Protests Against Honduran Election Results Turn Violent
By Taylor Cain
Thousands protested the results of the November 26 presidential election in Honduras. Since November, at least 14 people have died across the country in post-election violence, according to Amnesty International. However, Honduran police claim that only three people died.
The most recent death was a 60-year-old man in a northern Honduran town killed by police during a protest organized by the opposition party in Saba, on January 20, BBC reports. Another protester was injured in Saba as police tried to clear roadblocks.
Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) declared incumbent President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, the winner of the election against opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, in December. According to BBC, Hernandez won the 2013 presidential election and was the first president to seek and win reelection, following the 2015 Supreme Court decision to lift the ban on re-election.
Critics of the TSE question the bias of the tribunal, given that it is appointed by Congress, where the incumbent party holds a majority of the seats, The Independent reports. Hondurans remain skeptical of the presidency and the government, according to Al Jazeera, due to unresolved public trust issues following the 2009 coup against then-President, Manual Zelaya.
Besides the occasional rock throwing, protesters were mostly peaceful, while, The Independent reported, police fired tear gas against protesters and cleared roadblocks made of burning tires.
At least 12 Hondurans were arrested and four security officers injured in the recent protests, The Independent reports. More than 800 were detained in the initial protests, according to Al Jazeera.
Both Nasralla and the third party candidate, Luis Zelaya, petitioned for the nullification of results on December 8, Al Jazeera reports. Nasralla further asked for a recount vote of more than 18,000 ballot boxes to be overseen by an independent international commission.
Nasralla held a strong lead on election night with 60 percent of the votes counted, until TSE blacked-out results, resulting in no public update of the vote count for 24 to 36 hours. “The contested November 26 vote was marred by irregularities after the vote count was abruptly halted while the opposition was ahead,” CNN reports.
When the blackout was lifted, Nasralla’s lead diminished and Hernandez took the lead. Al Jazeera said Nasralla held a five percent lead with 58 percent of the vote, but Hernandez won by 1.6 percent once all of the votes were counted.
Nasralla and his supporters believe the TSE committed electoral fraud, in turn the majority of the protesters were supporters of Nasralla and the opposition party. In December, according to CNN, Nasralla tried to rally support from the United States and the Organization of American States (OAS).
OAS and the European Union concluded that the Honduran presidential election had vote irregularities in favor of Nasralla. The United States Department of State, however, congratulated Hernandez on his reelection on December 22, affirming the TSE’s decision.
In a State Department Press Release, Heather Nauert, the State Department Spokesperson, said the TSE should “transparently and fully review any challenged filed by political parties,” and encouraged Hondurans to challenge the results while remaining nonviolent. The State Department added that the Honduran government is responsible for the safety of protesters and police who disrespect the rights of protesters should be held accountable for their actions.