FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Honduras: Violence and Fraud at the Polls

by MARK WEISBROT

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 in the climate of intimidation and violence [PDF] that prevailed in the country. As I noted before the vote, members of both the U.S. House of Representatives 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, 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 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 four years ago after the U.S.-backed military coup. The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in elections 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.

This essay originally ran in the Guardian.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
Alice Donovan
Cyberwarfare: Challenge of Tomorrow
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
April 28, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz Díaz
Puerto Rico: a Junta By Any Other Name
Alfredo Lopez
Where the Bern is Fizzling: Why Sanders Can’t Win the Support of People of Color
Peter Linebaugh
The Commons and the Centennial of the Easter Rising
Dan Arel
What Next? Can the #Movement4Bernie Accomplish Anything?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail