December 4th, 2013
by Tanya Cole
Witness for Peace Southwest
and U.S. El Salvador Sister Cities
Photos- Julio Deras
U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities and Witness for Peace Southwest were two of many organizations which organized delegations to observe the elections in Honduras this past Nov 24 as part of 166 international observer delegation organized by the Honduras Solidarity Network. The elections were wrought with pre-election violence, fraud, intimidation, protests, assassinations and US attempts to legitimize a stolen election. The Honduras electoral tribunal declared the right wing national party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez the official winner while three political parties claim fraud and demand a recount. The night of the election just hours after the closing of polling stations, US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske called the election “transparent” and called on the Honduran people to peacefully respect the results.
A Rights Action showed in the weeks leading up to the elections, LIBRE and Resistance activists were harassed, threatened and assassinated for their political involvement. The homes of Edwin Espinal and Marco Antonio Rodriguez were raided by military police, LIBRE congressional candidate Beatriz Valle received deaths threats forcing her flight from the country and TV Globo cameraman and LIBRE activist Manuel Murillo was assassinated. Our delegation met with Edwin Espinal a week before the elections. (more to come in full report)
International Election Observers
Election Day- November 24th, 2013
Violence and Intimidation-The eve of elections took the lives of two campesinoswhile they were returning home from electoral training in preparation for their election duties the next day. Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte was the elected President of her cooperative. Julio Ramon Maradiaga was an active member. The community is the site of an ongoing land struggle in the area, and both victims were active members in the LIBRE party (see video report). In the department of Copan, International Observers from the Alliance for Global Justice recorded reports of LIBRE members who were held hostage the morning of the elections so that they could not serve on their voting tables. Two women also reported being attacked and their credentials stolen.
Vote Buying- Both the traditional parties (Liberal and National) were reported to be buying votes outside voting centers. Testimonies, photos and video recordings of the vote buying was collected at the majority of voting centers where the international observer teams were present. In most cases votes were bought for 500 Lempiras ($25 USD) and the voter was to make a public open vote in front of the whole voting table (a voting option normally for handicapped or elderly), with the national party or liberal party representative watching through the window to confirm the vote for payment. See video here of vote buying. Also see video sample of open ballot voting.
Within hours of the closing of polling stations on election day, the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), whose President is a well known member of the National Party, began to post preliminary results of National Party Presidential candidate Juan Orlando leading LIBRE’s Xiomara Castro by 5 percentage points. Almost immediately US Ambassador Lisa Kubiske called the Honduran elections “transparent”, said the results coincided with the reports from her observers and called on Hondurans to peacefully respect the results of the TSE.
Discrepancies in vote reporting- It soon became clear that the vote tallies that were reported from the original voting “mesas” did not match the posted results on the TSE website. See this video descriptionof the discrepancies in vote counts on the TSE website.
LIBRE sweeps in congress and municipalities- Despite discrepancies in vote counts LIBRE candidates still swept in the areas of congress and municipal mayorships. LIBRE went from zero seats in congress to 38 seats holding the second largest majority. Other smaller parties like the PAC also gained seats. LIBRE also swept in many municipalities, winning mayorships and local level positions across the country. Many members of the grassroots FNRP resistance gained political positions. Former President Mel Zelaya won a congressional seat from his department of Olancho.