of the rising death toll and allegations that the police are abusing protesters, the Guardian notes that Honduras' "U.S.-backed government has rejected a request by the Organization of American States to send a special delegate to investigate abuses," and government "officials have downplayed the deaths, claiming gang members are behind protests."
For its part, the United States—which has reportedly provided Honduras with more than $100 million in "security assistance" since 2009—congratulated Hernández, a "reliable" U.S. ally, after the recount, and its only comment on allegations of human rights abuses by state police has been a short statement encouraging "all Hondurans to refrain from violence."
While the EU mission supported the recount results, the Organization of the American States maintains its doubts about the accuracy of the results and continues to demand a new election.