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Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460
Given the lack of transparency and credible allegations of irregularities in tabulating results from Sunday's elections, Honduran electoral authorities should commit to a full recount of all the votes in order to restore credibility to the electoral process, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said.
Weisbrot noted that after the first 57 percent of the votes showed opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla winning by about 5 percentage points, the next 38 percent of the votes split 47 percent to 35 percent in favor of incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez. The chances of this occurring, had the first 57 percent been drawn as a random sample of tally sheets, is next to impossible.
On Thursday night, the electoral authority (TSE) announced that the final 5.7 percent of the votes would be reviewed today before announcing the final results. With 94.3 percent of the vote counted, incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez is officially leading by 1.5 percentage points, or around 45,000 votes. Given the relatively few remaining votes, and Hernandez's margin, the election result appears to be determined. Nasralla would need approximately a 55 to 30 margin over Hernandez among the remaining votes in order to win. Of course, if the remaining votes were to skew very heavily in Nasralla's favor, this would provide additional evidence that the release of results was heavily manipulated
A preliminary analysis by CEPR indicates that after the initial release the voting trend changed not just overall -- which could be explained by geographical differences -- but within municipalities themselves. This sheds doubt on claims by the National Party and by the electoral authority (the president of which is a former National Party congressman) that the urban/rural divide explains the shift in voting patterns.
Opposition parties have alleged that the electoral authority began selectively inputting data into the public reporting system from areas where they knew Hernandez did well. Given the difference in trends observed by CEPR and others, this appears to be a plausible explanation for the drastic change, and would indicate a politicization of the vote counting process that demands an independent investigation.
"Given the closeness of the official election results, the lack of a reasonable explanation for the delays, and the problematic vote counting process, it is imperative that the electoral authorities allow for a full recount before declaring official results," Weisbrot said. "This recount should include a comparison between the tally sheets the electoral authority scanned into its system with the tally sheets in the possession of political parties, in order to ensure compliance."
A leaked audio recording obtained by The Economist includes a woman working for the Honduran government describing a "Plan B" to secure a Hernandez victory through what The Economist reported "appears to be a scheme for fraudulently boosting the vote of the National Party at the expense of its rivals."
"This is another reason why it's important that international actors and foreign governments wait until the election results have been thoroughly verified before making any statements about a victor," said CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who has been analyzing trends in the TSE's official data.
Weisbrot also condemned government repression of protests over the electoral process: "The Honduran people's right to free expression must be respected, including by the international community. And steps should be taken by the electoral authorities to minimize the political tension. Full transparency can help end the great uncertainty and distrust that has resulted from the mishandling of this electoral process."
Early Monday morning, the TSE posted results based on 57 percent of the returns showing Nasralla with a nearly 5-percentage point advantage. Then no new information was posted for more than 30 hours. International observers, including from the European Union, have indicated that there was no rationale for this delay, as "tallies from all eighteen thousand polling places were transmitted electronically to the Electoral Tribunal on the day of the election."
On Tuesday, one of the four magistrates of the Honduran electoral authority told Reuters that with 70 percent of the votes counted, the trend was irreversible, and Nasralla would be the winner. Later that day, Reuters cited anonymous European diplomats who alleged that the government and opposition were holding closed-doors meetings to negotiate the Hernandez government's exit from power, including immunity deals. Then, as the TSE posted new vote totals on its website, the trend changed drastically, quickly eroding and then erasing Nasralla's lead altogether.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) was established in 1999 to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. In order for citizens to effectively exercise their voices in a democracy, they should be informed about the problems and choices that they face. CEPR is committed to presenting issues in an accurate and understandable manner, so that the public is better prepared to choose among the various policy options.(202) 293-5380
"From his hostility toward racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights, to book bans, to one of the most draconian abortion bans on record, he poses an immense threat to our freedoms and our country's most vulnerable communities," said one critic.
"Of all the extremists gunning for the GOP nomination, Ron DeSantis might be the worst."
That's what NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju said in a statement Wednesday as Florida's Republican governor formally launched his long-anticipated campaign for the party's 2024 presidential nomination.
"From his hostility toward racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights, to book bans, to one of the most draconian abortion bans on record, he poses an immense threat to our freedoms and our country's most vulnerable communities," Timmaraju warned. "NARAL and our 4 million members will keep fighting side-by-side with those that DeSantis has targeted, and we are ready to mobilize to ensure that his extremism gets nowhere near the White House."
In a series of tweets Wednesday, Women's March also slammed "fascist, anti-choice" DeSantis, and listed some of the policies he has fought for as governor, including a six-week abortion ban and the "Don't Say Gay" law. The Florida Republican has also recently engaged in attacks on academic freedom, the rights of immigrants and transgender people, and democracy.
\u201cRon DeSantis is going to position himself as some anti-business populist but he's actually just an off-putting errand boy for the world's wealthiest people. \n\nThis should be the story about his campaign. He's like a homophobic Cousin Greg without the charm.\u201d— Jordan Zakarin (@Jordan Zakarin) 1684971187
Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, similarly stressed Wednesday that "Ron DeSantis' governorship has been an unmitigated disaster for Floridians, and his candidacy is a grave threat to every American's reproductive freedom."
"He's shown time and time again that he will put himself and his political ambitions over anything and everyone—including the health and lives of Floridians," Lawson continued. "While Floridians demand affordable healthcare and safer communities, DeSantis has pushed policies that endanger Florida's future."
"Voters in Florida don't support his anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, and DeSantis will soon learn that the rest of the country doesn't, either," she added. "Everyone will see him for the dangerous, out-of-touch, overzealous politician he is. Planned Parenthood Votes will make sure of it."
\u201cA world of censorship, restricted access to life-saving care and suppression of our community is not a world we want to live in.\n\nWe cannot allow Ron DeSantis to become president and undo the progress we\u2019ve made.\u201d— Human Rights Campaign (@Human Rights Campaign) 1684954507
DeSantis on Wednesday filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and then officially announced his candidacy during a Twitter "spaces" event—hosted by the social media giant's billionaire owner, Elon Musk—that, as Politicoput it, was "marred by horrendous tech failures."
As Politico reported:
President Joe Biden was quick to chime in, tweeting: "This link works," followed by a link to the president's campaign donation site.
A spokesperson for former President Donald Trump responded: "Glitchy. Tech issues. Uncomfortable silences. A complete failure to launch. And that's just the candidate!"
Polling results released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University show that despite his various legal issues, Trump is the top choice for 56% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, followed by DeSantis with 25%. Former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley got just 3% while ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) all tied at 2%; the other eight declared or potential candidates each received less than that.
As Common Dreamsreported earlier Wednesday, DeSantis entered the 2024 race as he faced scrutiny from campaign finance watchdogs.
"Should this become law, it will cause irreparable damage to the student loan system and undermine Americans’ trust in their government," warned the head of the Student Borrower Protection Center.
Advocates of student debt relief on Wednesday blasted Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a resolution that critics said showcases "their contempt for workers and families" who are burdened by loans taken out to access higher education.
H.J. Res. 45 is a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution, which U.S. lawmakers can use to overturn federal regulations. The measure passed the House in a 218-203 vote mostly along party lines; Democratic Reps. Jared Golden (Maine) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.) were the only members of their party to join Republicans in supporting it.
The resolution is unlikely to go anywhere in the Democrat-controlled Senate, and even if it did, the White House has already made clear that President Joe Biden would veto it. The GOP measure—a clear message to voters ahead of the 2024 elections—would block Biden's pending student debt cancellation plan and reverse already-delivered relief.
\u201cThis harmful and regressive action, which passed on a slim margin, not only undermines the significant progress made in addressing the #studentdebtcrisis but also disregards the ongoing struggles of families enduring the economic aftermath caused by the #COVID19 pandemic.\u201d— Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC) (@Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC)) 1684966787
As Common Dreamsreported Tuesday, the American Federation of Teachers and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) released a report detailing the "ruinous impact" the resolution would have on millions of borrowers.
"The record is clear: The damage caused by this cruel and reckless legislation will hurt working people, including millions of its right-wing supporters' own constituents," SBPC executive director Mike Pierce declared after the vote.
Pierce noted that "right-wing proponents have gone to great lengths to mislead their own colleagues and deny the truth—this effort would push hundreds of thousands of public service workers back into debt and require the government to charge tens of millions [of] borrowers for interest that has already been canceled."
"Should this become law, it will cause irreparable damage to the student loan system and undermine Americans' trust in their government," he warned. "This is exactly what extreme conservative lawmakers want, they are just afraid to say it."
SBPC and 260 other groups also criticized the resolution's supporters in a letter to congressional leaders earlier this month, charging that "policymakers now seeking to reverse such critical relief through the CRA are ignoring the economic needs of their own constituents and threatening our nation's financial security."
"Congress should be acting to improve the circumstances of the American people," the coalition argued, "not attempting to thwart the president's efforts to ease the financial pressure that so many are feeling."
\u201cHouse Republicans just voted to throw 260K public servants back into debt & force 36 million Americans to immediately pay back months of paused student loans. They would rather give tax breaks to giant corporations than help families crushed by debt. I\u2019ll continue to fight this.\u201d— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren) 1684964518
Another letter signatory, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL), called out the GOP-led effort just ahead of the vote Wednesday.
"This is yet another political stunt from some members of Congress to prevent tens of millions of borrowers, including low-wealth individuals, service members, public service workers, women, and people of color from receiving relief ahead of the Supreme Court's decision regarding the fate of student debt cancellation, said Jaylon Herbin, CRL's director of federal campaigns.
Herbin warned that "resuming the payment pause without student loan forgiveness, let alone requiring students to retroactively pay months' worth of student loan payments, will add thousands of dollars into the average borrower's loan balance, lead millions into forbearance and default, and contribute to a widening racial wealth gap.”
"These actions are not only irresponsible but demonstrate a genuine lack of concern for the nation's overall economic health and the financial well-being of millions of U.S. individuals and families," he added.
The House vote came not only as the U.S. Supreme Court considers a pair of right-wing challenges to Biden's debt relief plan, but also as congressional Republicans threaten to blow up the economy by refusing to raise the debt limit unless Democratic lawmakers and the president agree to spending cuts that would harm working people.
"It's time that the steel industry take the growing need and demand for fossil-free steel seriously," said one advocate.
Progressive organizers on Wednesday urged steelmakers to swiftly adopt the clean manufacturing methods needed to achieve a shift from coal-based steel to "green steel."
At the Great Designs in Steel conference held in a Detroit suburb, Public Citizen and Mighty Earth activists used a series of digital ads and mobile billboards to call on industry insiders and automotive executives to accelerate the nascent transition from dirty to clean steel by fully embracing low- to zero-carbon production processes—one of many changes that scientists say are necessary to avert the worst consequences of the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.
"Steel manufacturing remains one of the most energy-intensive and polluting aspects of making a vehicle, but there are solutions to clean it up," Erika Thi Patterson, supply chain campaigns director at Public Citizen, said in a statement. "As companies and governments work to meet net-zero climate commitments, it's time that the steel industry take the growing need and demand for fossil-free steel seriously and embrace the cleaner technologies that exist today."
"Insiders at this conference," Patterson continued, "need to recognize the inevitability of green transportation and move in that direction quickly and forcefully."
"It's time steelmakers ditch the dirty blast furnaces of the past and invest in fossil-free steel today for the health and future of our climate, communities, and steel producers' viability and own financial health."
At the conference venue, mobile billboards denounced steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.'s recent announcement that it plans to stick with coal-powered blast furnaces in the near term. Rival company U.S. Steel, by contrast, is ramping up the use of lower-emission electric arc furnaces at its mini-mills.
Billboards with the message, "Cleveland-Cliffs: Ditch the past, embrace the Green Steel future!" circled the venue for the duration of the meeting.
"As a sponsor of the Great Designs in Steel conference, Cleveland-Cliffs must end its commitment to dirty blast furnaces that release significant climate and health-harming pollution," said Matthew Groch, senior director for decarbonization at Mighty Earth. "Instead of embracing the future and investing in low-carbon steel production, Cliffs has doubled down on blast furnaces, announcing plans to reline a blast furnace at its Burns Harbor, Indiana facility, extending the plant's life by an estimated 18 years."
"As the auto industry works to decarbonize its steel supply chain," said Groch, "Cleveland-Cliffs' dirty steelmaking locks the company into high-emission technologies for decades."
As The Times of Northwest Indianareported recently:
Blast furnaces used to be the primary method of steelmaking in the United States. But they have lost much of their business over the last several decades to mini-mills, which are cheaper to operate, often located in southern and rural areas, and usually not unionized, cutting down on steelmakers' labor costs by paying workers lower wages.
Mini-mills now account for an estimated 70% of domestic steel production, according to the Steel Manufacturers Association. As the long-vacant merchant mills at Gary Works attest, mini-mills have long since seized entire segments of the market like rebar for construction.
But integrated steelmaking has persisted, largely because new steel is needed to serve automakers and other industries that demand stronger and higher-quality steel products.
However, according to Public Citizen's newly launched FAQ webpage on the subject, clean manufacturing techniques are capable of delivering the higher-grade steel required by electric vehicle (EV) makers.
"Green primary steel is produced from iron ore without coal or other fossil fuels," the webpage states. "A proven method of ironmaking known as direct reduced iron (DRI) can be powered by green hydrogen to produce fossil-free steel."
"Automotive-grade steel has certain properties, including low levels of residual elements like copper and nickel, which affect mechanical performance," the webpage continues. "These impurities are difficult to remove through simple metallurgical processes, but direct reduced iron (DRI) facilities can produce green automotive-grade steel with even lower levels of residual elements than blast furnace steel."
"Fossil-free steel is possible today," it adds. "Facilities using this technology are currently under construction in Europe. Still, the U.S. has no new facilities in the works [or] plans for new facilities, and current DRI plants are reliant on methane gas."
The webpage laments that "even though steelmaking can be decarbonized by using cleaner, more sustainable technologies, most new (primary) steel is still made using 14th-century blast furnace technology that burns coal, harming our health and climate."
"In the United States, eight remaining integrated steel mills burn massive amounts of coke made from coal in blast furnaces to make iron and steel," according to Public Citizen. "Each steel mill emits roughly as much carbon dioxide as a coal-fired power plant."
"As more and more countries and steel buyers seek to reduce their emissions, blast furnaces could become obsolete in the coming years, leaving the steel industry with stranded assets worth between $345 billion and $518 billion."
The toxic pollution, such as heavy metals and particulate matter, that blast furnaces spew into nearby areas "has been linked to serious harms for people including premature death, and increased rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, lower respiratory tract infections, cardiac disease, and cancer," the progressive advocacy group notes. "Because steel mills have historically been built in or adjacent to low-income communities and communities of color, these communities have borne the brunt of the health hazards related to steel mill air pollution and water contamination."
"With the introduction of new policies like the Inflation Reduction Act and other public investments in decarbonization across the globe, building new blast furnaces or extending the life of existing ones is a misguided move," the webpage points out. "Market demand for green steel is rising. Steelmakers can gain a competitive edge by investing in green steel today."
Moreover, it warns that "as more and more countries and steel buyers seek to reduce their emissions, blast furnaces could become obsolete in the coming years, leaving the steel industry with stranded assets worth between $345 billion and $518 billion."
Wednesday's action at the Great Designs in Steel conference comes on the heels of the launch of the 'Lead the Charge' campaign, of which Public Citizen and Mighty Earth are members. To help achieve its goal of ensuring that EVs "aren't manufactured in a way that harms people and the planet," the campaign maintains a scorecard that tracks human rights and environmental issues throughout the EV supply chain.
As of March, just two automakers had set goals for the use of fossil-free steel, the campaign found.
"It's time steelmakers ditch the dirty blast furnaces of the past and invest in fossil-free steel today for the health and future of our climate, communities, and steel producers' viability and own financial health," says Public Citizen's new webpage.
To expedite the green steel transition, the group advocates for the following:
As for the lower union density found in the steel industry's mini-mills compared with its few remaining merchant mills, there's no reason why lawmakers couldn't enact policies to turn the shift to green steel into a win-win opportunity to boost unionization.
Notably, the United Auto Workers is currently withholding its endorsement of U.S. President Joe Biden in the early stages of the 2024 race in an attempt to secure concessions that would make the EV transition a just one for labor.