The Americas Blog

El Blog de las Americas

The Americas Blog seeks to present a more accurate perspective on economic and political developments in the Western Hemisphere than is often presented in the United States. It will provide information that is often ignored, buried, and sometimes misreported in the major U.S. media.

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On the night of January 7 another series of forced evictions took place in the Metrô-Manguiera favela slum in Rio de Janeiro. Approximately 500 meters from Maracaná stadium, site of the 2014 World Cup final match, 40 families were brutally kicked out of their homes by the military police who used pepper spray and tear gas grenades.

Unfortunately, this did not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following preparations for Olympics and World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of people have already been evicted due to event-related construction projects and real estate speculation activities. They have received compensation settlements well below market rates or have been relocated to the far outskirts of the city,  in violation of the City’s Organic Law which stipulates that victims of forced evictions have to be relocated close their previous residences. How can these types of activities still happen 12 years after the national Statute of the City was passed?

The Statute of the City of 2001 mandates that all cities of over 20,000 implement a Master Plan that follows a series of norms to guarantee effective public participation in all city government spending and project implementation.  When the Statute was passed, cities were given a grace period of 5 years to either facilitate new Master Plans or revise their current plans to abide by the new directives.  At the time, Rio de Janeiro’s 1992, 10- year plan was still in effect.  With the 5 year grace period granted by the Statute of the City, it remained legally binding until 2006.  The City Council passed a further, 2 year extension, however the new Master Plan was only ratified in February,  2011.

During the legislative vacuum between the expiration of the old Plan and the ratification of the new one, the City Council passed a series of laws to facilitate real estate speculation related to the World Cup and the Olympics. Furthermore, Mayor Eduardo Paes issued Decree N. 32080 on April 7, 2010, which authorizes forced evictions in all areas that the City Government decides are at risk for natural disasters.  This decree is being used as a political tool to clear out areas of interest for the real estate industry in places like Providencia Favela, located in the newly gentrifying port area, where the City is building a cable car system for tourists and over 800 families are targeted for eviction. Since there was no Master Plan in effect during this period, are these new laws and decrees legal?

During a recent interview, Alex Magalhães, lawyer and professor at Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro’s urban planning department, commented on this apparent legal vacuum.

“The Statue of the City is a national urban policy, so all master plans have to act in line with it. The master plans are one of the moments in which the Statute is concretized and put into action. Therefore, it can be argued from a technical, legal standpoint that there is a lack of compatibility between Rio’s Plan and the Statute, turning Rio’s Plan illegal according to national law.”

Dr. Magalhães says that during the Master Plan’s revision process social movements and a few city councilors filed a series of legal complaints to the District Attorney’s office, but it refused to take any measure against the City Government. “It didn’t make a case of administrative impropriety against the Mayor and City Council due to delays in revising the Plan,” he said, “this did not happen in Rio de Janeiro despite happening in many other Brazilian cities.”

Marcelo Edmundo from the Central de Movimentos Populares social movement thinks that despite the legal questions about the City Government’s actions, it is hard to imagine that there is a legal solution to guarantee anyone’s rights.  “Nothing that was done up to now has produced any kind of results. There is a certain level of complacency on the issue of human rights that is caused by a big deal that’s been made between the government and the judiciary.  We see it in the court system, the District Attorney’s office and in the public defendant’s office.  I don’t see how within the legal system, at least at the local level, we can preserve anyone’s human rights.  The only way to confront these violations is through a change on the part of the population. If we have to rely on the Court system the only thing guaranteed is more gentrification and evictions. The only way we can guarantee anything is through organizing people to protest.”

(This was originally published in the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana newsletter. Translated from the Portuguese by the author.)

Brian Mier is a geographer and freelance journalist who lives in Brazil and works as a policy analyst at the Centro de Direitos Econômicos e Sociais. He has a podcast, focused on news reported in the Brazilian alternative media, at http://progressivebrazil.tumblr.com/

On the night of January 7 another series of forced evictions took place in the Metrô-Manguiera favela slum in Rio de Janeiro. Approximately 500 meters from Maracaná stadium, site of the 2014 World Cup final match, 40 families were brutally kicked out of their homes by the military police who used pepper spray and tear gas grenades.

Unfortunately, this did not come as a surprise to anyone who has been following preparations for Olympics and World Cup in Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of people have already been evicted due to event-related construction projects and real estate speculation activities. They have received compensation settlements well below market rates or have been relocated to the far outskirts of the city,  in violation of the City’s Organic Law which stipulates that victims of forced evictions have to be relocated close their previous residences. How can these types of activities still happen 12 years after the national Statute of the City was passed?

The Statute of the City of 2001 mandates that all cities of over 20,000 implement a Master Plan that follows a series of norms to guarantee effective public participation in all city government spending and project implementation.  When the Statute was passed, cities were given a grace period of 5 years to either facilitate new Master Plans or revise their current plans to abide by the new directives.  At the time, Rio de Janeiro’s 1992, 10- year plan was still in effect.  With the 5 year grace period granted by the Statute of the City, it remained legally binding until 2006.  The City Council passed a further, 2 year extension, however the new Master Plan was only ratified in February,  2011.

During the legislative vacuum between the expiration of the old Plan and the ratification of the new one, the City Council passed a series of laws to facilitate real estate speculation related to the World Cup and the Olympics. Furthermore, Mayor Eduardo Paes issued Decree N. 32080 on April 7, 2010, which authorizes forced evictions in all areas that the City Government decides are at risk for natural disasters.  This decree is being used as a political tool to clear out areas of interest for the real estate industry in places like Providencia Favela, located in the newly gentrifying port area, where the City is building a cable car system for tourists and over 800 families are targeted for eviction. Since there was no Master Plan in effect during this period, are these new laws and decrees legal?

During a recent interview, Alex Magalhães, lawyer and professor at Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro’s urban planning department, commented on this apparent legal vacuum.

“The Statue of the City is a national urban policy, so all master plans have to act in line with it. The master plans are one of the moments in which the Statute is concretized and put into action. Therefore, it can be argued from a technical, legal standpoint that there is a lack of compatibility between Rio’s Plan and the Statute, turning Rio’s Plan illegal according to national law.”

Dr. Magalhães says that during the Master Plan’s revision process social movements and a few city councilors filed a series of legal complaints to the District Attorney’s office, but it refused to take any measure against the City Government. “It didn’t make a case of administrative impropriety against the Mayor and City Council due to delays in revising the Plan,” he said, “this did not happen in Rio de Janeiro despite happening in many other Brazilian cities.”

Marcelo Edmundo from the Central de Movimentos Populares social movement thinks that despite the legal questions about the City Government’s actions, it is hard to imagine that there is a legal solution to guarantee anyone’s rights.  “Nothing that was done up to now has produced any kind of results. There is a certain level of complacency on the issue of human rights that is caused by a big deal that’s been made between the government and the judiciary.  We see it in the court system, the District Attorney’s office and in the public defendant’s office.  I don’t see how within the legal system, at least at the local level, we can preserve anyone’s human rights.  The only way to confront these violations is through a change on the part of the population. If we have to rely on the Court system the only thing guaranteed is more gentrification and evictions. The only way we can guarantee anything is through organizing people to protest.”

(This was originally published in the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana newsletter. Translated from the Portuguese by the author.)

Brian Mier is a geographer and freelance journalist who lives in Brazil and works as a policy analyst at the Centro de Direitos Econômicos e Sociais. He has a podcast, focused on news reported in the Brazilian alternative media, at http://progressivebrazil.tumblr.com/

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot examines how the Mexican economy has fared under 20 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in a new column in The Guardian. The answer is summed up well in Mark’s original title, “Twenty Years Since NAFTA: Mexico Could Have Done Worse, But It’s Not Clear How.”

Mark writes:

Well if we look at the past 20 years, it’s not a pretty picture. The most basic measure of economic progress, especially for a developing country like Mexico, is the growth of income (or GDP) per person. Out of 20 Latin American countries (South and Central America plus Mexico), Mexico ranks 18, with growth of less than 1 percent annually since 1994. It is of course possible to argue that Mexico would have done even worse without NAFTA, but then the question would be, why?

From 1960-1980 Mexico’s GDP per capita nearly doubled. This amounted to huge increases in living standards for the vast majority of Mexicans. If the country had continued to grow at this rate, it would have European living standards today. And there was no natural barrier to this kind of growth: this is what happened in South Korea, for example. But Mexico, like the rest of the region, began a long period of neoliberal policy changes that …put an end to the prior period of growth and development. The region as a whole grew just 6 percent per capita from 1980-2000; and Mexico grew by 16 percent – a far cry from the 99 percent of the previous 20 years.

He also notes that – unsurprisingly considering how little growth there has been, that “Mexico’s national poverty rate was 52.3 percent in 2012, basically the same as it was in 1994 (52.4 percent).”

Such basic facts about Mexico’s economic progress – or lack thereof – in the NAFTA era are not likely to appear in many major media stories, however. As we have noted previously, many media reports and commentary pieces have exaggerated Mexico’s economic growth. But NAFTA champions such as Thomas Friedman have not been alone in getting the story wrong; 10 years ago, the World Bank released conclusions based on erroneous research that purported to show that NAFTA had a positive effect on Mexico’s growth. CEPR made repeated requests to the World Bank asking for a correction, to no avail. Similarly, the even more pro-NAFTA Washington Post editorial board has never corrected an embarrassingly fallacious 2007 claim that Mexican GDP had quadrupled since 1988. (As CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker notes, “the actual growth was 83 percent according to the IMF.”)

For those interested in how the U.S. has fared under NAFTA, don’t miss Dean’s recent New York Times piece: “It Lowered Wages, as It Was Supposed to Do.”

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot examines how the Mexican economy has fared under 20 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in a new column in The Guardian. The answer is summed up well in Mark’s original title, “Twenty Years Since NAFTA: Mexico Could Have Done Worse, But It’s Not Clear How.”

Mark writes:

Well if we look at the past 20 years, it’s not a pretty picture. The most basic measure of economic progress, especially for a developing country like Mexico, is the growth of income (or GDP) per person. Out of 20 Latin American countries (South and Central America plus Mexico), Mexico ranks 18, with growth of less than 1 percent annually since 1994. It is of course possible to argue that Mexico would have done even worse without NAFTA, but then the question would be, why?

From 1960-1980 Mexico’s GDP per capita nearly doubled. This amounted to huge increases in living standards for the vast majority of Mexicans. If the country had continued to grow at this rate, it would have European living standards today. And there was no natural barrier to this kind of growth: this is what happened in South Korea, for example. But Mexico, like the rest of the region, began a long period of neoliberal policy changes that …put an end to the prior period of growth and development. The region as a whole grew just 6 percent per capita from 1980-2000; and Mexico grew by 16 percent – a far cry from the 99 percent of the previous 20 years.

He also notes that – unsurprisingly considering how little growth there has been, that “Mexico’s national poverty rate was 52.3 percent in 2012, basically the same as it was in 1994 (52.4 percent).”

Such basic facts about Mexico’s economic progress – or lack thereof – in the NAFTA era are not likely to appear in many major media stories, however. As we have noted previously, many media reports and commentary pieces have exaggerated Mexico’s economic growth. But NAFTA champions such as Thomas Friedman have not been alone in getting the story wrong; 10 years ago, the World Bank released conclusions based on erroneous research that purported to show that NAFTA had a positive effect on Mexico’s growth. CEPR made repeated requests to the World Bank asking for a correction, to no avail. Similarly, the even more pro-NAFTA Washington Post editorial board has never corrected an embarrassingly fallacious 2007 claim that Mexican GDP had quadrupled since 1988. (As CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker notes, “the actual growth was 83 percent according to the IMF.”)

For those interested in how the U.S. has fared under NAFTA, don’t miss Dean’s recent New York Times piece: “It Lowered Wages, as It Was Supposed to Do.”

“The territory of a State is inviolable; it may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.”

– Article 21, Charter of the Organization of American States

In the pre-dawn hours of March 1, 2008, the Colombian military launched a carefully planned air and ground attack against a small FARC guerilla camp located in the thick tropical forest surrounding the Putumayo River.  The attack – which killed top rebel leader Raúl Reyes and at least 21 other camp inhabitants – might have been just another bloody chapter in Colombia’s 50-year-old civil conflict had it not been for one important detail: the camp was located in Ecuador, over a mile from the Colombian border.  Colombia had not asked for Ecuador’s permission to carry out the incursion, nor provided its neighbor with any warning that it would take place.  As a result, a major diplomatic crisis ensued with three countries suspending relations with Colombia and most of the region strongly condemning the illegal violation of Ecuador’s territory.  Only one government – that of the United States – openly supported Colombia’s need to “respond to threats posed by [the FARC] terrorist organization.”

The Washington Post has now revealed, in an in-depth article on CIA covert action in Colombia, that U.S. support for Colombia’s March 1 operation wasn’t just rhetorical.  The CIA – which maintained control over the “smart” GPS-guided bombs that were used in the operation – had given Colombia “tacit approval” to carry out the bombing.  Prior to the operation, U.S. officials had unlocked the bombs’ GPS system using a special “encryption key” they had designed to ensure that “the Colombians would not misuse the bomb.” According to the Post’s sources, which include current U.S. and Colombian officials, the discovery that Reyes, their main target, was located in Ecuadorean territory was “awkward” since: 

to conduct an airstrike meant a Colombian pilot flying a Colombian plane would hit the camp using a U.S.-made bomb with a CIA-controlled brain.

The Air Force colonel had a succinct message for the Colombian air operations commander in charge of the mission. “I said, ‘Look man, we all know where this guy is. Just don’t f— it up.’”

U.S. national security lawyers viewed the operation as an act of self-defense. In the wake of 9/11, they had come up with a new interpretation of the permissible use of force against non-state actors like al-Qaeda and the FARC. It went like this: If a terrorist group operated from a country that was unable or unwilling to stop it, then the country under attack — in this case, Colombia — had the right to defend itself with force, even if that meant crossing into another sovereign country.

The Post’s revelations leave no doubt that the U.S. government not only knew about the March 1 operation beforehand, but actually vetted and supported it after having pondered its potential legal ramifications.   However, statements made to the press by State Department spokesperson Tom Casey two days after the incident give a very different impression:

QUESTION: Was there any support from the U.S. Government either in terms of intelligence sharing or logistics for this operation?

MR. CASEY: Look, I’m not aware of any U.S. Government role in this particular military event. We, of course, have very strong cooperation with Colombia on a variety of fronts, most particularly through our efforts in Plan Colombia to cooperation in counter-narcotics areas.

QUESTION: Were you notified by Colombia before it happened?

MR. CASEY: No. I’m not aware that we found out about this, other than after the fact.

Clearly, the media and U.S. public were fed blatantly false information. 

On March 17, a special commission appointed by the Organization of American States (OAS) determined that Colombia’s military incursion into Ecuador “violates the principle established in Article 21 of the OAS Charter.”  This article states that “the territory of a State is inviolable; it may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.” 

Had Casey given accurate responses to the questions he was asked on March 3 the world might have known that the U.S. was complicit in a brazen violation of international law.  The ire of Latin American nations would have undoubtedly focused more on the U.S. government and the U.S. military and intelligence role in Colombia would have come under heavy scrutiny from media and non-governmental actors in both the U.S. and Latin America. 

The 2008 diplomatic crisis, which threatened to destabilize the Andean region, now seems like a distant event from another age: the lamentable “Bush years.”  But the U.S. covert action program in Colombia continues under the same cloak of secrecy under Obama.  Moreover, there are similar programs – “small but growing”, according to the Post – in many of the places where the U.S. is engaged in the “war on drugs”, including Central America and Mexico, “where U.S. intelligence assistance is larger than anywhere outside Afghanistan.”  In light of the Post’s revelations, real oversight and accountability around these programs are desperately needed.

“The territory of a State is inviolable; it may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.”

– Article 21, Charter of the Organization of American States

In the pre-dawn hours of March 1, 2008, the Colombian military launched a carefully planned air and ground attack against a small FARC guerilla camp located in the thick tropical forest surrounding the Putumayo River.  The attack – which killed top rebel leader Raúl Reyes and at least 21 other camp inhabitants – might have been just another bloody chapter in Colombia’s 50-year-old civil conflict had it not been for one important detail: the camp was located in Ecuador, over a mile from the Colombian border.  Colombia had not asked for Ecuador’s permission to carry out the incursion, nor provided its neighbor with any warning that it would take place.  As a result, a major diplomatic crisis ensued with three countries suspending relations with Colombia and most of the region strongly condemning the illegal violation of Ecuador’s territory.  Only one government – that of the United States – openly supported Colombia’s need to “respond to threats posed by [the FARC] terrorist organization.”

The Washington Post has now revealed, in an in-depth article on CIA covert action in Colombia, that U.S. support for Colombia’s March 1 operation wasn’t just rhetorical.  The CIA – which maintained control over the “smart” GPS-guided bombs that were used in the operation – had given Colombia “tacit approval” to carry out the bombing.  Prior to the operation, U.S. officials had unlocked the bombs’ GPS system using a special “encryption key” they had designed to ensure that “the Colombians would not misuse the bomb.” According to the Post’s sources, which include current U.S. and Colombian officials, the discovery that Reyes, their main target, was located in Ecuadorean territory was “awkward” since: 

to conduct an airstrike meant a Colombian pilot flying a Colombian plane would hit the camp using a U.S.-made bomb with a CIA-controlled brain.

The Air Force colonel had a succinct message for the Colombian air operations commander in charge of the mission. “I said, ‘Look man, we all know where this guy is. Just don’t f— it up.’”

U.S. national security lawyers viewed the operation as an act of self-defense. In the wake of 9/11, they had come up with a new interpretation of the permissible use of force against non-state actors like al-Qaeda and the FARC. It went like this: If a terrorist group operated from a country that was unable or unwilling to stop it, then the country under attack — in this case, Colombia — had the right to defend itself with force, even if that meant crossing into another sovereign country.

The Post’s revelations leave no doubt that the U.S. government not only knew about the March 1 operation beforehand, but actually vetted and supported it after having pondered its potential legal ramifications.   However, statements made to the press by State Department spokesperson Tom Casey two days after the incident give a very different impression:

QUESTION: Was there any support from the U.S. Government either in terms of intelligence sharing or logistics for this operation?

MR. CASEY: Look, I’m not aware of any U.S. Government role in this particular military event. We, of course, have very strong cooperation with Colombia on a variety of fronts, most particularly through our efforts in Plan Colombia to cooperation in counter-narcotics areas.

QUESTION: Were you notified by Colombia before it happened?

MR. CASEY: No. I’m not aware that we found out about this, other than after the fact.

Clearly, the media and U.S. public were fed blatantly false information. 

On March 17, a special commission appointed by the Organization of American States (OAS) determined that Colombia’s military incursion into Ecuador “violates the principle established in Article 21 of the OAS Charter.”  This article states that “the territory of a State is inviolable; it may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.” 

Had Casey given accurate responses to the questions he was asked on March 3 the world might have known that the U.S. was complicit in a brazen violation of international law.  The ire of Latin American nations would have undoubtedly focused more on the U.S. government and the U.S. military and intelligence role in Colombia would have come under heavy scrutiny from media and non-governmental actors in both the U.S. and Latin America. 

The 2008 diplomatic crisis, which threatened to destabilize the Andean region, now seems like a distant event from another age: the lamentable “Bush years.”  But the U.S. covert action program in Colombia continues under the same cloak of secrecy under Obama.  Moreover, there are similar programs – “small but growing”, according to the Post – in many of the places where the U.S. is engaged in the “war on drugs”, including Central America and Mexico, “where U.S. intelligence assistance is larger than anywhere outside Afghanistan.”  In light of the Post’s revelations, real oversight and accountability around these programs are desperately needed.

Last week, Colonel German Alfaro, the commander of Operation Xatruch III in Honduras’ Aguan Valley, personally denounced Annie Bird, co-director of the U.S. and Canada-based human rights NGO Rights Action, on TV and radio, alleging among other things that she is engaging in “destabilization work” in the Aguan. The accusations, which were also covered in La Tribuna and Tiempo newspapers, came just after Bird accompanied campesinos in the Aguan to the Attorney General’s office to file human rights complaints, including some against Honduran soldiers. Alfaro also said he was opening an investigation into Bird’s activities.

In response, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement yesterday condemning Alfaro’s accusations. This was followed by a statement today signed by representatives of 33 human rights, labor, faith-based and other organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Sisters of Mercy, and the Washington Office on Latin America calling on the State Department to denounce Alfaro’s comments.

HRW’s Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco also urged the U.S. government to condemn Alfaro’s accusations:

Given its ongoing cooperation with Honduran security forces, the US government should use all the tools at its disposal to call a halt to verbal attacks on activists by senior Honduran military officials[.] Whether directed at human rights defenders or campesino leaders, such accusations only add to a climate of fear and intimidation.

Alfaro’s statements fit into an ongoing pattern of violence, intimidation and threats against human rights defenders in Honduras, both foreign and domestic, that has including the kidnapping by armed men of two European human rights defenders in July; threats and public accusations against American and Canadian human rights defenders and electoral observers ahead of and during the elections; and threats and public denunciations of Honduran human rights defenders like Bertha Oliva and Victor Fernandez.

The accusations against Bird, which as HRW noted “attracted comments from readers that include death threats against Bird,” follow “similar attacks” against campesino leaders and a larger effort to criminalize the activities of campesino groups opposing violence and land take-overs by palm oil magnates such as Miguel Facussé and other large landowners. Unfortunately, as we have previously noted, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske’s recent remarks have fed into this criminalization campaign, rather than expressing concern over the violence and threats.

Alfaro’s statements are also chilling in the context of ongoing violence against journalists, lawyers, LIBRE members, trade unionists and others, just since the elections:

November 30 – LIBRE activist José Antonio Ardon was shot and killed by four unknown gunmen close to his home. Ardon was well-known as a LIBRE supporter, frequently riding with LIBRE’s “Motorizada.”

December 3 – a lawyer, José Armando Martínez Motiño was killed by unknown gunmen, the 17th lawyer murdered in Honduras in 2013 and the 70th in the past three years.

December 6 – COFADEH revealed that following death threats, journalist and congressional candidate Edgardo Castro had fled Honduras.

December 7 – mayoral candidate for the LIBRE party Graciela Lozano was gunned down in the Los Maestros neighborhood of the Caribbean coastal city of La Ceiba by unidentified gunmen.

Also December 7, Radio Globo journalist Juan Carlos Argeñal “a 43-year-old Radio Globo [and TV Globo] correspondent in the eastern city of Danli, was also shot to death by unknown gunmen who forced their way into his home,” the Latin American Herald Tribune reported. According to press reports, Argeñal was a LIBRE member and brother of the coordinator of the National Resistance Front against the Coup (FNRP) in Danli. The murder was denounced by several international human rights and press freedom groups, including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

December 9 – The Committee for Free Expression (C-LIBRE) issues a statement about a supposed “hit list” of 36 human rights defenders, journalists, LIBRE leaders, trade unionists and activists who may be targeted for murder. The International Human Rights Observatory (FIDH) also expresses concern about the list. Included on the list are Berta Caceres, general coordinator of indigenous rights group COPINH; Bertha Oliva of human rights organization COFADEH; and LIBRE leaders Patricia Rodas (also former foreign minister for the Zelaya government) and Juan Barahona, among many others.

December 12 – Carlos Fernando Posadas Soto, son of trade union president SITRAPANI Dagoberto Posadas was reported as having disappeared after attending a LIBRE rally. He was found alive on December 14, semi-conscious and apparently drugged.

Last week, Colonel German Alfaro, the commander of Operation Xatruch III in Honduras’ Aguan Valley, personally denounced Annie Bird, co-director of the U.S. and Canada-based human rights NGO Rights Action, on TV and radio, alleging among other things that she is engaging in “destabilization work” in the Aguan. The accusations, which were also covered in La Tribuna and Tiempo newspapers, came just after Bird accompanied campesinos in the Aguan to the Attorney General’s office to file human rights complaints, including some against Honduran soldiers. Alfaro also said he was opening an investigation into Bird’s activities.

In response, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement yesterday condemning Alfaro’s accusations. This was followed by a statement today signed by representatives of 33 human rights, labor, faith-based and other organizations, including the AFL-CIO, Sisters of Mercy, and the Washington Office on Latin America calling on the State Department to denounce Alfaro’s comments.

HRW’s Americas Director Jose Miguel Vivanco also urged the U.S. government to condemn Alfaro’s accusations:

Given its ongoing cooperation with Honduran security forces, the US government should use all the tools at its disposal to call a halt to verbal attacks on activists by senior Honduran military officials[.] Whether directed at human rights defenders or campesino leaders, such accusations only add to a climate of fear and intimidation.

Alfaro’s statements fit into an ongoing pattern of violence, intimidation and threats against human rights defenders in Honduras, both foreign and domestic, that has including the kidnapping by armed men of two European human rights defenders in July; threats and public accusations against American and Canadian human rights defenders and electoral observers ahead of and during the elections; and threats and public denunciations of Honduran human rights defenders like Bertha Oliva and Victor Fernandez.

The accusations against Bird, which as HRW noted “attracted comments from readers that include death threats against Bird,” follow “similar attacks” against campesino leaders and a larger effort to criminalize the activities of campesino groups opposing violence and land take-overs by palm oil magnates such as Miguel Facussé and other large landowners. Unfortunately, as we have previously noted, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske’s recent remarks have fed into this criminalization campaign, rather than expressing concern over the violence and threats.

Alfaro’s statements are also chilling in the context of ongoing violence against journalists, lawyers, LIBRE members, trade unionists and others, just since the elections:

November 30 – LIBRE activist José Antonio Ardon was shot and killed by four unknown gunmen close to his home. Ardon was well-known as a LIBRE supporter, frequently riding with LIBRE’s “Motorizada.”

December 3 – a lawyer, José Armando Martínez Motiño was killed by unknown gunmen, the 17th lawyer murdered in Honduras in 2013 and the 70th in the past three years.

December 6 – COFADEH revealed that following death threats, journalist and congressional candidate Edgardo Castro had fled Honduras.

December 7 – mayoral candidate for the LIBRE party Graciela Lozano was gunned down in the Los Maestros neighborhood of the Caribbean coastal city of La Ceiba by unidentified gunmen.

Also December 7, Radio Globo journalist Juan Carlos Argeñal “a 43-year-old Radio Globo [and TV Globo] correspondent in the eastern city of Danli, was also shot to death by unknown gunmen who forced their way into his home,” the Latin American Herald Tribune reported. According to press reports, Argeñal was a LIBRE member and brother of the coordinator of the National Resistance Front against the Coup (FNRP) in Danli. The murder was denounced by several international human rights and press freedom groups, including Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders.

December 9 – The Committee for Free Expression (C-LIBRE) issues a statement about a supposed “hit list” of 36 human rights defenders, journalists, LIBRE leaders, trade unionists and activists who may be targeted for murder. The International Human Rights Observatory (FIDH) also expresses concern about the list. Included on the list are Berta Caceres, general coordinator of indigenous rights group COPINH; Bertha Oliva of human rights organization COFADEH; and LIBRE leaders Patricia Rodas (also former foreign minister for the Zelaya government) and Juan Barahona, among many others.

December 12 – Carlos Fernando Posadas Soto, son of trade union president SITRAPANI Dagoberto Posadas was reported as having disappeared after attending a LIBRE rally. He was found alive on December 14, semi-conscious and apparently drugged.

NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s “Open Letter to the People of Brazil” made headlines this week, with many U.S. and international media outlets characterizing it as a quid-pro-quo offer of help investigating NSA surveillance in Brazil in return for asylum. In an article about the letter, Folha de Sao Paulo – which also first published the letter — stated, “US espionage whistleblower Edward Snowden has promised to cooperate with investigations into the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Brazil. In order to do so, he wants political asylum from Dilma Rousseff’s government in return.”

“Snowden to Brazil: Swap you spying help for asylum,” read a USA Today headline for a story about the letter (even though the article stated midway-through that “It was not entirely clear from the letter whether Snowden was suggesting that the South American nation should grant him asylum in return for help in probing claims that the U.S. has spied on Brazil”). The Financial Times ran a similar headline: “Edward Snowden offers Brazil help on spying in return for asylum.” CNN reported that Snowden was offering “a deal”: “Help fighting NSA surveillance in exchange for political asylum.”

But in his letter, Snowden does not make his offer of assistance contingent on the asylum. He points out that the U.S. government has constrained his ability to travel, and will do so “[u]ntil a country grants permanent political asylum.”

It is also clear that Snowden is responding, in part, to requests from Brazilian senators for help in investigating U.S. spying in Brazil, which he says he is unable to do while in Russia. As Folha reported:

“Many Brazilian senators have asked my help with their investigations into suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I expressed my willingness to assist, where it is appropriate and legal, but unfortunately the US government has been working very hard to limit my ability to do so,” said the letter.

Snowden was referring to an open [Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry] in the Senate to investigate the activities of the NSA in Brazil, which included monitoring the phone calls and emails of both Dilma and Petrobras.

According to him, it was not possible to collaborate because of his precarious legal situation and with only temporary asylum granted by Russia until mid-2014.

“Until a country grants permanent asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak,” Snowden said in the letter.

Snowden’s letter, then, can be seen in part as response to Brazilian senators who reached out to him, requesting his help. By addressing the letter to the “Brazilian people” and not just those senators, however, the letter was by definition public, allowing Snowden to explain his case to the Brazilian public, as well as the senators, President Rousseff, and the entire government as well.

Glenn Greenwald, who has broken several stories on NSA surveillance programs based on documents that Snowden has revealed, said that Snowden’s letter was “wildly misreported”:

“This is being wildly misreported,” the lawyer and journalist said in an email to BuzzFeed. “He already requested asylum months ago to Brazil and several other governments, and it’s still pending.”

“Brazilian Senators and other officials have been asking him to participate in the criminal investigation in Brazil over U.S. surveillance, so he wrote an open letter to them and the people of Brazil explaining why he currently wasn’t able,” Greenwald said.

Snowden’s motivation in writing to Brazil was partly due to the conditions he agreed to for temporary asylum in Russia, as journalist (and Greenwald’s partner) David Miranda pointed out:

“He is on a temporary visa in Russia, and as a condition of his stay there he cannot talk to the press or help journalists or activists better understand how the US global spying machine works …

“If Snowden was in Brazil, it is possible that he could do more to help the world understand how the NSA and its allies are invading the privacy of people around the world, and how we can protect ourselves He cannot do it in Russia.”

The asylum proposal has also been met with more support in Brazil than might be suggested by some of the media coverage of the story. As the New York Times notes, “In Brazil, a Senate committee investigating the N.S.A.’s activities convened on Tuesday, with prominent senators expressing support for giving asylum to Mr. Snowden. In July, the Brazilian Senate’s committee on foreign relations and defense unanimously recommended granting asylum to Mr. Snowden.” Folha reported, however, opposition and government caution on the asylum idea, stating, “There is concern over the impact the decision may have on Brazil’s relations with the U.S., one it’s major trade partners.”

Brazil has been far less dependent on trade with the U.S. than many countries in Latin America, however. As we noted in a 2008 research paper, Brazil’s exports to the U.S. were just 1.9 percent of GDP in 2007. By comparison, Venezuelan exports to the U.S. were 15 percent of GDP in 2007, Costa Rica’s were 17 percent and Mexico’s were 21.4 percent, respectively. Brazil’s foreign minister at the time, Celso Amorim cited the paper in explaining Brazil’s “scarce interest” in pursuing a NAFTA-style trade agreement with the U.S.: heavy reliance on the U.S. market made some countries more vulnerable to the economic downturn than others. Brazil’s exports to the U.S. have declined since, to just 11.3 percent of total exports (down from 16.1 percent in 2007) and 1.2 percent of GDP, in 2012.

In a related development, as Folha described concerns over the impact an asylum offer for Snowden might have on Brazil-U.S. commercial relations, the Brazilian government this week passed over U.S. company Boeing in order to contract with Sweden’s Saab for a $4.5 billion deal for a fleet of fighter jets. While AP reported that “Defense Minister Celso Amorim said the choice …was made following ‘careful study and consideration, taking into account performance, transfer of technology and cost, not just of acquisition but of maintenance,’” a Reuters article yesterday cited an unnamed Brazilian government source as saying “[t]he NSA problem ruined it for the Americans.”

Ironically, the New York Times reported three years ago that “State Department and Boeing officials, in interviews last month, acknowledged the important role the United States government plays in helping them sell commercial airplanes…” Now the NSA’s spying on Brazil has cost the deal for Boeing, which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports “could have supported thousands of jobs in St. Louis.”

Amnesty International, meanwhile said Brazil “must consider” asylum for Snowden, as Reuters reported:

Rights watchdog Amnesty International said Brazil should give “full consideration” to Snowden’s claim for asylum.

“It is his right to seek international protection, and it’s also Brazil’s international obligation to review and decide on his request under the refugee convention,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Amnesty’s statement also included this quote from Brazil director Atila Roque: “Edward Snowden is a whistleblower who has disclosed an unlawful global digital surveillance program that has violated the right to privacy of millions of people[.] As such, he has grounds to seek asylum abroad out of well-founded fears the USA would persecute him for his actions.”

NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s “Open Letter to the People of Brazil” made headlines this week, with many U.S. and international media outlets characterizing it as a quid-pro-quo offer of help investigating NSA surveillance in Brazil in return for asylum. In an article about the letter, Folha de Sao Paulo – which also first published the letter — stated, “US espionage whistleblower Edward Snowden has promised to cooperate with investigations into the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Brazil. In order to do so, he wants political asylum from Dilma Rousseff’s government in return.”

“Snowden to Brazil: Swap you spying help for asylum,” read a USA Today headline for a story about the letter (even though the article stated midway-through that “It was not entirely clear from the letter whether Snowden was suggesting that the South American nation should grant him asylum in return for help in probing claims that the U.S. has spied on Brazil”). The Financial Times ran a similar headline: “Edward Snowden offers Brazil help on spying in return for asylum.” CNN reported that Snowden was offering “a deal”: “Help fighting NSA surveillance in exchange for political asylum.”

But in his letter, Snowden does not make his offer of assistance contingent on the asylum. He points out that the U.S. government has constrained his ability to travel, and will do so “[u]ntil a country grants permanent political asylum.”

It is also clear that Snowden is responding, in part, to requests from Brazilian senators for help in investigating U.S. spying in Brazil, which he says he is unable to do while in Russia. As Folha reported:

“Many Brazilian senators have asked my help with their investigations into suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I expressed my willingness to assist, where it is appropriate and legal, but unfortunately the US government has been working very hard to limit my ability to do so,” said the letter.

Snowden was referring to an open [Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry] in the Senate to investigate the activities of the NSA in Brazil, which included monitoring the phone calls and emails of both Dilma and Petrobras.

According to him, it was not possible to collaborate because of his precarious legal situation and with only temporary asylum granted by Russia until mid-2014.

“Until a country grants permanent asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak,” Snowden said in the letter.

Snowden’s letter, then, can be seen in part as response to Brazilian senators who reached out to him, requesting his help. By addressing the letter to the “Brazilian people” and not just those senators, however, the letter was by definition public, allowing Snowden to explain his case to the Brazilian public, as well as the senators, President Rousseff, and the entire government as well.

Glenn Greenwald, who has broken several stories on NSA surveillance programs based on documents that Snowden has revealed, said that Snowden’s letter was “wildly misreported”:

“This is being wildly misreported,” the lawyer and journalist said in an email to BuzzFeed. “He already requested asylum months ago to Brazil and several other governments, and it’s still pending.”

“Brazilian Senators and other officials have been asking him to participate in the criminal investigation in Brazil over U.S. surveillance, so he wrote an open letter to them and the people of Brazil explaining why he currently wasn’t able,” Greenwald said.

Snowden’s motivation in writing to Brazil was partly due to the conditions he agreed to for temporary asylum in Russia, as journalist (and Greenwald’s partner) David Miranda pointed out:

“He is on a temporary visa in Russia, and as a condition of his stay there he cannot talk to the press or help journalists or activists better understand how the US global spying machine works …

“If Snowden was in Brazil, it is possible that he could do more to help the world understand how the NSA and its allies are invading the privacy of people around the world, and how we can protect ourselves He cannot do it in Russia.”

The asylum proposal has also been met with more support in Brazil than might be suggested by some of the media coverage of the story. As the New York Times notes, “In Brazil, a Senate committee investigating the N.S.A.’s activities convened on Tuesday, with prominent senators expressing support for giving asylum to Mr. Snowden. In July, the Brazilian Senate’s committee on foreign relations and defense unanimously recommended granting asylum to Mr. Snowden.” Folha reported, however, opposition and government caution on the asylum idea, stating, “There is concern over the impact the decision may have on Brazil’s relations with the U.S., one it’s major trade partners.”

Brazil has been far less dependent on trade with the U.S. than many countries in Latin America, however. As we noted in a 2008 research paper, Brazil’s exports to the U.S. were just 1.9 percent of GDP in 2007. By comparison, Venezuelan exports to the U.S. were 15 percent of GDP in 2007, Costa Rica’s were 17 percent and Mexico’s were 21.4 percent, respectively. Brazil’s foreign minister at the time, Celso Amorim cited the paper in explaining Brazil’s “scarce interest” in pursuing a NAFTA-style trade agreement with the U.S.: heavy reliance on the U.S. market made some countries more vulnerable to the economic downturn than others. Brazil’s exports to the U.S. have declined since, to just 11.3 percent of total exports (down from 16.1 percent in 2007) and 1.2 percent of GDP, in 2012.

In a related development, as Folha described concerns over the impact an asylum offer for Snowden might have on Brazil-U.S. commercial relations, the Brazilian government this week passed over U.S. company Boeing in order to contract with Sweden’s Saab for a $4.5 billion deal for a fleet of fighter jets. While AP reported that “Defense Minister Celso Amorim said the choice …was made following ‘careful study and consideration, taking into account performance, transfer of technology and cost, not just of acquisition but of maintenance,’” a Reuters article yesterday cited an unnamed Brazilian government source as saying “[t]he NSA problem ruined it for the Americans.”

Ironically, the New York Times reported three years ago that “State Department and Boeing officials, in interviews last month, acknowledged the important role the United States government plays in helping them sell commercial airplanes…” Now the NSA’s spying on Brazil has cost the deal for Boeing, which the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports “could have supported thousands of jobs in St. Louis.”

Amnesty International, meanwhile said Brazil “must consider” asylum for Snowden, as Reuters reported:

Rights watchdog Amnesty International said Brazil should give “full consideration” to Snowden’s claim for asylum.

“It is his right to seek international protection, and it’s also Brazil’s international obligation to review and decide on his request under the refugee convention,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Amnesty’s statement also included this quote from Brazil director Atila Roque: “Edward Snowden is a whistleblower who has disclosed an unlawful global digital surveillance program that has violated the right to privacy of millions of people[.] As such, he has grounds to seek asylum abroad out of well-founded fears the USA would persecute him for his actions.”

President Obama traveled to Soweto, South Africa this week for the memorial service for former president and anti-apartheid movement leader Nelson Mandela. Over 60 heads of state also attended the services, but only five were invited to speak – among them Cuban president Raúl Castro, with whom Obama shook hands – the first such greeting between the presidents of the United States and Cuba since President Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro on the sidelines of a U.N. summit in 2000. Obama’s handshake with Castro was condemned by a number of Republican members of Congress. Senator John McCain likened it to Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Hitler, while perennial Cuba-hater Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – who in the past has openly called for Fidel Castro’s assassination – called it “a propaganda coup for the tyrant [Castro].” Cruz made headlines for himself by walking out on Castro’s speech at the ceremony, with a spokesperson saying that “Sen. Cruz very much hopes that Castro learns the lessons of Nelson Mandela.”

But while Republicans have received attention for their criticism of the handshake – just as they did when Obama similarly greeted democratically-elected then-president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez in 2009 – Obama’s speech at the event has been described by some as a rebuke of some foreign governments, including Cuba’s. “There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality,” he said without apparent irony, while in Singapore a U.S. delegation was concluding (unsuccessfully) the latest round of efforts to get other countries to agree to a variety of controversial and potentially harmful measures in a proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. As we have described in a research paper, most U.S. workers would lose out from the planned TPP in the form of reduced wages.

As many analysts, historians and observers have pointed out, the condemnation of the Obama-Castro handshake is also ironic considering Mandela’s long appreciation for the Cuban government and its unwavering opposition to apartheid and similar racist regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique and South Africa. Most notably, Cuba provided 36,000 troops to beat back the efforts of the South African military to crush independence in Angola.

As the Huffington Post’s Roque Planas points out, while Cuba provided Mandela, the African National Congress and South Africa with inspiration, guidance, resources, training and doctors, “The U.S. government, on the other hand, reportedly played a role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest and subsequently branded him a terrorist — a designation they only rescinded in 2008. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act.” Then there’s the small matter of U.S. and South African support for the counter-revolutionaries in Angola. As Piero Gleijeses, a professor of U.S. foreign policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and author of several books including Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 said yesterday in an interview with “Democracy Now”: “…the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation.”

The Republican members of Congress are not alone in attempting to rewrite history and remake Mandela in their image. Notably, various world leaders past and present who supported apartheid and Mandela’s imprisonment have gushed over what a great man he was now that he’s passed on. But Mandela maintained integrity in his outspoken criticism of the U.S., saying that “If there’s a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” Such sentiments are reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that the U.S. is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and his outspoken condemnation of the war in Vietnam, which earned him the wrath of the foreign policy establishment and the media – when he was still alive.

In contrast, British Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg used the occasion of a Special Session honoring Nelson Mandela to call on the House of Commons to support human rights activists in Afghanistan and Honduras:

Right now, all over the world, there are millions of men, women and children still struggling to overcome poverty, violence and discrimination.

They do not have the fame or the standing of Nelson Mandela, but I’m sure that he would tell us that what they achieve and endure in their pursuit of a more open, equal and just society shapes all our lives.

Campaigners like Mary Akrami, who works to protect and empower the women of Afghanistan; Sima Samar, the Head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission; or organisations like the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras which works in the shadow of threats and intimidation.

They are just 3 examples of the individuals and organisations who deserve our loyalty and support just as much as the British campaigners in the Anti-Apartheid movement in London showed unfailing loyalty and support towards Nelson Mandela in his bleakest days, and here I also want to pay tribute to the Rt. Hon Member for Neath and his fellow campaigners for what they did at the time.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske also made remarks on human rights in Honduras, Tuesday, International Human Rights Day. She condemned campesinos and others resisting murder and brutality in the Aguan Valley, and indigenous Lenca communities fighting the imposition of development projects on their land over their objections. In Honduras’ context of political repression and rampant impunity for security forces who commit abuses, such comments further imperil some of Honduras’ most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised communities.

President Obama traveled to Soweto, South Africa this week for the memorial service for former president and anti-apartheid movement leader Nelson Mandela. Over 60 heads of state also attended the services, but only five were invited to speak – among them Cuban president Raúl Castro, with whom Obama shook hands – the first such greeting between the presidents of the United States and Cuba since President Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro on the sidelines of a U.N. summit in 2000. Obama’s handshake with Castro was condemned by a number of Republican members of Congress. Senator John McCain likened it to Neville Chamberlain shaking hands with Hitler, while perennial Cuba-hater Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – who in the past has openly called for Fidel Castro’s assassination – called it “a propaganda coup for the tyrant [Castro].” Cruz made headlines for himself by walking out on Castro’s speech at the ceremony, with a spokesperson saying that “Sen. Cruz very much hopes that Castro learns the lessons of Nelson Mandela.”

But while Republicans have received attention for their criticism of the handshake – just as they did when Obama similarly greeted democratically-elected then-president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez in 2009 – Obama’s speech at the event has been described by some as a rebuke of some foreign governments, including Cuba’s. “There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality,” he said without apparent irony, while in Singapore a U.S. delegation was concluding (unsuccessfully) the latest round of efforts to get other countries to agree to a variety of controversial and potentially harmful measures in a proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. As we have described in a research paper, most U.S. workers would lose out from the planned TPP in the form of reduced wages.

As many analysts, historians and observers have pointed out, the condemnation of the Obama-Castro handshake is also ironic considering Mandela’s long appreciation for the Cuban government and its unwavering opposition to apartheid and similar racist regimes in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique and South Africa. Most notably, Cuba provided 36,000 troops to beat back the efforts of the South African military to crush independence in Angola.

As the Huffington Post’s Roque Planas points out, while Cuba provided Mandela, the African National Congress and South Africa with inspiration, guidance, resources, training and doctors, “The U.S. government, on the other hand, reportedly played a role in Mandela’s 1962 arrest and subsequently branded him a terrorist — a designation they only rescinded in 2008. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan vetoed the Anti-Apartheid Act.” Then there’s the small matter of U.S. and South African support for the counter-revolutionaries in Angola. As Piero Gleijeses, a professor of U.S. foreign policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and author of several books including Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991 said yesterday in an interview with “Democracy Now”: “…the role of the United States as a country, as a government, past governments, in the struggle for liberation of South Africa is a shameful role. In general, we were on the side of the apartheid government. And the role of Cuba is a splendid role in favor of the liberation.”

The Republican members of Congress are not alone in attempting to rewrite history and remake Mandela in their image. Notably, various world leaders past and present who supported apartheid and Mandela’s imprisonment have gushed over what a great man he was now that he’s passed on. But Mandela maintained integrity in his outspoken criticism of the U.S., saying that “If there’s a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don’t care.” Such sentiments are reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that the U.S. is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and his outspoken condemnation of the war in Vietnam, which earned him the wrath of the foreign policy establishment and the media – when he was still alive.

In contrast, British Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg used the occasion of a Special Session honoring Nelson Mandela to call on the House of Commons to support human rights activists in Afghanistan and Honduras:

Right now, all over the world, there are millions of men, women and children still struggling to overcome poverty, violence and discrimination.

They do not have the fame or the standing of Nelson Mandela, but I’m sure that he would tell us that what they achieve and endure in their pursuit of a more open, equal and just society shapes all our lives.

Campaigners like Mary Akrami, who works to protect and empower the women of Afghanistan; Sima Samar, the Head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission; or organisations like the Committee of Relatives of the Detained and Disappeared in Honduras which works in the shadow of threats and intimidation.

They are just 3 examples of the individuals and organisations who deserve our loyalty and support just as much as the British campaigners in the Anti-Apartheid movement in London showed unfailing loyalty and support towards Nelson Mandela in his bleakest days, and here I also want to pay tribute to the Rt. Hon Member for Neath and his fellow campaigners for what they did at the time.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske also made remarks on human rights in Honduras, Tuesday, International Human Rights Day. She condemned campesinos and others resisting murder and brutality in the Aguan Valley, and indigenous Lenca communities fighting the imposition of development projects on their land over their objections. In Honduras’ context of political repression and rampant impunity for security forces who commit abuses, such comments further imperil some of Honduras’ most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised communities.

Bali, Indonesia – Early the morning of December 7th, in the talks of the 9th Ministerial meeting of the WTO, a paragraph was removed from draft text – obviously at the demand of the United States – relating to the embargo/blockade against Cuba. Members are here negotiating a deal on “trade facilitation,” which would simplify customs and border procedures, but which also puts binding conditions on developing countries to ensure fast and efficient transit procedures (meaning that other members could file cases against them in the WTO for failure to comply).

Civil society organizations working here have sharply criticized the texts for putting binding rules on developing countries for further pro-corporate liberalization commitments that are not to their advantage, while not offering enough changes to existing WTO rules which limit developing – but not developed – countries from investing in farmers’ livelihoods and food security.

Given the topic of the negotiations, facilitating trade, it must have appeared reasonable to Cuba to insert a paragraph setting down a binding rule against discriminatory measures on goods in transit. However, when negotiators convened on the last night of the conference at 9 p.m., after a long week of negotiations focused on other issues, and the Chair of the Ministerial distributed the draft text for final approval, Cuba noticed that its paragraph[1] had been removed. After repeated efforts to gain the floor, the Cuban Ambassador, Nancy Madrigal, appears to have been treated rather brusquely by the chair, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan of Indonesia, who did not even let her speak.

Upon reconvening the meeting, Ambassador Madrigal sought clarification of how the negotiations on the pending issues would continue, given that Cuba’s text had been removed without even the slightest consultations. The chair, however, did not offer a path to further negotiations, and instead was clearly expecting everyone to simply affirm their agreement. At that point Ambassador Madrigal read a statement on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) countries of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela, rejecting the entire text.

What we have before us remain unbalanced and we will do everything within our reach and power so that the WTO does not continue to be used for neoliberal globalization. What we see is a perpetuation of subsidies and support policies used by developed countries that remain untouchable. It is inconceivable that an organization that [is accepting a deal on trade facilitation] is incapable of adopting one paragraph against discrimination on goods in transit. [paraphrased excerpt]

As of 6:24 a.m. on Saturday morning, December 7th, in Bali, the Director-General is alternating private meetings with the United States and the ALBA group. Another meeting of the Heads of Delegations is convened at 10:00 a.m., and it appears that an agreement has been reached.

Even so, this is yet another moment when the emerging independence of Latin America has opened up opportunities for a more just and democratic global economy. A similar objection to the WTO text occured in the 2005 Ministerial in Hong Kong, when Maripili Hernandez, the Minister of Venezuela, objected to the text. But her reservation, along with that of Cuba’s, ended up in a footnote of the approved document.

More details below.

Then negotiators were given three hours to review the text, and reconvened after midnight (the morning of December 7th). At that time, Minister Wijrawan and the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, apologized for the earlier “miscommunication,” and it was reported that Ambassador Madrigal accepted the apology and basically accepted the text. Given that Cuba was one of the countries that other negotiators were worried might block the text, press reports started leaking that a deal was at hand.

However, Cuba later retook the floor, and issued a clarification, not that they accepted their text having been removed, but that they were looking forward to hearing from the chair, on how they could continue the negotiations and requested a clarification as to how members were going to proceed in order to deal with the pending issues.

The chair then seemed to ignore her point, and tried to move on, not once but twice. After the second time, Madrigal also stated that she had a statement they were prepared to read, but wanted further clarification of the process for dealing with pending issues. The chair seemed to state that there would be “consultations” but did not point towards a path towards actual negotiations, before the closing ceremony which was scheduled for 3:00 a.m. Given that the chair indicated that there would be no further negotiations, she then read a statement, rejecting the text:

[paraphrasing] Taking into account your comments, we make a statement on behalf of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. We accept the apologies; however, what happened today remains unacceptable and criticizable in an organization that claims to be member-driven. If this happens simply for calling for sovereign rights what can we accept by imposing a (text)? We firmly reject application of methods that undermine multilateralism and do not accept procedures that seem to show inclusiveness but is just given last minute text. This has been achieved by means of manipulations shifting an image that we will be beneficiaries of text. In accepting what has been presented to us we will be facing the same difficulties we faced as part of the Uruguay Round. What we have before us remain unbalanced and we will do everything within our reach and power so that the WTO does not continue to be used for neoliberal globalization. What we see is a perpetuation of subsidies and support policies used by developed countries that remain untouchable. It is inconceivable that an organization that [is accepting a deal on trade facilitation] is incapable of adopting one paragraph against discrimination on goods in transit…We have been blockaded not only in our legitimate right to negotiate, but also unable to exercise our right to speech.

Thus we reject categorically the documents that have been presented and we formally oppose the adoption of these texts pursuant to article IX.1 of the Marrakesh agreement. We will continue to defend the rights of developing countries. We request this statement be put forward as an official document of our countries.



1. Trade Facilitation Room W Text, 25 November 2013, Section 1, Article 12.4: Freedom of Transit: [Members shall not apply discriminatory measures to goods in transit or to vessels of other means of transport of other Members, for reasons of any kind. This does not exclude the right to resort to the exceptions already laid down in WTO Agreements, for valid reasons and provided that the measure concerned does not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade.]

Bali, Indonesia – Early the morning of December 7th, in the talks of the 9th Ministerial meeting of the WTO, a paragraph was removed from draft text – obviously at the demand of the United States – relating to the embargo/blockade against Cuba. Members are here negotiating a deal on “trade facilitation,” which would simplify customs and border procedures, but which also puts binding conditions on developing countries to ensure fast and efficient transit procedures (meaning that other members could file cases against them in the WTO for failure to comply).

Civil society organizations working here have sharply criticized the texts for putting binding rules on developing countries for further pro-corporate liberalization commitments that are not to their advantage, while not offering enough changes to existing WTO rules which limit developing – but not developed – countries from investing in farmers’ livelihoods and food security.

Given the topic of the negotiations, facilitating trade, it must have appeared reasonable to Cuba to insert a paragraph setting down a binding rule against discriminatory measures on goods in transit. However, when negotiators convened on the last night of the conference at 9 p.m., after a long week of negotiations focused on other issues, and the Chair of the Ministerial distributed the draft text for final approval, Cuba noticed that its paragraph[1] had been removed. After repeated efforts to gain the floor, the Cuban Ambassador, Nancy Madrigal, appears to have been treated rather brusquely by the chair, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan of Indonesia, who did not even let her speak.

Upon reconvening the meeting, Ambassador Madrigal sought clarification of how the negotiations on the pending issues would continue, given that Cuba’s text had been removed without even the slightest consultations. The chair, however, did not offer a path to further negotiations, and instead was clearly expecting everyone to simply affirm their agreement. At that point Ambassador Madrigal read a statement on behalf of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA) countries of Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Venezuela, rejecting the entire text.

What we have before us remain unbalanced and we will do everything within our reach and power so that the WTO does not continue to be used for neoliberal globalization. What we see is a perpetuation of subsidies and support policies used by developed countries that remain untouchable. It is inconceivable that an organization that [is accepting a deal on trade facilitation] is incapable of adopting one paragraph against discrimination on goods in transit. [paraphrased excerpt]

As of 6:24 a.m. on Saturday morning, December 7th, in Bali, the Director-General is alternating private meetings with the United States and the ALBA group. Another meeting of the Heads of Delegations is convened at 10:00 a.m., and it appears that an agreement has been reached.

Even so, this is yet another moment when the emerging independence of Latin America has opened up opportunities for a more just and democratic global economy. A similar objection to the WTO text occured in the 2005 Ministerial in Hong Kong, when Maripili Hernandez, the Minister of Venezuela, objected to the text. But her reservation, along with that of Cuba’s, ended up in a footnote of the approved document.

More details below.

Then negotiators were given three hours to review the text, and reconvened after midnight (the morning of December 7th). At that time, Minister Wijrawan and the Director-General of the WTO, Roberto Azevêdo, apologized for the earlier “miscommunication,” and it was reported that Ambassador Madrigal accepted the apology and basically accepted the text. Given that Cuba was one of the countries that other negotiators were worried might block the text, press reports started leaking that a deal was at hand.

However, Cuba later retook the floor, and issued a clarification, not that they accepted their text having been removed, but that they were looking forward to hearing from the chair, on how they could continue the negotiations and requested a clarification as to how members were going to proceed in order to deal with the pending issues.

The chair then seemed to ignore her point, and tried to move on, not once but twice. After the second time, Madrigal also stated that she had a statement they were prepared to read, but wanted further clarification of the process for dealing with pending issues. The chair seemed to state that there would be “consultations” but did not point towards a path towards actual negotiations, before the closing ceremony which was scheduled for 3:00 a.m. Given that the chair indicated that there would be no further negotiations, she then read a statement, rejecting the text:

[paraphrasing] Taking into account your comments, we make a statement on behalf of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. We accept the apologies; however, what happened today remains unacceptable and criticizable in an organization that claims to be member-driven. If this happens simply for calling for sovereign rights what can we accept by imposing a (text)? We firmly reject application of methods that undermine multilateralism and do not accept procedures that seem to show inclusiveness but is just given last minute text. This has been achieved by means of manipulations shifting an image that we will be beneficiaries of text. In accepting what has been presented to us we will be facing the same difficulties we faced as part of the Uruguay Round. What we have before us remain unbalanced and we will do everything within our reach and power so that the WTO does not continue to be used for neoliberal globalization. What we see is a perpetuation of subsidies and support policies used by developed countries that remain untouchable. It is inconceivable that an organization that [is accepting a deal on trade facilitation] is incapable of adopting one paragraph against discrimination on goods in transit…We have been blockaded not only in our legitimate right to negotiate, but also unable to exercise our right to speech.

Thus we reject categorically the documents that have been presented and we formally oppose the adoption of these texts pursuant to article IX.1 of the Marrakesh agreement. We will continue to defend the rights of developing countries. We request this statement be put forward as an official document of our countries.



1. Trade Facilitation Room W Text, 25 November 2013, Section 1, Article 12.4: Freedom of Transit: [Members shall not apply discriminatory measures to goods in transit or to vessels of other means of transport of other Members, for reasons of any kind. This does not exclude the right to resort to the exceptions already laid down in WTO Agreements, for valid reasons and provided that the measure concerned does not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade.]

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors:

Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean is now easing at a slower pace, the UN’s regional economic body said on Thursday, calling on governments to make policy changes that encourage growth while reducing the huge gap between the rich and poor.

UN economists based in Santiago said about 164 million people, or 28 percent of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from last year. Out of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty.

But there are bright spots. ECLAC’s new “Social Panorama of Latin America” report [PDF] notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012:

Six of the 11 countries with information available in 2012 recorded falling poverty levels (see table 1). The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6 percentage points (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0 percentage points (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1 percentage points (from 35.3% to 32.2%) and indigence by 0.9 percentage points (from 13.8% to 12.9%).

This 5.6 percentage point decrease in Venezuela translates into a 19 percent decline in poverty overall last year, which CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot noted last month “is almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world.” 

This dramatic decrease in poverty is likely due to the impact of two new misiones (social programmes), the Gran Misión En Amor Mayor Venezuela and the Gran Misión Hijos de Venezuela, which were, by January 2013, benefitting more than 1,400,000 people.

Both misiones are aimed at assisting people living in extreme poverty: GM En Amor Mayor provides pensions to elderly people, and the GM Hijos de Venezuela provides cash transfers to households with children and pregnant women. The two missions are reaching a significant number of people: as of January 2013, 516,000 elderly people were receiving a monthly pension through GM Amor Mayor. Meanwhile, the program GM Hijos de Venezuela was making monthly payments to 324,000 families, which represents 794,000 individuals.

As well as simply reducing poverty, the GM Hijos de Venezuela reduces gender inequality. 98 percent of the recipients of the program were women, who are in many countries in Latin America overrepresented among the poor. It can be reasonably hypothesized that this high level of targeting is likely to increase the economic independence of women, reducing the frequent economic imperative for women to stay in disadvantageous relationships.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has highlighted a slowing of progress in poverty reduction in Latin America, citing “rising food costs and weaker economic growth” as contributing factors:

Poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean is now easing at a slower pace, the UN’s regional economic body said on Thursday, calling on governments to make policy changes that encourage growth while reducing the huge gap between the rich and poor.

UN economists based in Santiago said about 164 million people, or 28 percent of the region’s population, are still considered poor. That is nearly unchanged from last year. Out of those, 68 million of them are in extreme poverty.

But there are bright spots. ECLAC’s new “Social Panorama of Latin America” report [PDF] notes that Venezuela and Ecuador led the region in decreasing poverty in 2012:

Six of the 11 countries with information available in 2012 recorded falling poverty levels (see table 1). The largest drop was in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where poverty fell by 5.6 percentage points (from 29.5% to 23.9%) and extreme poverty by 2.0 percentage points (from 11.7% to 9.7%). In Ecuador, poverty was down by 3.1 percentage points (from 35.3% to 32.2%) and indigence by 0.9 percentage points (from 13.8% to 12.9%).

This 5.6 percentage point decrease in Venezuela translates into a 19 percent decline in poverty overall last year, which CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot noted last month “is almost certainly the largest decline in poverty in the Americas for 2012, and one of the largest – if not the largest – in the world.” 

This dramatic decrease in poverty is likely due to the impact of two new misiones (social programmes), the Gran Misión En Amor Mayor Venezuela and the Gran Misión Hijos de Venezuela, which were, by January 2013, benefitting more than 1,400,000 people.

Both misiones are aimed at assisting people living in extreme poverty: GM En Amor Mayor provides pensions to elderly people, and the GM Hijos de Venezuela provides cash transfers to households with children and pregnant women. The two missions are reaching a significant number of people: as of January 2013, 516,000 elderly people were receiving a monthly pension through GM Amor Mayor. Meanwhile, the program GM Hijos de Venezuela was making monthly payments to 324,000 families, which represents 794,000 individuals.

As well as simply reducing poverty, the GM Hijos de Venezuela reduces gender inequality. 98 percent of the recipients of the program were women, who are in many countries in Latin America overrepresented among the poor. It can be reasonably hypothesized that this high level of targeting is likely to increase the economic independence of women, reducing the frequent economic imperative for women to stay in disadvantageous relationships.

In El Paraíso, a city of 14,000 that sits right near Honduras’ border with Guatemala, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party secured an impressive 81.4 percent of the vote. In second place, with 7.2 percent of the vote, was “invalid.”

Last week the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), declared that Hernandez had been elected president of Honduras with 35 percent of the vote, compared to 27.4 percent for Xiomara Castro, of the newly formed LIBRE party. Castro is the wife of Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 military coup. Alleging fraud, LIBRE has yet to recognize the results and is reportedly in discussions with the TSE to begin a recount process.

But no matter the outcome of the recount, if it ever occurs, there were numerous other irregularities on election day, including a number of reports of voter intimidation as well as other, perhaps more nefarious, means of voter manipulation. Although it is generally difficult to directly link election results to acts of voter intimidation, the case of El Paraíso provides an interesting example.

El Paraíso, in the Copan department[i] of Honduras, is located directly on what is known as the “road of death.” The road is a well-known drug trafficking route which travels through Honduras and on to Guatemala. The presence, and influence, of Mexican drug cartels has steadily been rising in the area. 

The mayor of El Paraíso, Alexander Ardón, who has referred to himself as “the king of the people”, is a member of the ruling National Party. A 2011 report from the Wilson Center states that, “Ardón works with the Sinaloa Cartel,” according to “Honduran police intelligence.” The report continues:

Ardón has built a town hall that resembles the White House, complete with a heliport on the roof, and travels with 40 heavily armed bodyguards. Cameras monitor the roads leading in and out of the town, intelligence services say. And there are reports that the mayor often closes the city to outsiders for big parties that include norteña music groups flown in from Mexico.

The 2013 Elections

In the weeks prior to the election on Sunday, November 24, rights groups in Honduras began to hear about possible fraud in El Paraíso. Prior to election day, with few local observers willing to go to polling places, a number of monitors were bussed in from other cities. The human rights group COFADEH released a statement on election day (see here for testimony from an electoral observer there), reporting that:

Also this day in the town of El Paraíso in the department of Copan, about 50 people who have been designated to monitor the election tables were locked in a hotel by over 100 armed men who threatened to burn them if they left the hotel to go to the voting centers.

Another group heading to 10 voting centers succeeded in making it through the obstacles at first, but on the way there the road was blocked by two Prado SUVs with heavily armed men who proceeded to stab their vehicles’ tires with knives and threatened to kill anyone who continued toward their destination.

The intimidation seems to have its desired effect. In the two elections (2001 and 2005) prior to the 2009 military coup, El Paraíso had a voter turnout of 63 percent and 50 percent, respectively. In 2013, turnout was reported to be 85 percent. According to the official results from the TSE, the National Party took 81.4 percent of the vote. Looking deeper, the results are even stranger. There were 16,135 voting tables in Honduras; the ten which showed the highest number of votes for Hernandez were all located in El Paraíso. The 81.4 percent that went to the National Party was over 11 percentage points higher than in any other city in the entire country.

Overall, in Copan, the National Party took over 47 percent of the vote, one of their highest rates in the country.

A Repeat of the 2009 Elections and U.S. Support

In 2009, elections were held under the coup regime, which had ousted President Manual Zelaya months earlier. The elections took place during a period of tremendous violence and repression, which targeted both the opposition and independent media. As a result most of the region refused to recognize the results, though the United States quickly sought to legitimize them.

In 2011, Oscar Martinez reported for the Salvadoran news organization El Faro on the department of Copan and the impact that drug traffickers and corruption had on the area. Martinez spoke with an ex-mayor from the region, who described a scene from election day in 2009 that is eerily familiar to what was reported this year:

There are things that everyone knows, like how in El Paraíso in the mayoral and congressional elections in 2009, the ballot boxes closed at 11 in the morning with the help of armed men… They took the ballot boxes and finished filling them.

Martinez continues:

Two more sources confirmed this fact…One of those who did so is a member of the National Party, like Mayor Ardón. The numbers of voters indicates some very unusual results in El Paraíso compared with other municipalities. Of the 12,536 voters that were eligible in that municipality, 9,583 went to the voting box. That is the lowest abstention in all of the Copán department. Of those voters, only 670 elected the Liberal Party. The other 8,151 gave the win to the National Party.

In the four years since, the U.S. has spent over $10 million dollars in electoral assistance through programs with the United Nations Development Program, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the National Democratic Institute, according to public contracting records. Much of these funds went directly to technical assistance for the TSE as well as to improve “citizen security” for the elections.

On election day, U.S. ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske held a press conference, soon after the TSE had announced preliminary results, to declare the electoral process “transparent.” On November 27, the U.S. issued a statement noting that “Organization of American States and European Union electoral observation mission reports reflect a transparent process.”

But despite the millions in direct support and technical assistance, and the presence of numerous official electoral observation missions, violence and intimidation continue to plague the electoral process in Honduras. Regardless of any discrepancies that a possible recount might uncover, this important fact cannot be ignored.


The commander of the police in Copan, before his appointment by current president Lobo Sosa as Chief of Police in 2012, was Juan Carlos Bonilla, aka “El Tigre”. Bonilla has been accused of death squad activity and the Honduran police have recently been suspected of “disappearing” detainees, according to the Associated Press. While the U.S. provides substantial funding for the Honduran military in support of the “war on drugs,” Bonilla is supposed to be kept at arms’ length given “allegations of human rights violations,” according to the State Department. However, in a recent interview with the AP, Bonilla described the close relationship he has with the U.S. and the support he receives in conducting operations throughout the country.

In El Paraíso, a city of 14,000 that sits right near Honduras’ border with Guatemala, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party secured an impressive 81.4 percent of the vote. In second place, with 7.2 percent of the vote, was “invalid.”

Last week the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), declared that Hernandez had been elected president of Honduras with 35 percent of the vote, compared to 27.4 percent for Xiomara Castro, of the newly formed LIBRE party. Castro is the wife of Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 military coup. Alleging fraud, LIBRE has yet to recognize the results and is reportedly in discussions with the TSE to begin a recount process.

But no matter the outcome of the recount, if it ever occurs, there were numerous other irregularities on election day, including a number of reports of voter intimidation as well as other, perhaps more nefarious, means of voter manipulation. Although it is generally difficult to directly link election results to acts of voter intimidation, the case of El Paraíso provides an interesting example.

El Paraíso, in the Copan department[i] of Honduras, is located directly on what is known as the “road of death.” The road is a well-known drug trafficking route which travels through Honduras and on to Guatemala. The presence, and influence, of Mexican drug cartels has steadily been rising in the area. 

The mayor of El Paraíso, Alexander Ardón, who has referred to himself as “the king of the people”, is a member of the ruling National Party. A 2011 report from the Wilson Center states that, “Ardón works with the Sinaloa Cartel,” according to “Honduran police intelligence.” The report continues:

Ardón has built a town hall that resembles the White House, complete with a heliport on the roof, and travels with 40 heavily armed bodyguards. Cameras monitor the roads leading in and out of the town, intelligence services say. And there are reports that the mayor often closes the city to outsiders for big parties that include norteña music groups flown in from Mexico.

The 2013 Elections

In the weeks prior to the election on Sunday, November 24, rights groups in Honduras began to hear about possible fraud in El Paraíso. Prior to election day, with few local observers willing to go to polling places, a number of monitors were bussed in from other cities. The human rights group COFADEH released a statement on election day (see here for testimony from an electoral observer there), reporting that:

Also this day in the town of El Paraíso in the department of Copan, about 50 people who have been designated to monitor the election tables were locked in a hotel by over 100 armed men who threatened to burn them if they left the hotel to go to the voting centers.

Another group heading to 10 voting centers succeeded in making it through the obstacles at first, but on the way there the road was blocked by two Prado SUVs with heavily armed men who proceeded to stab their vehicles’ tires with knives and threatened to kill anyone who continued toward their destination.

The intimidation seems to have its desired effect. In the two elections (2001 and 2005) prior to the 2009 military coup, El Paraíso had a voter turnout of 63 percent and 50 percent, respectively. In 2013, turnout was reported to be 85 percent. According to the official results from the TSE, the National Party took 81.4 percent of the vote. Looking deeper, the results are even stranger. There were 16,135 voting tables in Honduras; the ten which showed the highest number of votes for Hernandez were all located in El Paraíso. The 81.4 percent that went to the National Party was over 11 percentage points higher than in any other city in the entire country.

Overall, in Copan, the National Party took over 47 percent of the vote, one of their highest rates in the country.

A Repeat of the 2009 Elections and U.S. Support

In 2009, elections were held under the coup regime, which had ousted President Manual Zelaya months earlier. The elections took place during a period of tremendous violence and repression, which targeted both the opposition and independent media. As a result most of the region refused to recognize the results, though the United States quickly sought to legitimize them.

In 2011, Oscar Martinez reported for the Salvadoran news organization El Faro on the department of Copan and the impact that drug traffickers and corruption had on the area. Martinez spoke with an ex-mayor from the region, who described a scene from election day in 2009 that is eerily familiar to what was reported this year:

There are things that everyone knows, like how in El Paraíso in the mayoral and congressional elections in 2009, the ballot boxes closed at 11 in the morning with the help of armed men… They took the ballot boxes and finished filling them.

Martinez continues:

Two more sources confirmed this fact…One of those who did so is a member of the National Party, like Mayor Ardón. The numbers of voters indicates some very unusual results in El Paraíso compared with other municipalities. Of the 12,536 voters that were eligible in that municipality, 9,583 went to the voting box. That is the lowest abstention in all of the Copán department. Of those voters, only 670 elected the Liberal Party. The other 8,151 gave the win to the National Party.

In the four years since, the U.S. has spent over $10 million dollars in electoral assistance through programs with the United Nations Development Program, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the National Democratic Institute, according to public contracting records. Much of these funds went directly to technical assistance for the TSE as well as to improve “citizen security” for the elections.

On election day, U.S. ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske held a press conference, soon after the TSE had announced preliminary results, to declare the electoral process “transparent.” On November 27, the U.S. issued a statement noting that “Organization of American States and European Union electoral observation mission reports reflect a transparent process.”

But despite the millions in direct support and technical assistance, and the presence of numerous official electoral observation missions, violence and intimidation continue to plague the electoral process in Honduras. Regardless of any discrepancies that a possible recount might uncover, this important fact cannot be ignored.


The commander of the police in Copan, before his appointment by current president Lobo Sosa as Chief of Police in 2012, was Juan Carlos Bonilla, aka “El Tigre”. Bonilla has been accused of death squad activity and the Honduran police have recently been suspected of “disappearing” detainees, according to the Associated Press. While the U.S. provides substantial funding for the Honduran military in support of the “war on drugs,” Bonilla is supposed to be kept at arms’ length given “allegations of human rights violations,” according to the State Department. However, in a recent interview with the AP, Bonilla described the close relationship he has with the U.S. and the support he receives in conducting operations throughout the country.

Monday November 25

8:30 P.M. EST: The National Lawyers Guild International Committee has released the following statement:

The National Lawyers Guild, with a delegation of 17 members who observed Sunday’s elections in Honduras, will be issuing a press statement tomorrow.   In advance of that statement, the NLG International Committee wants to alert our members and other interested parties that US media and government reports of a free, fair and transparent election in Honduras are premature and inappropriate.  Such unsupported claims will only exacerbate tensions in a country that recently suffered a coup, followed by massive attacks on human rights defenders, opposition party candidates and activists that continue to this moment.  

Honduras has a flawed electoral system with many deficiencies including control of the process by political parties, unregulated and undisclosed campaign financing, and inadequate resources, training and voting facilities that disadvantage poor communities.  In addition Honduran electoral law provides for no run-off election. Without a runoff election in which a majority of voters choose leadership, the electoral aspirations of two-thirds of Honduran voters who voted for change, are frustrated, and the winner of a mere plurality is denied a real mandate.

The NLG will issue a press statement tomorrow to be followed by the delegation’s comprehensive report.

 

6:56 P.M. EST: Although the TSE has yet to announce the final results of the election, current Honduran president Porfirio Lobo has congratulated Juan Orlando Hernández on his election, reports La Prensa.

6:30 P.M. EST: The TSE continues to update their website with partial results, however a few discrepancies have emerged. The main page of the TSE website shows 61.77 percent of voting tables as having been counted, however on the results by department page, the TSE reports 57.99 percent of voting tables as having been counted. On the main page, the TSE reports a total of 15,147 voting tables while on the results by department page, the TSE reports a total of 16,135 voting tables.

The results by department page, which includes both null and blank votes, shows a total of 2,009,101 votes as having been processed. However if one adds up all the votes for each candidate as well as null and blank votes, the total is 1,928,450, a discrepancy of over 80,000 votes.

The TSE has yet to make any formal announcement today with updated results, but check the TSE website periodically for updates.

5:07 P.M. EST: An international human rights worker, in Honduras for the election, passed along this observation after visiting the Ministerio Publico, which local press reported had been militarized. The Ministerio Publico is where official complaints against the election would be lodged:

From the outside it seemed closed, but after a while a soldier came out followed by another one. We decided to try to get in. The door was open, but in the lobby were about 10 soldiers. An employee from the MP approached us and asked what we wanted… I told them I’d like to speak with a human rights fiscal and then they told me that no one was there. Another source told us, that they sent all fiscales home, so one wonders who is receiving the denunciations.

4:52 P.M. EST: The U.S. State Department has released the following statement:

The United States congratulates the Honduran people for their peaceful participation in elections on November 24. Honduran and international observers, including those from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, reported that the process was generally transparent, with strong voter turnout and broad participation by political parties.

The United States calls on Hondurans to await the completion of the counting of official results and to resolve election disputes peacefully through established legal processes.

The United States supports the democratic process and remains committed to continuing our cooperation with the Government and people of Honduras.


3:34 P.M. EST:
The TSE has posted updated results to their website. With 61.7 percent of the voting tables having been counted, the TSE reports that Juan Orlando Hernández is in the lead with 631,079 votes, or 34.19 percent and Xiomara Castro of LIBRE is in second with 532,198 votes or 28.83 percent.

The TSE also provides results broken down by department. An interesting result, pointed out by the Honduras Culture and Politics blog is that Salvador Nasralla of the Anti-Corruption Party is leading the vote count in Cortes, home to Honduras’ second largest city, San Pedro Sula. The TSE report has Nasralla leading in Cortes with 35.1 percent of the vote, nearly twice as much than he has received in any other department.

1:48 P.M. EST: The LIBRE political platform is currently conducting a press conference, which can be watched live via Telesur. LIBRE is refusing to recognize the results announced by the TSE and alleges that the TSE is not processing 20 percent of the returns, which LIBRE says favor Xiomara Castro.

12:52 P.M. EST:
The Spanish government has congratulated the ruling party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández for his “election as president of Honduras.” Last night, Hernández tweeted that he had received congratulatory calls from the presidents of Colombia, Panama and Guatemala.

The reported calls from foreign governments come before an official result has been announced by the TSE.

12:01 P.M. EST: Last night, just before 1 A.M. and soon after the Honduras electoral authority (TSE) announced preliminary results, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, spoke to press, declaring that the electoral process was “transparent.” According to the Honduras press, Kubiske added, “I recognize the announced results and what our observers saw during the process.” Kubiske also called on all parties to wait for final results to be announced.

In its latest announcement, early Monday morning, the TSE reported that Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party was leading with 54 percent of the votes counted. Xiomara Castro, trailing in preliminary results by 5.6 percentage points, has not recognized the results. Despite both candidates declaring themselves as victorious, the TSE president, David Matamoros told the press that “The preliminary results we have given so far do not show any tendency or declare any winner.” Never the less, much of the Honduran press is reporting that Hernandez was declared the winner.

This morning, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a statement, which said, in part:

Yesterday’s election in Honduras and subsequent statements by the U.S. Ambassador characterizing the election as “transparent” and accompanied by only few acts of violence are reminiscent of the 2009 election, where the U.S. rushed to validate and help push forward a process as it was being contested by Honduran civil society. There must be an opportunity to do a full and accurate count and fully investigate reports of irregularities and intimidation and threats by authorities.

Given the context of widespread opposition to the post-coup government and its violent repression of civil society, CCR urges the international community to do everything possible to ensure respect for and protection of Hondurans’ right to free expression, freedom of the press, and peaceful assembly in the coming days.


12:22 A.M. EST:
TSE has announced that with 54 percent of the tallies counted, Juan Orlando Hernandez has 34.27 percent of the vote, and Xiomara Castro 29.67 percent.

Sunday November 24

11:40 P.M. EST: Partido Anticorrupción presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla is telling media outlets that the results as announced by the TSE are false, apparently telling Radio Globo that 25 percent of tallies counted by the TSE have different totals than when transmitted to parties. (H/t Honduras Culture and Politics.)

10:57 P.M. EST: An electoral observer reports that at 10:06 p.m. EST, “Just finishing counting congressional votes here in Antigua Ocotepeque. Things are currently cheerful and calm our room.”

10:53 P.M. EST: As the HSN reported earlier this evening with a translation, a grouping of human rights monitors has issued a report describing the human rights situation and the integrity of the electoral process during the elections – including several serious incidents as well as numerous electoral irregularities.

The “Mesa de Análisis sobre Violación a Derechos Humanos en el Proceso Electoral Hondureño”, which includes the beverage union Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Bebida y Similares, STIBYS;  the Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla; the Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH; the Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras, CEM-H and the Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, CDM. The group decried among other things that

some [international observers] have been subjected to intimidation, persecution, and harassment, with a xenophobic slant. This has been the case in the department of Yoro, in a Jesuit Training Center; in nine hotels in Choluteca; in Francisco Morazán; in two hotels in the capital; and in Intibucá, in the community of Rio Blanco. Harassment also occurred in restaurants in Tegucigalpa where some international delegates were present, according to information that has been provided to our council.

4 – The buying and selling of votes and credentials by the National party, even using the Nationalist discount card “let’s work now,” has been observed in many parts of the country. In addition, there have been irregularities in the electoral registry, where people who are alive are listed as deceased, and voters have been transferred without consultation.

5 – Nationalist party activists have been used at the voting centers against some representatives of the LIBRE party. They have warned the LIBRE party members of possible attempts on their lives during or after the elections.

They also state

We also encourage citizens to continue lodging complaints, which we are open to receiving. Our council already has 63 cases, and will proceed to bring the violent cases to justice. We remind the people of Honduras that we are not alone, for we are being accompanied by hundreds of international defenders of human rights here in our country, who are taking note of the injustices and violations of basic rights, so that they can submit timely reports to their respective countries.

10:34 P.M. EST: Media outlets are reporting that with 43 percent of the results counted, the results so far show:

Juan Orlando Hernández (PN) 34.15%
Xiomara Castro (LIBRE) 28.45%
Mauricio Villeda (PL) 21%
Salvador Nasralla (PAC) 15.74%

 10:29 P.M. EST: As we reported earlier, Radio Globo has been reporting the results from different voting centers around the country for hours now. As described by the HSN:

Radio Globo is reporting live on radio and television asserting that the preliminary count was biased towards voting stations that favored the National Party.

International Observers are still on the ground at many voting centers which have not yet completed the vote count.

And other veteran Honduras observers such as Honduras Culture and Politics are noting that this could be why LIBRE seems so confident of victory: “totals from each polling place transmitted to parties as well as TSE; Radio Globo [is] broadcasting them.” For more info on how the counting process works, see this excellent Honduras C&P post.

10:21 P.M. EST: A lawyer observing the elections reports on what she witnessed at a voting center with 21 mesas in El Bosque, Tegucigalpa following the end of voting:

After 6:15 p.m.: They can’t transmit the first acta here in El Bosque either because the acta is wrinkled on the edge or the scanner isn’t working properly.

Now two other scanners are working so maybe the problem is the laminated edge on the acta.  They managed to submit two using the other scanners.

Finally working and lots of acts being transmitted.  All mesas here going for Libre but heavily divided and more than just the two other major parties are getting votes.  Not sure how that will be reflected in the vote for diputados.

 9:17 P.M. EST: The TSE’s preliminary results [with 24 percent counted] have Hernandez the winner, with Castro second:

9:12 P.M. EST: As some newspapers report exit polls showing Juan Orlando Hernandez the winner, Xiomara Castro has Tweeted that – also based on exit polls – she has triumphed:

8:47 P.M. EST: El Heraldo is reporting exit polls showing Hernandez with 33 percent of the vote, more than any of his opponents. The polling was conducted by Ingeniería Gerencial, which has ties to Security Minister Arturo Corrales, according to La Prensa.

8:23 P.M. EST: Another report from the HSN observation delegation:

A text message from a HSN team in the Neighbourhood Las Mercedes:

“At a table in Simon Bolivar [school] in the neighbourhood Las Mercedes, table members caught one person recording the votes for LIBRE as a vote for PAC two separate times in the Presidential count. When they finished, the votes at the end did not add up and they reopened the envelopes to count again.

It seems they had miscounted the number of votes not cast. There are at least 30 tables at this centre and they are not in numerical order making one table difficult to find during voting and at least one person was ready to give up at one point because he couldn’t find his table.”

8:19 P.M. EST: Via HSN:

Report from Gerardo Torres Zelaya of the Organization Los Necios.

Military Police closes School Manuel Soto in the Morazán neighbourhood of Tegucigalpa and prevents the public scrutiny, claiming an alleged chaos that it is not reported within the facilities.

7:55 P.M. EST: Matamoros has announced preliminary results will not be available until 9:00 P.M. Honduras time/10:00 P.M. EST and 20 percent of the tallies have been counted.

7:49 P.M. EST: TSE President David Matamoros is announcing preliminary results, live here.

7:40 P.M. EST:
HSN electoral observers report:

A HSN team observing the vote counting along with National Observers in the La Joya neighborhood in Tegucigalpa were approached by the ‘Custodio’ [Voting table supervisor] asking all National Observers to leave the voting station.

Half an hour later, the Voting Table Supervisor returned with a military officer and said that all the International Observers had to leave as well. She told the team that “the TSE had called and said that everyone had to leave.”

Read more here.

7:37 P.M. EST: The TSE is supposed to announce preliminary results at 7:45 P.M. EST. The official results page is here.

7:34 P.M.: In an apparent violation of electoral regulations, Radio Progreso reports that the Escuela Petronila voting center has its doors shut during the tabulation process while military “impedes” people from accessing the site. Radio Progreso reports the same is happening at Palermo, El Progreso and De Nacaome, Valle.

7:07 P.M. EST: Right-leaning media outlets such as El Heraldo  and La Prensa  seem to be reporting only early results from voting centers that show Hernandez winning, while Radio Globo is reporting mostly those with LIBRE victories.

6:54 P.M. EST: An observer reports:

At largest polling site in El Progreso the electricity went out at 5:13 and stayed off a few minutes during the count, which many of the table representatives reported also happened last year.

6:11 P.M. EST: The HSN reports:

A text message from an International Observer in Antigua, Ocotepeque sent at 4:50 pm:

“Polls closed too early here, some people turned away”

6:08 P.M. EST: Radio stations, such as Radio Globo (live transmission here) are reporting first results from specific voting centers. TSE president David Matamoros has reportedly announced that radio stations are permitted to report on such results, even though some people are still waiting to vote.

5:44 P.M. EST: An observer reports what was witnessed earlier today at the Instituto Superior San Fransisco in Progreso:

22 tables, a larger voting location with more than one suffering less supplies. Around 12:30pm,  they ran out of ink and ballots. The custodian was notified, but they didn’t have any more supplies. They called the municipality who eventually brought more supplies. However, for an extended period of time, the people who were assigned to vote in those tables were not able to vote.  

At Table# 8332, around 1pm, a person named Jacob Guevara reported that the ink that was put on his finger was really easy to wipe off.   He showed it to the voting table (MER).

Around 2pm, Hermilda Fonseca reported an irregularity that occurred as she went to vote with her daughter Diana Sierra and son Victor Sierra.  She, Hermilda herself, was listed in the registry as dead. When they looked at the registry, they also found that their father was listed as alive even though he had died a few months before.

5:32 P.M. EST: At a Progreso voting center, observers report that at about 1:56 p.m. today:

a Municipal Electoral Tribunal worker gave testimony that yesterday, 94 boxes of ballots were taken without permission while the workers were at lunch.  It now appears that many ballot cards are missing from those boxes, notebooks of them have many ballots ripped out in the middle, presumably so that they can be used to cast votes for the Liberal Party.

In other voting tables in the zone, namely Las Minas and Agua Blanca, there are unconfirmed reports that Liberal Party candidates are occupying all 6 official spots at the voting table (MER).  

In addition, the local candidate for representative, Roberto Oriane, who is running for re-election, has been observed walking through several polling places.

Also, Municipal workers have been observed using official equipment, such as walkie talkies,  to perform work on behalf of the Liberal Party.

5:21 P.M. EST: The Plataforma Ciudadana de Jóvenes del Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD) has issued a report detailing their findings of their observations today. Among these are:

  • Late arrival of electoral materials to the MER, in at least 27% of the polling stations observed.
  • Only 35% of MER opened between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., the remaining 65% opened between 7:30 and 9:00 AM.
  • Only 55% of the MER had representation from all party participants in the race.
  • The presence of credentials with names or photos, which presents evidence of trafficking of credentials to the benefit of a particular party.
  • The presence of national and international election observers has been significant. According to our reports, 69% of the MER have registered their presence. However, in some cases there have been obstructions to the performance of their functions and intimidation by party members and military personnel (see testimonials at the end of this text).
  • There is a high disregard for the provisions of the law regarding the presence of electoral propaganda near voting centers. In 46% of the MER, propaganda was located at a distance of less than 50 meters.
  • Also, the absence of electoral registry trustees in an unknown number of MER, that in some cases hindered the start of voting at the time established by the Electoral Act.

The report also describes several incidents that CESPAD observers encountered throughout the day, including one in which four CESPAD and Lutheran World Foundation observers were escorted away from tables 8979 and 8961 of the United Nations School voting center in Villa Nueva, Tegucigalpa, without explanation.

5:03 P.M. EST: The HSN also reports, along with an image of a letter to this effect, that the National Party is raffling off tablet computers to “party voting table coordinators who get their voting tally sheet copies into the party offices on time.”

4:59 P.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports various irregularities in Tocoa, including”people without photos on the voting registry or pictures that do not coincide with identification card,” test scanner problems, and more.

4:55 P.M. EST: The Observatorio de las Violaciones de los Derechos Humanos y Resistencias de las Mujeres, which claims to have monitoring teams in 13 municipalities to monitor and 80 observers throughout Honduras, has described several serious incidents today. The Observatorio also notes that “people went out to vote in numbers apparently unprecedented in the country. Lines were reported from 4-5 am at some polling stations.”

Aside from the murder of LIBRE leader Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte and a colleague, and the “vote-buying” in Zacate Grande that we already mentioned, they describe, among others:

*Manipulation of identities in Santa Barbara. This morning, November 24 in the town of Petoa, Santa Barbara, the representative of the National Registry of Persons, the National Party activist Leticia Morel, was in voting centers, intervening in the process of delivery of identities, a role reserved for the TSE.

* Purchase of votes in San Pedro Sula. In the Rafael Pineda Ponce de las Brisas voting center, in the city of San Pedro Sula, it was recorded that National Party activists offered 2000 Lempiras to people who would take a photograph with their cell phones showing that they voted for that party. Also human rights defenders in the region reported that in voting centers 3279, 3277,3278 y 3283 people admitted to voting without first turning in their cell phones, against Supreme Electoral Tribunal ( TSE) rules.

* Distribution of “benefit cards” by the National Party. A national electoral observer received a “Cachureca” card before voting, and there are reports that government employees and thousands of others received the card in the days before the vote. The back of the card identifies the bearer as a “supporter of the National Party.”

For more on “La Cachureca,” see this video from the Juan Orlando Hernandez presidential campaign.

4:23 P.M. EST: An American who lives in Trujillo, Colón Department reports:

Trujillo is quiet and much like any Sunday.  A friend who voted around 9:00 AM said there was not a big crowd at his polling place and it took him only 20 minutes to vote.  The only military person was inside.  The people waiting were relaxed and talking to each other. 

He and I walked to the center of town and passed another polling place where there were a few people, but no military to be seen.  When we passed the building where the ballots were stored, the street was blocked off to traffic and there was one military person in the doorway.

As we sat across from the park, we saw 9 vehicles passing that were flying LIBRE flags.  I assume they were providing transportation to voters.  There were also a few cars with National or Liberal Party flags.  However, LIBRE had the most obvious presence.  People were friendly and apparently in a good mood.  

Around 1:00 PM, a friend who had spent the morning in various places reported that everywhere he went, he found no one except LIBRE supporters.  In Cristales, a Garifuna barrio, he said the young prople were all talking passionately about LIBRE.

About 2:00 PM another local friend reported that she had voted and everything was as usual—no problems.  She said that having one military person inside the polling place is the way it always is.

4:21 P.M. EST: An election observer in Tegucigalpa reports:

The 15 de septiembre polling site, in an affluent area, was crowded with 19 mesas in 6 rooms and one courtyard (and some 6,830 potential voters) reporting high turnout. One mesa reported 80 percent turnout. They started with six custodians and are now down to four. One custodian estimated approximately 70 percent total turnout. One voter there was concerned about inadequate guarding of the ballot box.

A “quick count” worker outside says most people aren’t telling him who they voted for. Maybe 20 percent.

4:11 P.M. EST: The TSE has announced that voting centers will stay open until 5:00 p.m. to accomodate long lines.

4:00 P.M. EST: Human rights organization COFADEH has reported several incidents of human rights violations in connection with the elections:

Last night became a time of terror again for communities in La Union , Lempira. Gunmen circulated at various points, intimidating people. Among the reported cases is that of Noah Alvarado, LIBRE party candidate who alleged that his house was surrounded by heavily-armed men.

Also this day in the town of El Paraíso in the department of Copan, about 50 people who have been designated to integrate the election tables were locked in a hotel by over 100 armed men who threatened to burn them if they left the hotel to go to the tables.

Another group heading to 10 voting centers succeeded in making it through the obstacles at first, but on the way there the road was blocked by two Prado SUVs with heavily armed men who proceeded to stab their vehicles’ tires with knives and threatened to kill anyone who continued toward their destination.

 Read the full article here (Spanish).

3:54 P.M. EST: The National Lawyers Guild reports that there are several polling places in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that are overwhelmed with voters.  One polling place located in an area of the city where poverty is rampant, Barrio El Reparto, serves over 9,000 voters.  Here is what the entrance to the polling place looked like earlier in the day. 
Barrio El Reparto voting line
(Photo courtesy of the NLG.)

The lines are persisting throughout the day and the tension and frustration of the voters boils over at times, but for the most part the Hondurenos persevere with a fortitude that is humbling to experience.  

Once inside, the scene is extremely chaotic.  Finding the correct mesa in this labyrinth of a decaying school building is a difficult task, but the patience of the voters is a testament to their dedication to democratic ideals.  Inside barrio El Reparto voting center.
(Photo courtesy of the NLG.)

There are similar stories in various locations throughout Tegucigalpa — particularly in areas of lower socioeconomic stature.  Our election observation teams in areas of higher status have reported relatively calm voting stations.

Voting center.

3:19 P.M. EST: The Honduran daily La Prensa has also reported on last night’s assassination of two LIBRE leaders in the municipality of Canta Rana located in the Francisco Morazán Department.  We posted an HSN report regarding these killings at 9:52am EST.  Here’s a translation of part of the Prensa article:

Yesterday, Saturday two leaders of the Libre party were assassinated after after leaving a party meeting in the community of Carbón in the municipality of Canta Rana, department of Francisco Morazán.

The incident occurred at 8:50 pm. Braulio Almendares, general secretary of the National Agricultural Workers Central PNPP, denounced, on Globo TV, that the leaders were ambushed by two individuals wearing ski masks and heavily armed.

The now deceased individuals are the Hondurans Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga (67) and María Amparo Pineda Duarte (52), who is a leader of the campesino cooperative group Carbón.  “The woman had already received death threats which leads us to believe that the crime had a dual meaning”, said the complainant. Wilmar Alexander Solórzano, son of María Ampara, assures that she and her family have enemies and that they don’t know where the killing comes from.

3:14 P.M. EST: Lawyers observing the elections report what they saw earlier today at la Escuela Republica de Chile in barrio El Reparto:

As of 12:30 p.m. – Voters are reporting long lines with a 1.5 – 3 hour wait. Single door for entrance and exit is causing major delays. LIBRE supporter in line remarked that “we will wait all day to vote.” Mesas on three floors with very difficult stairs and thin hallways are causing very difficult obstacles for disabled and the elderly. Reporting a very slow trickle of voters actually making it inside. Mesas were reporting about 30 percent turnout as of noon, with hundreds still reporting long lines stretching blocks. Two exit poll companies are present – Para Digna and Canal 11.

Some have said this is the largest polling place in the capital. Serious concerns have been expressed that many are not voting due to excessive wait and hot sun. Additional concerns that problems may erupt later if voters in line are not permitted to vote before the polling place closes.

2:51 P.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network has posted a video from the Honduras Libre and Democratica blog that appears to show a MER official “reporting that he is a representative of the National Party but his credentials indicate that he represents the Alianza Patriotica [Patriotic Alliance] party.”

2:44 P.M. EST: Lawyers observing the electoral process at Escuela Aguilar La Paz in Tegucigalpa report what they witnessed today:

Around 12 of 14 mesas opened on time. We observed one woman who was turned away 2x from where she was registered to vote because her name wasn’t registered in the book at the mesa, even though her photo was listed on the voter roll at the door of the mesa. She was ultimately allowed to vote; it was unclear whether the pressence of multiple national and international observers influenced this outcome.

Another gentleman was given a mayoral ballot that had already been marked. He was forced to cross out his entire ballot and insert it in the ballot box, without having the opportunity to vote for mayor. It appears there is no central command system to resolve conflicts within the mesas. There are only 2 custodians to resolve disputes. Voters cannot leave the mesas to find a custodian should there be a dispute.

2:28 P.M. EST: Observers in Ocotepeque report

“Testimony that National Party mesa officers are using the credentials of other parties – mostly UD [Unification Democratic Party], DC [Christian Democrats], PAC [Anti-Corruption Party] and Alianza [Patriotic Alliance Party].”

1:47 P.M. EST: TSE magistrate Enrique Ortez Sequeira has denied that he ordered the militarization of the transmitters of Radio Globo, TV Globo, Cholusat Sur, Hondured and Canal 11.

Radio and TV Globo reported live the movement of the military onto their installations this morning, in what Radio Globo director David Romero denounced as “an attack on democracy and freedom of expression.”

Globo
(Soldiers at Radio Globo today. Photo by Radio Globo.)

Ortez Sequeira said instead that “we have instructed the public security forces and armed forces to take all measures they deem appropriate so that there will not be a lack of water, electricity, media communication and roads, and to guarantee the right of movement and expression and the exercise of the vote. ” Head of the armed forces, General  Osorio Canales seemed to agree, saying, according to the Comite por la Libre Expresión that the military’s actions were in response to the TSE’s call for protection of the broadcast stations.

The Honduran military interfered with television and radio broadcasts ahead of, and during, Honduras’ 2009 elections.

1:21 P.M. EST: Radio Progreso has posted a photo showing what it reports are Liberal party activists giving food to voters outside la escuela Petronila C de Villalobos, “one of the largest polling stations” in Progreso.

1:09 P.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports:

Four separate testimonies taken by an HSN observation team sent to Rio Abajo [a community just outside of Tegucigalpa] reported that “the smaller political parties have sold their MER [voting table representation] to the National Party”

This was a concern expressed by various municipal candidates of the FAPER/UD alliance who threatened to renounce their candidacy because their political party was selling their representation at the voting table.

Read more here.

1:07 P.M. EST: More reports from electoral observers from what they witnessed earlier today in the department of Colón:

Sonaguera – “no report of irregularities.”

Comunidad La Parma – “Voting began at 7:30.”

In Tocoa:

Voting started between 7:50 and 8 am. There was propaganda by political parties outside the voting center.

There was an unidentified man yelling at the board members and intimidating everyone inside.The polling station was missing materials such as bookmarks, badges, wristbands and ballots. The case containing the election materials was broken. THere was a lack of knowledge about the installation procedure table.

12:49 P.M. EST: Radio Progreso has posted what it claims is a letter from National Party officials to those in charge of the Mesas Electoral Receptoras (for background on what the MERs are, and the electoral procedures, see here) in El Progreso, Yoro “offering gifts for the ‘defense of the vote.'”

12:34 P.M. EST: From HSN observers in Gracias, Lempira:

HSN team in Gracias reports that they have visited 5 voting centres in Gracias and in small, poor communities outside of Gracias.

There are long lines at the voting centres and the team leaders mentioned that he “doesn’t see how they can get all the voters through before 4:00 pm.” Approximately 350 people vote per table and it is taking at least 1 minute or more for people to cast their votes.

Overall, they report a positive mood at the tables and in the voting centres. The members of MER (Voting tables) are upbeat.

12:32 P.M. EST: HSN observers have reported poll workers not wearing badges, and an incorrectly registered vote (officials did not stamp it first), in La Kennedy neighborhood in Tegucigalpa.

12:23 P.M. EST: Observers report that at a Perla de Ulua voting center in Progreso:

A water station which was clearly marked with lettering indicating that it was donated by Mayor Alexander Lopez, who is a Liberal Party candidate for re-election was placed immediately in front of the table where voters mark the ballot with their vote.

After initially refusing to move the water fountain, the director of the school later removed it from that location after an inquiry by observers.

12:17 P.M. EST: HSN observers in Ocotepeque report that “Voting at two voting centres [Esc. Normal Mixta & Centro Juventud Hondureña] is going very slowly. HSN team reports that it takes between 5-6 minutes/person to vote.”

12:13 P.M. EST: The Plataforma Ciudadana de Jóvenes del Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD) has issued a statement denouncing what they describe as assaults and intimidation by National Party activists in voting centers in Ceiba and Tegucigalpa. In one instance, they say the intimidation and threats followed a “complaint that, in the morning hours,” one of the urnas already had a hundred votes marked. “The observers were quick to denounce what was happening, while the polls in question were seized. This situation greatly bothered the accused…” CESPAD is supported by Oxfam, the Irish non-profit Trócaire, the Lutheran World Foundation, and the Danish International Development Agency, among others.

11:48 A.M. EST: HSN electoral observers “reported several irregularities in the Jesus Aguilar Paz Institute in the San Francisco neighborhood of Tegucigalpa this morning”:

This voting center has 4 voting tables. At one of the tables, the custodian (the person who manages the table) did not arrive at the table in order to receive the ballot boxes. A high-level official ordered the military officials who were present to distribute the boxes to this table – thus the military officials assumed the role of custodian.

At another table, the military officials present stated that the ID card presented by the person who was to assume the role of president of the table did not coincide with the registry. The second representative (vocal 2) assumed the role of president. This occurred at table 8333.

Observers also reported that two people who came to vote presented ID cards of individuals who were registered as deceased. The name of one of these individuals is on file.

Observers reported a “chaotic atmosphere” at the polling station.

11:39 A.M. EST: HSN electoral observers report:

Campaign propaganda is visible near voting center. When police ask folks to take it down, they do, but then they put it up again down the road… Voting center #s: 15242-62, direccion: Escuela Petronilla C de Villalobos Colonia Bendek.

11:35 A.M. EST: Documentary filmmaker and independent reporter Jesse Freeston (who covered Honduras’ last elections in 2009) described some of the ways in which the National Party is connected to the institutions and the people charged with carrying out today’s electoral process, in an interview with the Real News:

The situation is really disturbing. The military that overthrew the last elected president is in charge of all the logistics. This is one of the things that’s in the Honduran Constitution that they want to change through a new Constitution is that the military’s actually in charge of moving the ballot boxes and everything to do with logistics around the election.

That same military is actually appearing in the commercials and ads of the candidate of the National Party, Juan Orlando Hernández. And so it’s so obvious that they have their own inclinations that they want the leader who’s not going to stick them back in their barracks but who’s going to increasingly increase the budget for the military like he’s been doing from the Congress. So their allegiances are clear in this situation. They’ve been clear since 2009.

And the other institution that’s in charge of the elections is the electoral tribunal, which is the same electoral tribunal that–the same three magistrates that basically created a farce in 2009, holding elections with no international observation and inventing numbers. And that was well documented by myself and other journalists, that they invented participation numbers and invented votes in that situation. They’re still in charge, those same three magistrates.

At just to give you a sense of where their allegiances lie, we discovered a document where they invited all of their employees to go to a private prayer ceremony in the Vida Abundante evangelical church, which is a church which is founded and run by–the preacher in that church is actually very well linked with the National Party. His brother is the personal secretary of President Pepe Lobo, and his nephew actually runs Juan Orlando Hernández’s campaign in the department of Lempira here in Honduras. And he has also been, you know, hugely active in politics from the right-wing, going in through the door of Christian morals, saying that nobody should vote for LIBRE because there are gays and lesbians in that party and they will pass immoral laws if they get in power. This is the same preacher that the electoral tribunal, which is supposed to be the most neutral institution in the whole state, has been sending its employees to go pray in private ceremonies.

11:21 A.M. EST: Honduran newspapers El Tiempo and El Heraldo are reporting that at least five people were reported murdered at around 6:30 p.m. yesterday in La Mosquitia. Although the killings are reported to have taken place “just 20 meters from a polling station” in the community of Juan Francisco Bulnes, a member of congress for the National Party, Maylo Wood says they victims were members of different political parties, and that it was an isolated incident. The electoral officials there have decided to temporarily suspend the electoral process.

11:08 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso reports that in El Progreso, Yoro, a man is listed as eligible to vote, even though his wife reported him dead a year ago, and she has his death certificate.

The Observatorio de las Violaciones de los Derechos Humanos y Resistencias de las Mujeres has posted an audio interview in which observers describe house-to-house vote buying in Zacate Grande.

10:52 A.M. EST: Report from lawyers observing the electoral process from earlier this morning:

At the neighborhood El Reparto [Escuela Republica de Chile]: The team arrived to the voting station at 5:45 am. There was a chaotic scene outside with approximately 250 people trying to get through the main door. There were 3-4 military soldiers and 1 police [officer] at the center.

At the voting center, there are 26 voting tables receiving a total of 9,353 votes. There are two lines of people waiting to vote. Each line is taking approximately 2 hours to get to the voting tables. People are frustrated about the long wait.

The location of the voting center is a small school that is like a labyrinth. It’s very difficult to access and to find the rooms where the voting is taking place. The scene is very hectic.

10:38 A.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports:

At approximately 9:00 AM this morning, elections monitors observed [a] National Party member handing out money to voters entering at the Morazan School, in the Quimistan sector of Santa Barbara. The HSN monitoring team has the name of this individual on file, should further investigation be necessary.

10:35 A.M. EST: Reports from Honduras Solidarity Network observers from earlier this morning:

8:00 am – In Progreso, “Some tables opened 10 minutes late. Some girls from the Partido Nacional [are] guiding people towards the table and writing down information on a little notebook.”

8:30 am – At La Confianza community Table #1370, “Only at this table, the members of the staff at the table are marking the voting boxes. No other tables in the voting center are marking the boxes.”

8:30 am – At Table #15372 at the Instituo Perla del Ulua, Progreso, “They started over an hour late.”

10:28 A.M. EST: Election monitors report that

At table 15376 at the Instituto Perla de Uloa in Progreso, the number of official ballots was not officially counted as per the rules. This determines the number of expected versus submitted votes during the counting process.  Also, at the same station, the National Party representative at the table refused to turn in their cell phone, which is not permitted at the voting table.

10:02 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso has posted a photo showing what is says are political party tents outside the voting center at the escuela Cabañas de El Progreso, in Yoro, in violation of the law.

9:58 A.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network has reported an update from their Santa Rosa de Copan team: “Todo tranquilo. Polls opened [between] 7:05 & 7:30. Two women report credentials were stolen in street”

9:52 A.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports that two more election-related murders happened last night:

Two members of the Carbon Cooperative,  affiliated with the National Council of Rural Workers (CNTC),  were killed last night as they returned from an election observer training. They were fired at by gunmen from cars, and died immediately.

The community is the site of an ongoing land struggle in the area, and both victims were active members in the LIBRE party.

9:45 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso reports that the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE – the electoral authority) hopes to know by 12 noon all of the centers that are connected to the data transmission system.

9:39 A.M. EST: The Washington Post lays out some of the key challenges to the electoral process:

Honduras has minimal electoral infrastructure, and Sunday’s votes will be counted by representatives of the political parties, not impartial poll workers. This method was designed for the two-party system that dominated here for decades, but some of the eight parties in this election don’t have the resources to deploy campaign workers across the country.

Tally sheets of the votes are supposed to be scanned and sent electronically to election authorities, but at least 10 percent of polling stations don’t have electricity or Internet access. The pronouncements of international observers — especially the OAS — will be critical in shaping perceptions of the election’s integrity.

At least 16 Free Party activists and candidates have been slain since summer, according to rights groups, more than all the others parties combined.

9:13 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso has reported that at the polling station at the Petronila C. De Villalobos school, two voting representatives had altered their credentials. “Trustees and military intervened and this delayed the opening of the voting center. Our reporters were not allowed to enter.”

8:48 A.M. EST: An election monitor reports another area where polling stations have opened late: “Largest voting center in El Progreso opened at 7:37. There are 7368 registered voters at this site and 21 voting tables.”


8:45 A.M. EST:
COFADEH reports:

Last night the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), one of the country’s leading human rights groups, received reports of acts of intimidation and harassment by heavily armed men in ski masks present in the communities of Quiscamote and Chintal in the Lempira department in western Honduras.  The Network of Human Rights Defenders of Lempira also signalled the presence of armed men in the communities of San Bartolo and Gualcira. According to witnesses these men were transported to the town of La Unión and deposited at the house of a well-known owner of a coffee plantation with close ties to presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez. Human rights defenders filed a complaint with a local police lieutenant, but he asked for evidence of the allegations, such as photographs, and refused to take any action.  Eventually most of the armed men [left] in vehicles, though a small number remained deployed in San Bartolo and Gualcira early this Sunday morning.
(From the Human Rights Monitoring Project of the 2013 Electoral Process)

 8:27 A.M. EST: Reports from Ocotepeque [at 7:24 local time that] polls are not yet open; “confusion at setup.”

8:17 A.M. EST: Radio Globo has reported on-air that their installations have been militarized.

This follows several worrying incidents of what human rights organizations and electoral observers are describing as intimidation of observers, and LIBRE party members and supporters. Human rights organization COFADEH is reporting that military troops have been going to the homes of women involved in “all stages of the electoral process,” including observation and polling station representation, in order to “gather intelligence.”

The Honduras Solidarity Network reports that

agents identifying themselves as workers of the Honduran Immigration Service, have harassed international election observers, tracked them down at their hotels or training centers to confirm that their documentation is in order. In some cases, this has occurred soon after these same observers have received official observer training from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. In one instance, the “agents” were armed and wearing ski masks.

Latin American and North American observers were subject to one such visit at the Hotel Suites Aurora in Tegucigalpa yesterday.

Friday night, about three dozen military police apparently attempted to raid the offices of the LIBRE party in Colonia Kennedy in Tegucigalpa – see COFADEH’s description of the incident here, and video testimony of a witness here.


Beginning at 7:00 a.m. today, Hondurans go to the polls to elect a new president, 128 congressional representatives, and many mayors and other municipal officials. In a historical break from the past, in which two parties (the Liberal, and National, respectively) have for decades dominated the presidency, this time there are eight presidential candidates, some of whom – most notably Xiomara Castro de Zelaya of the new LIBRE party, and Salvador Nasralla of the new Anti-corruption Party – have polled highly enough to be poised to win. There is no run-off; the candidate that receives the most votes is declared the president-elect. The elections are also notable in that if she wins, Castro would be Honduras’ first woman president.

The presidential elections are the first since those that were held under the coup regime in 2009 in a context of repression against anti-coup activists and a government crackdown on critical media outlets.  Though the U.S. considered the elections to have been “free and fair” and soon lifted its hold on all assistance to Honduras, most Latin American governments were reluctant to recognize the new president, Porfirio Lobo, who took office in February of 2010. It was only in June of 2011 that the suspension on Honduras’ Organization of American States (OAS) membership was lifted.

The most important political development for these elections is the emergence of a new political party, Libertad y Refundación, or LIBRE (Free), that is made up of many of the movements that mobilized in opposition to the 2009 coup.  Their presidential candidate, Xiomara Castro, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya, has been identified as the leading candidate in most opinion polls.  However, these elections are fraught with challenges.  Fraud is a common occurrence in Honduran elections and, though there are some new safeguards in place, the ruling National Party is dominant in the electoral body and exercises tight control over many of national institutions, including the Supreme Court.  Secondly, killings and violent attacks against a number of opposition candidates and their families, particularly those of LIBRE (see below), have had a chilling effect on campaigning.  Finally, over the last months, the Honduran government has deployed a new military police force throughout the country that has been a central feature of the National Party’s campaign.  Honduran human rights groups allege that the new force has already engaged in attacks against LIBRE activists and there is a fear that, should protests occur following the elections, this force could be used to violently repress demonstrators.  

Though the National Party has focused their campaign on the issue of fighting crime (through the deployment of the new military police), recent polling suggests that a priority issue for many Hondurans is the state of the economy.

Unlike in 2009, when most international bodies and countries refused to send observers, this time a number of institutions including the OAS, the European Union (EU), and the Carter Center have sent observers. They are joined by teams from the U.S. government-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) – both of which were among the few groups that did observe the controversial 2009 elections that were held under the military coup regime, and which the organizations were quick to declare “credible and peaceful,” even as groups such as Amnesty International and the Center for Justice and International Law condemned violence, repression and media censorship ahead of, and during, the elections.

The U.S. government is spending almost $11 million on the elections, including through funding for NDI and the International Foundation for Electoral systems, organizations which it is important to note have intervened politically in various countries, including – in IFES’ case – in helping to orchestrate the coup [PDF] in Haiti in 2004.

There are also over 170 people from North America in numerous delegations who have traveled to Honduras to monitor the electoral process. Delegations include those organized by the AFL-CIO, the National Lawyers Guild, Just Associates, Canada’s Common Frontiers, the Honduras Solidarity Network, and many others. Many of these delegations also have the additional goal of investigating the current human rights situation and how particular communities – women, the LGBT community, trade unionists and others – are being affected, or in the case of Common Frontiers, “Canadian investment in the areas of resource extraction (mining), maquiladora and the mega tourism sector.”

Numerous members of the U.S. Congress have expressed concern over whether the election will be free and fair:

  • “…challenges raise serious concerns over the Honduran government’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.” – Senator Kaine and 12 other Senators.
  • “I’m very concerned by the ongoing violence in Honduras and the impact on the November 24 elections,” … “We are receiving reports of threats against journalists and even assassinations of candidates.” – Senator Tim Kaine (D – VA)
  • “The evidence so far indicates that the freedom and fairness of this election is very much at risk, as human rights abuses under the existing government continue to threaten basic civil liberties, opposition candidates do not enjoy a level playing field, and state security forces are taking on an increasingly central, and ominous role in context of the election.” – Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva, Hank Johnson, and Mike Honda
  • “Security problems are legion; organized crime is in the ascendant; security forces are feared and resist attempts at reform; and, institutions are weak or worse. The judiciary is utilized as a weapon to settle political scores, and journalists and human rights defenders are under siege.” … “There are also crucial issues regarding Honduras’s election system itself.” – Rep. Eliot Engel (Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee)

Under the presidency of Porfirio Lobo, the human rights situation – already dire in the months following the coup – has further deteriorated.  Since 2011, Honduras has had the highest homicide rate in the world.  Rather than assisting in abating the country’s extreme level of violent crime, Honduran security forces are allegedly responsible for many killings and attacks.  Paramilitary activity, which had ceased to be prevalent since the 1980s, has reappeared according to human rights groups and news organizations.  Though the targets of extrajudicial killings often include suspected gang members, they also have included many journalists, lawyers, land rights advocates, LGBT activists and political opposition leaders.  The country’s judiciary, widely considered to be dysfunctional and corrupt, largely fails to investigate these crimes, let alone prosecute the perpetrators. 

A wave of politically-motivated violence has been documented ahead of the elections. 18 members of the LIBRE party– including candidates – have been murdered since May last year, at least as many as from all the other major political parties combined, according to a recent Rights Action report [PDF] that mostly cites Honduran media sources and human rights organizations. Honduran human rights monitors Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared have released a similar list [PDF] that likewise reveals a disproportionate number of those targeted for murders, attempted murders and other violence have been affiliated with the LIBRE party. The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America has released a report documenting 229 murders that they describe as “politically motivated” since the current government of Porfirio Lobo has been in office.

Human rights defenders and people who have criticized the climate of repression going into the elections – including COFADEH – are under threat. Several prominent international human rights organizations have voiced concern in recent weeks:

And Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams has written, “violence against women human rights defenders has not slowed down. …The victims report that the vast majority of the threats and attacks come from the government.”

All this sets a worrying backdrop for what are sure to be closely-watched events today.

For more background, see CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alexander Main’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today, the new Foreign Affairs article “Hopeless in Honduras” by Dana Frank, and this overview article by L.A. Times correspondent Tracy Wilkinson. See also

  • CEPR’s report on Honduras’ economic climate going into the election.
  • A video of CEPR’s congressional briefing on the elections featuring Bertha Oliva of the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras and Victor Fernandez, coordinator of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice.

Monday November 25

8:30 P.M. EST: The National Lawyers Guild International Committee has released the following statement:

The National Lawyers Guild, with a delegation of 17 members who observed Sunday’s elections in Honduras, will be issuing a press statement tomorrow.   In advance of that statement, the NLG International Committee wants to alert our members and other interested parties that US media and government reports of a free, fair and transparent election in Honduras are premature and inappropriate.  Such unsupported claims will only exacerbate tensions in a country that recently suffered a coup, followed by massive attacks on human rights defenders, opposition party candidates and activists that continue to this moment.  

Honduras has a flawed electoral system with many deficiencies including control of the process by political parties, unregulated and undisclosed campaign financing, and inadequate resources, training and voting facilities that disadvantage poor communities.  In addition Honduran electoral law provides for no run-off election. Without a runoff election in which a majority of voters choose leadership, the electoral aspirations of two-thirds of Honduran voters who voted for change, are frustrated, and the winner of a mere plurality is denied a real mandate.

The NLG will issue a press statement tomorrow to be followed by the delegation’s comprehensive report.

 

6:56 P.M. EST: Although the TSE has yet to announce the final results of the election, current Honduran president Porfirio Lobo has congratulated Juan Orlando Hernández on his election, reports La Prensa.

6:30 P.M. EST: The TSE continues to update their website with partial results, however a few discrepancies have emerged. The main page of the TSE website shows 61.77 percent of voting tables as having been counted, however on the results by department page, the TSE reports 57.99 percent of voting tables as having been counted. On the main page, the TSE reports a total of 15,147 voting tables while on the results by department page, the TSE reports a total of 16,135 voting tables.

The results by department page, which includes both null and blank votes, shows a total of 2,009,101 votes as having been processed. However if one adds up all the votes for each candidate as well as null and blank votes, the total is 1,928,450, a discrepancy of over 80,000 votes.

The TSE has yet to make any formal announcement today with updated results, but check the TSE website periodically for updates.

5:07 P.M. EST: An international human rights worker, in Honduras for the election, passed along this observation after visiting the Ministerio Publico, which local press reported had been militarized. The Ministerio Publico is where official complaints against the election would be lodged:

From the outside it seemed closed, but after a while a soldier came out followed by another one. We decided to try to get in. The door was open, but in the lobby were about 10 soldiers. An employee from the MP approached us and asked what we wanted… I told them I’d like to speak with a human rights fiscal and then they told me that no one was there. Another source told us, that they sent all fiscales home, so one wonders who is receiving the denunciations.

4:52 P.M. EST: The U.S. State Department has released the following statement:

The United States congratulates the Honduran people for their peaceful participation in elections on November 24. Honduran and international observers, including those from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras, reported that the process was generally transparent, with strong voter turnout and broad participation by political parties.

The United States calls on Hondurans to await the completion of the counting of official results and to resolve election disputes peacefully through established legal processes.

The United States supports the democratic process and remains committed to continuing our cooperation with the Government and people of Honduras.


3:34 P.M. EST:
The TSE has posted updated results to their website. With 61.7 percent of the voting tables having been counted, the TSE reports that Juan Orlando Hernández is in the lead with 631,079 votes, or 34.19 percent and Xiomara Castro of LIBRE is in second with 532,198 votes or 28.83 percent.

The TSE also provides results broken down by department. An interesting result, pointed out by the Honduras Culture and Politics blog is that Salvador Nasralla of the Anti-Corruption Party is leading the vote count in Cortes, home to Honduras’ second largest city, San Pedro Sula. The TSE report has Nasralla leading in Cortes with 35.1 percent of the vote, nearly twice as much than he has received in any other department.

1:48 P.M. EST: The LIBRE political platform is currently conducting a press conference, which can be watched live via Telesur. LIBRE is refusing to recognize the results announced by the TSE and alleges that the TSE is not processing 20 percent of the returns, which LIBRE says favor Xiomara Castro.

12:52 P.M. EST:
The Spanish government has congratulated the ruling party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández for his “election as president of Honduras.” Last night, Hernández tweeted that he had received congratulatory calls from the presidents of Colombia, Panama and Guatemala.

The reported calls from foreign governments come before an official result has been announced by the TSE.

12:01 P.M. EST: Last night, just before 1 A.M. and soon after the Honduras electoral authority (TSE) announced preliminary results, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, spoke to press, declaring that the electoral process was “transparent.” According to the Honduras press, Kubiske added, “I recognize the announced results and what our observers saw during the process.” Kubiske also called on all parties to wait for final results to be announced.

In its latest announcement, early Monday morning, the TSE reported that Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party was leading with 54 percent of the votes counted. Xiomara Castro, trailing in preliminary results by 5.6 percentage points, has not recognized the results. Despite both candidates declaring themselves as victorious, the TSE president, David Matamoros told the press that “The preliminary results we have given so far do not show any tendency or declare any winner.” Never the less, much of the Honduran press is reporting that Hernandez was declared the winner.

This morning, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a statement, which said, in part:

Yesterday’s election in Honduras and subsequent statements by the U.S. Ambassador characterizing the election as “transparent” and accompanied by only few acts of violence are reminiscent of the 2009 election, where the U.S. rushed to validate and help push forward a process as it was being contested by Honduran civil society. There must be an opportunity to do a full and accurate count and fully investigate reports of irregularities and intimidation and threats by authorities.

Given the context of widespread opposition to the post-coup government and its violent repression of civil society, CCR urges the international community to do everything possible to ensure respect for and protection of Hondurans’ right to free expression, freedom of the press, and peaceful assembly in the coming days.


12:22 A.M. EST:
TSE has announced that with 54 percent of the tallies counted, Juan Orlando Hernandez has 34.27 percent of the vote, and Xiomara Castro 29.67 percent.

Sunday November 24

11:40 P.M. EST: Partido Anticorrupción presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla is telling media outlets that the results as announced by the TSE are false, apparently telling Radio Globo that 25 percent of tallies counted by the TSE have different totals than when transmitted to parties. (H/t Honduras Culture and Politics.)

10:57 P.M. EST: An electoral observer reports that at 10:06 p.m. EST, “Just finishing counting congressional votes here in Antigua Ocotepeque. Things are currently cheerful and calm our room.”

10:53 P.M. EST: As the HSN reported earlier this evening with a translation, a grouping of human rights monitors has issued a report describing the human rights situation and the integrity of the electoral process during the elections – including several serious incidents as well as numerous electoral irregularities.

The “Mesa de Análisis sobre Violación a Derechos Humanos en el Proceso Electoral Hondureño”, which includes the beverage union Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Industria de la Bebida y Similares, STIBYS;  the Movimiento de Mujeres por la Paz Visitación Padilla; the Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras, COFADEH; the Centro de Estudios de la Mujer-Honduras, CEM-H and the Centro de Derechos de Mujeres, CDM. The group decried among other things that

some [international observers] have been subjected to intimidation, persecution, and harassment, with a xenophobic slant. This has been the case in the department of Yoro, in a Jesuit Training Center; in nine hotels in Choluteca; in Francisco Morazán; in two hotels in the capital; and in Intibucá, in the community of Rio Blanco. Harassment also occurred in restaurants in Tegucigalpa where some international delegates were present, according to information that has been provided to our council.

4 – The buying and selling of votes and credentials by the National party, even using the Nationalist discount card “let’s work now,” has been observed in many parts of the country. In addition, there have been irregularities in the electoral registry, where people who are alive are listed as deceased, and voters have been transferred without consultation.

5 – Nationalist party activists have been used at the voting centers against some representatives of the LIBRE party. They have warned the LIBRE party members of possible attempts on their lives during or after the elections.

They also state

We also encourage citizens to continue lodging complaints, which we are open to receiving. Our council already has 63 cases, and will proceed to bring the violent cases to justice. We remind the people of Honduras that we are not alone, for we are being accompanied by hundreds of international defenders of human rights here in our country, who are taking note of the injustices and violations of basic rights, so that they can submit timely reports to their respective countries.

10:34 P.M. EST: Media outlets are reporting that with 43 percent of the results counted, the results so far show:

Juan Orlando Hernández (PN) 34.15%
Xiomara Castro (LIBRE) 28.45%
Mauricio Villeda (PL) 21%
Salvador Nasralla (PAC) 15.74%

 10:29 P.M. EST: As we reported earlier, Radio Globo has been reporting the results from different voting centers around the country for hours now. As described by the HSN:

Radio Globo is reporting live on radio and television asserting that the preliminary count was biased towards voting stations that favored the National Party.

International Observers are still on the ground at many voting centers which have not yet completed the vote count.

And other veteran Honduras observers such as Honduras Culture and Politics are noting that this could be why LIBRE seems so confident of victory: “totals from each polling place transmitted to parties as well as TSE; Radio Globo [is] broadcasting them.” For more info on how the counting process works, see this excellent Honduras C&P post.

10:21 P.M. EST: A lawyer observing the elections reports on what she witnessed at a voting center with 21 mesas in El Bosque, Tegucigalpa following the end of voting:

After 6:15 p.m.: They can’t transmit the first acta here in El Bosque either because the acta is wrinkled on the edge or the scanner isn’t working properly.

Now two other scanners are working so maybe the problem is the laminated edge on the acta.  They managed to submit two using the other scanners.

Finally working and lots of acts being transmitted.  All mesas here going for Libre but heavily divided and more than just the two other major parties are getting votes.  Not sure how that will be reflected in the vote for diputados.

 9:17 P.M. EST: The TSE’s preliminary results [with 24 percent counted] have Hernandez the winner, with Castro second:

9:12 P.M. EST: As some newspapers report exit polls showing Juan Orlando Hernandez the winner, Xiomara Castro has Tweeted that – also based on exit polls – she has triumphed:

8:47 P.M. EST: El Heraldo is reporting exit polls showing Hernandez with 33 percent of the vote, more than any of his opponents. The polling was conducted by Ingeniería Gerencial, which has ties to Security Minister Arturo Corrales, according to La Prensa.

8:23 P.M. EST: Another report from the HSN observation delegation:

A text message from a HSN team in the Neighbourhood Las Mercedes:

“At a table in Simon Bolivar [school] in the neighbourhood Las Mercedes, table members caught one person recording the votes for LIBRE as a vote for PAC two separate times in the Presidential count. When they finished, the votes at the end did not add up and they reopened the envelopes to count again.

It seems they had miscounted the number of votes not cast. There are at least 30 tables at this centre and they are not in numerical order making one table difficult to find during voting and at least one person was ready to give up at one point because he couldn’t find his table.”

8:19 P.M. EST: Via HSN:

Report from Gerardo Torres Zelaya of the Organization Los Necios.

Military Police closes School Manuel Soto in the Morazán neighbourhood of Tegucigalpa and prevents the public scrutiny, claiming an alleged chaos that it is not reported within the facilities.

7:55 P.M. EST: Matamoros has announced preliminary results will not be available until 9:00 P.M. Honduras time/10:00 P.M. EST and 20 percent of the tallies have been counted.

7:49 P.M. EST: TSE President David Matamoros is announcing preliminary results, live here.

7:40 P.M. EST:
HSN electoral observers report:

A HSN team observing the vote counting along with National Observers in the La Joya neighborhood in Tegucigalpa were approached by the ‘Custodio’ [Voting table supervisor] asking all National Observers to leave the voting station.

Half an hour later, the Voting Table Supervisor returned with a military officer and said that all the International Observers had to leave as well. She told the team that “the TSE had called and said that everyone had to leave.”

Read more here.

7:37 P.M. EST: The TSE is supposed to announce preliminary results at 7:45 P.M. EST. The official results page is here.

7:34 P.M.: In an apparent violation of electoral regulations, Radio Progreso reports that the Escuela Petronila voting center has its doors shut during the tabulation process while military “impedes” people from accessing the site. Radio Progreso reports the same is happening at Palermo, El Progreso and De Nacaome, Valle.

7:07 P.M. EST: Right-leaning media outlets such as El Heraldo  and La Prensa  seem to be reporting only early results from voting centers that show Hernandez winning, while Radio Globo is reporting mostly those with LIBRE victories.

6:54 P.M. EST: An observer reports:

At largest polling site in El Progreso the electricity went out at 5:13 and stayed off a few minutes during the count, which many of the table representatives reported also happened last year.

6:11 P.M. EST: The HSN reports:

A text message from an International Observer in Antigua, Ocotepeque sent at 4:50 pm:

“Polls closed too early here, some people turned away”

6:08 P.M. EST: Radio stations, such as Radio Globo (live transmission here) are reporting first results from specific voting centers. TSE president David Matamoros has reportedly announced that radio stations are permitted to report on such results, even though some people are still waiting to vote.

5:44 P.M. EST: An observer reports what was witnessed earlier today at the Instituto Superior San Fransisco in Progreso:

22 tables, a larger voting location with more than one suffering less supplies. Around 12:30pm,  they ran out of ink and ballots. The custodian was notified, but they didn’t have any more supplies. They called the municipality who eventually brought more supplies. However, for an extended period of time, the people who were assigned to vote in those tables were not able to vote.  

At Table# 8332, around 1pm, a person named Jacob Guevara reported that the ink that was put on his finger was really easy to wipe off.   He showed it to the voting table (MER).

Around 2pm, Hermilda Fonseca reported an irregularity that occurred as she went to vote with her daughter Diana Sierra and son Victor Sierra.  She, Hermilda herself, was listed in the registry as dead. When they looked at the registry, they also found that their father was listed as alive even though he had died a few months before.

5:32 P.M. EST: At a Progreso voting center, observers report that at about 1:56 p.m. today:

a Municipal Electoral Tribunal worker gave testimony that yesterday, 94 boxes of ballots were taken without permission while the workers were at lunch.  It now appears that many ballot cards are missing from those boxes, notebooks of them have many ballots ripped out in the middle, presumably so that they can be used to cast votes for the Liberal Party.

In other voting tables in the zone, namely Las Minas and Agua Blanca, there are unconfirmed reports that Liberal Party candidates are occupying all 6 official spots at the voting table (MER).  

In addition, the local candidate for representative, Roberto Oriane, who is running for re-election, has been observed walking through several polling places.

Also, Municipal workers have been observed using official equipment, such as walkie talkies,  to perform work on behalf of the Liberal Party.

5:21 P.M. EST: The Plataforma Ciudadana de Jóvenes del Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD) has issued a report detailing their findings of their observations today. Among these are:

  • Late arrival of electoral materials to the MER, in at least 27% of the polling stations observed.
  • Only 35% of MER opened between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., the remaining 65% opened between 7:30 and 9:00 AM.
  • Only 55% of the MER had representation from all party participants in the race.
  • The presence of credentials with names or photos, which presents evidence of trafficking of credentials to the benefit of a particular party.
  • The presence of national and international election observers has been significant. According to our reports, 69% of the MER have registered their presence. However, in some cases there have been obstructions to the performance of their functions and intimidation by party members and military personnel (see testimonials at the end of this text).
  • There is a high disregard for the provisions of the law regarding the presence of electoral propaganda near voting centers. In 46% of the MER, propaganda was located at a distance of less than 50 meters.
  • Also, the absence of electoral registry trustees in an unknown number of MER, that in some cases hindered the start of voting at the time established by the Electoral Act.

The report also describes several incidents that CESPAD observers encountered throughout the day, including one in which four CESPAD and Lutheran World Foundation observers were escorted away from tables 8979 and 8961 of the United Nations School voting center in Villa Nueva, Tegucigalpa, without explanation.

5:03 P.M. EST: The HSN also reports, along with an image of a letter to this effect, that the National Party is raffling off tablet computers to “party voting table coordinators who get their voting tally sheet copies into the party offices on time.”

4:59 P.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports various irregularities in Tocoa, including”people without photos on the voting registry or pictures that do not coincide with identification card,” test scanner problems, and more.

4:55 P.M. EST: The Observatorio de las Violaciones de los Derechos Humanos y Resistencias de las Mujeres, which claims to have monitoring teams in 13 municipalities to monitor and 80 observers throughout Honduras, has described several serious incidents today. The Observatorio also notes that “people went out to vote in numbers apparently unprecedented in the country. Lines were reported from 4-5 am at some polling stations.”

Aside from the murder of LIBRE leader Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte and a colleague, and the “vote-buying” in Zacate Grande that we already mentioned, they describe, among others:

*Manipulation of identities in Santa Barbara. This morning, November 24 in the town of Petoa, Santa Barbara, the representative of the National Registry of Persons, the National Party activist Leticia Morel, was in voting centers, intervening in the process of delivery of identities, a role reserved for the TSE.

* Purchase of votes in San Pedro Sula. In the Rafael Pineda Ponce de las Brisas voting center, in the city of San Pedro Sula, it was recorded that National Party activists offered 2000 Lempiras to people who would take a photograph with their cell phones showing that they voted for that party. Also human rights defenders in the region reported that in voting centers 3279, 3277,3278 y 3283 people admitted to voting without first turning in their cell phones, against Supreme Electoral Tribunal ( TSE) rules.

* Distribution of “benefit cards” by the National Party. A national electoral observer received a “Cachureca” card before voting, and there are reports that government employees and thousands of others received the card in the days before the vote. The back of the card identifies the bearer as a “supporter of the National Party.”

For more on “La Cachureca,” see this video from the Juan Orlando Hernandez presidential campaign.

4:23 P.M. EST: An American who lives in Trujillo, Colón Department reports:

Trujillo is quiet and much like any Sunday.  A friend who voted around 9:00 AM said there was not a big crowd at his polling place and it took him only 20 minutes to vote.  The only military person was inside.  The people waiting were relaxed and talking to each other. 

He and I walked to the center of town and passed another polling place where there were a few people, but no military to be seen.  When we passed the building where the ballots were stored, the street was blocked off to traffic and there was one military person in the doorway.

As we sat across from the park, we saw 9 vehicles passing that were flying LIBRE flags.  I assume they were providing transportation to voters.  There were also a few cars with National or Liberal Party flags.  However, LIBRE had the most obvious presence.  People were friendly and apparently in a good mood.  

Around 1:00 PM, a friend who had spent the morning in various places reported that everywhere he went, he found no one except LIBRE supporters.  In Cristales, a Garifuna barrio, he said the young prople were all talking passionately about LIBRE.

About 2:00 PM another local friend reported that she had voted and everything was as usual—no problems.  She said that having one military person inside the polling place is the way it always is.

4:21 P.M. EST: An election observer in Tegucigalpa reports:

The 15 de septiembre polling site, in an affluent area, was crowded with 19 mesas in 6 rooms and one courtyard (and some 6,830 potential voters) reporting high turnout. One mesa reported 80 percent turnout. They started with six custodians and are now down to four. One custodian estimated approximately 70 percent total turnout. One voter there was concerned about inadequate guarding of the ballot box.

A “quick count” worker outside says most people aren’t telling him who they voted for. Maybe 20 percent.

4:11 P.M. EST: The TSE has announced that voting centers will stay open until 5:00 p.m. to accomodate long lines.

4:00 P.M. EST: Human rights organization COFADEH has reported several incidents of human rights violations in connection with the elections:

Last night became a time of terror again for communities in La Union , Lempira. Gunmen circulated at various points, intimidating people. Among the reported cases is that of Noah Alvarado, LIBRE party candidate who alleged that his house was surrounded by heavily-armed men.

Also this day in the town of El Paraíso in the department of Copan, about 50 people who have been designated to integrate the election tables were locked in a hotel by over 100 armed men who threatened to burn them if they left the hotel to go to the tables.

Another group heading to 10 voting centers succeeded in making it through the obstacles at first, but on the way there the road was blocked by two Prado SUVs with heavily armed men who proceeded to stab their vehicles’ tires with knives and threatened to kill anyone who continued toward their destination.

 Read the full article here (Spanish).

3:54 P.M. EST: The National Lawyers Guild reports that there are several polling places in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that are overwhelmed with voters.  One polling place located in an area of the city where poverty is rampant, Barrio El Reparto, serves over 9,000 voters.  Here is what the entrance to the polling place looked like earlier in the day. 
Barrio El Reparto voting line
(Photo courtesy of the NLG.)

The lines are persisting throughout the day and the tension and frustration of the voters boils over at times, but for the most part the Hondurenos persevere with a fortitude that is humbling to experience.  

Once inside, the scene is extremely chaotic.  Finding the correct mesa in this labyrinth of a decaying school building is a difficult task, but the patience of the voters is a testament to their dedication to democratic ideals.  Inside barrio El Reparto voting center.
(Photo courtesy of the NLG.)

There are similar stories in various locations throughout Tegucigalpa — particularly in areas of lower socioeconomic stature.  Our election observation teams in areas of higher status have reported relatively calm voting stations.

Voting center.

3:19 P.M. EST: The Honduran daily La Prensa has also reported on last night’s assassination of two LIBRE leaders in the municipality of Canta Rana located in the Francisco Morazán Department.  We posted an HSN report regarding these killings at 9:52am EST.  Here’s a translation of part of the Prensa article:

Yesterday, Saturday two leaders of the Libre party were assassinated after after leaving a party meeting in the community of Carbón in the municipality of Canta Rana, department of Francisco Morazán.

The incident occurred at 8:50 pm. Braulio Almendares, general secretary of the National Agricultural Workers Central PNPP, denounced, on Globo TV, that the leaders were ambushed by two individuals wearing ski masks and heavily armed.

The now deceased individuals are the Hondurans Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga (67) and María Amparo Pineda Duarte (52), who is a leader of the campesino cooperative group Carbón.  “The woman had already received death threats which leads us to believe that the crime had a dual meaning”, said the complainant. Wilmar Alexander Solórzano, son of María Ampara, assures that she and her family have enemies and that they don’t know where the killing comes from.

3:14 P.M. EST: Lawyers observing the elections report what they saw earlier today at la Escuela Republica de Chile in barrio El Reparto:

As of 12:30 p.m. – Voters are reporting long lines with a 1.5 – 3 hour wait. Single door for entrance and exit is causing major delays. LIBRE supporter in line remarked that “we will wait all day to vote.” Mesas on three floors with very difficult stairs and thin hallways are causing very difficult obstacles for disabled and the elderly. Reporting a very slow trickle of voters actually making it inside. Mesas were reporting about 30 percent turnout as of noon, with hundreds still reporting long lines stretching blocks. Two exit poll companies are present – Para Digna and Canal 11.

Some have said this is the largest polling place in the capital. Serious concerns have been expressed that many are not voting due to excessive wait and hot sun. Additional concerns that problems may erupt later if voters in line are not permitted to vote before the polling place closes.

2:51 P.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network has posted a video from the Honduras Libre and Democratica blog that appears to show a MER official “reporting that he is a representative of the National Party but his credentials indicate that he represents the Alianza Patriotica [Patriotic Alliance] party.”

2:44 P.M. EST: Lawyers observing the electoral process at Escuela Aguilar La Paz in Tegucigalpa report what they witnessed today:

Around 12 of 14 mesas opened on time. We observed one woman who was turned away 2x from where she was registered to vote because her name wasn’t registered in the book at the mesa, even though her photo was listed on the voter roll at the door of the mesa. She was ultimately allowed to vote; it was unclear whether the pressence of multiple national and international observers influenced this outcome.

Another gentleman was given a mayoral ballot that had already been marked. He was forced to cross out his entire ballot and insert it in the ballot box, without having the opportunity to vote for mayor. It appears there is no central command system to resolve conflicts within the mesas. There are only 2 custodians to resolve disputes. Voters cannot leave the mesas to find a custodian should there be a dispute.

2:28 P.M. EST: Observers in Ocotepeque report

“Testimony that National Party mesa officers are using the credentials of other parties – mostly UD [Unification Democratic Party], DC [Christian Democrats], PAC [Anti-Corruption Party] and Alianza [Patriotic Alliance Party].”

1:47 P.M. EST: TSE magistrate Enrique Ortez Sequeira has denied that he ordered the militarization of the transmitters of Radio Globo, TV Globo, Cholusat Sur, Hondured and Canal 11.

Radio and TV Globo reported live the movement of the military onto their installations this morning, in what Radio Globo director David Romero denounced as “an attack on democracy and freedom of expression.”

Globo
(Soldiers at Radio Globo today. Photo by Radio Globo.)

Ortez Sequeira said instead that “we have instructed the public security forces and armed forces to take all measures they deem appropriate so that there will not be a lack of water, electricity, media communication and roads, and to guarantee the right of movement and expression and the exercise of the vote. ” Head of the armed forces, General  Osorio Canales seemed to agree, saying, according to the Comite por la Libre Expresión that the military’s actions were in response to the TSE’s call for protection of the broadcast stations.

The Honduran military interfered with television and radio broadcasts ahead of, and during, Honduras’ 2009 elections.

1:21 P.M. EST: Radio Progreso has posted a photo showing what it reports are Liberal party activists giving food to voters outside la escuela Petronila C de Villalobos, “one of the largest polling stations” in Progreso.

1:09 P.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports:

Four separate testimonies taken by an HSN observation team sent to Rio Abajo [a community just outside of Tegucigalpa] reported that “the smaller political parties have sold their MER [voting table representation] to the National Party”

This was a concern expressed by various municipal candidates of the FAPER/UD alliance who threatened to renounce their candidacy because their political party was selling their representation at the voting table.

Read more here.

1:07 P.M. EST: More reports from electoral observers from what they witnessed earlier today in the department of Colón:

Sonaguera – “no report of irregularities.”

Comunidad La Parma – “Voting began at 7:30.”

In Tocoa:

Voting started between 7:50 and 8 am. There was propaganda by political parties outside the voting center.

There was an unidentified man yelling at the board members and intimidating everyone inside.The polling station was missing materials such as bookmarks, badges, wristbands and ballots. The case containing the election materials was broken. THere was a lack of knowledge about the installation procedure table.

12:49 P.M. EST: Radio Progreso has posted what it claims is a letter from National Party officials to those in charge of the Mesas Electoral Receptoras (for background on what the MERs are, and the electoral procedures, see here) in El Progreso, Yoro “offering gifts for the ‘defense of the vote.'”

12:34 P.M. EST: From HSN observers in Gracias, Lempira:

HSN team in Gracias reports that they have visited 5 voting centres in Gracias and in small, poor communities outside of Gracias.

There are long lines at the voting centres and the team leaders mentioned that he “doesn’t see how they can get all the voters through before 4:00 pm.” Approximately 350 people vote per table and it is taking at least 1 minute or more for people to cast their votes.

Overall, they report a positive mood at the tables and in the voting centres. The members of MER (Voting tables) are upbeat.

12:32 P.M. EST: HSN observers have reported poll workers not wearing badges, and an incorrectly registered vote (officials did not stamp it first), in La Kennedy neighborhood in Tegucigalpa.

12:23 P.M. EST: Observers report that at a Perla de Ulua voting center in Progreso:

A water station which was clearly marked with lettering indicating that it was donated by Mayor Alexander Lopez, who is a Liberal Party candidate for re-election was placed immediately in front of the table where voters mark the ballot with their vote.

After initially refusing to move the water fountain, the director of the school later removed it from that location after an inquiry by observers.

12:17 P.M. EST: HSN observers in Ocotepeque report that “Voting at two voting centres [Esc. Normal Mixta & Centro Juventud Hondureña] is going very slowly. HSN team reports that it takes between 5-6 minutes/person to vote.”

12:13 P.M. EST: The Plataforma Ciudadana de Jóvenes del Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD) has issued a statement denouncing what they describe as assaults and intimidation by National Party activists in voting centers in Ceiba and Tegucigalpa. In one instance, they say the intimidation and threats followed a “complaint that, in the morning hours,” one of the urnas already had a hundred votes marked. “The observers were quick to denounce what was happening, while the polls in question were seized. This situation greatly bothered the accused…” CESPAD is supported by Oxfam, the Irish non-profit Trócaire, the Lutheran World Foundation, and the Danish International Development Agency, among others.

11:48 A.M. EST: HSN electoral observers “reported several irregularities in the Jesus Aguilar Paz Institute in the San Francisco neighborhood of Tegucigalpa this morning”:

This voting center has 4 voting tables. At one of the tables, the custodian (the person who manages the table) did not arrive at the table in order to receive the ballot boxes. A high-level official ordered the military officials who were present to distribute the boxes to this table – thus the military officials assumed the role of custodian.

At another table, the military officials present stated that the ID card presented by the person who was to assume the role of president of the table did not coincide with the registry. The second representative (vocal 2) assumed the role of president. This occurred at table 8333.

Observers also reported that two people who came to vote presented ID cards of individuals who were registered as deceased. The name of one of these individuals is on file.

Observers reported a “chaotic atmosphere” at the polling station.

11:39 A.M. EST: HSN electoral observers report:

Campaign propaganda is visible near voting center. When police ask folks to take it down, they do, but then they put it up again down the road… Voting center #s: 15242-62, direccion: Escuela Petronilla C de Villalobos Colonia Bendek.

11:35 A.M. EST: Documentary filmmaker and independent reporter Jesse Freeston (who covered Honduras’ last elections in 2009) described some of the ways in which the National Party is connected to the institutions and the people charged with carrying out today’s electoral process, in an interview with the Real News:

The situation is really disturbing. The military that overthrew the last elected president is in charge of all the logistics. This is one of the things that’s in the Honduran Constitution that they want to change through a new Constitution is that the military’s actually in charge of moving the ballot boxes and everything to do with logistics around the election.

That same military is actually appearing in the commercials and ads of the candidate of the National Party, Juan Orlando Hernández. And so it’s so obvious that they have their own inclinations that they want the leader who’s not going to stick them back in their barracks but who’s going to increasingly increase the budget for the military like he’s been doing from the Congress. So their allegiances are clear in this situation. They’ve been clear since 2009.

And the other institution that’s in charge of the elections is the electoral tribunal, which is the same electoral tribunal that–the same three magistrates that basically created a farce in 2009, holding elections with no international observation and inventing numbers. And that was well documented by myself and other journalists, that they invented participation numbers and invented votes in that situation. They’re still in charge, those same three magistrates.

At just to give you a sense of where their allegiances lie, we discovered a document where they invited all of their employees to go to a private prayer ceremony in the Vida Abundante evangelical church, which is a church which is founded and run by–the preacher in that church is actually very well linked with the National Party. His brother is the personal secretary of President Pepe Lobo, and his nephew actually runs Juan Orlando Hernández’s campaign in the department of Lempira here in Honduras. And he has also been, you know, hugely active in politics from the right-wing, going in through the door of Christian morals, saying that nobody should vote for LIBRE because there are gays and lesbians in that party and they will pass immoral laws if they get in power. This is the same preacher that the electoral tribunal, which is supposed to be the most neutral institution in the whole state, has been sending its employees to go pray in private ceremonies.

11:21 A.M. EST: Honduran newspapers El Tiempo and El Heraldo are reporting that at least five people were reported murdered at around 6:30 p.m. yesterday in La Mosquitia. Although the killings are reported to have taken place “just 20 meters from a polling station” in the community of Juan Francisco Bulnes, a member of congress for the National Party, Maylo Wood says they victims were members of different political parties, and that it was an isolated incident. The electoral officials there have decided to temporarily suspend the electoral process.

11:08 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso reports that in El Progreso, Yoro, a man is listed as eligible to vote, even though his wife reported him dead a year ago, and she has his death certificate.

The Observatorio de las Violaciones de los Derechos Humanos y Resistencias de las Mujeres has posted an audio interview in which observers describe house-to-house vote buying in Zacate Grande.

10:52 A.M. EST: Report from lawyers observing the electoral process from earlier this morning:

At the neighborhood El Reparto [Escuela Republica de Chile]: The team arrived to the voting station at 5:45 am. There was a chaotic scene outside with approximately 250 people trying to get through the main door. There were 3-4 military soldiers and 1 police [officer] at the center.

At the voting center, there are 26 voting tables receiving a total of 9,353 votes. There are two lines of people waiting to vote. Each line is taking approximately 2 hours to get to the voting tables. People are frustrated about the long wait.

The location of the voting center is a small school that is like a labyrinth. It’s very difficult to access and to find the rooms where the voting is taking place. The scene is very hectic.

10:38 A.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports:

At approximately 9:00 AM this morning, elections monitors observed [a] National Party member handing out money to voters entering at the Morazan School, in the Quimistan sector of Santa Barbara. The HSN monitoring team has the name of this individual on file, should further investigation be necessary.

10:35 A.M. EST: Reports from Honduras Solidarity Network observers from earlier this morning:

8:00 am – In Progreso, “Some tables opened 10 minutes late. Some girls from the Partido Nacional [are] guiding people towards the table and writing down information on a little notebook.”

8:30 am – At La Confianza community Table #1370, “Only at this table, the members of the staff at the table are marking the voting boxes. No other tables in the voting center are marking the boxes.”

8:30 am – At Table #15372 at the Instituo Perla del Ulua, Progreso, “They started over an hour late.”

10:28 A.M. EST: Election monitors report that

At table 15376 at the Instituto Perla de Uloa in Progreso, the number of official ballots was not officially counted as per the rules. This determines the number of expected versus submitted votes during the counting process.  Also, at the same station, the National Party representative at the table refused to turn in their cell phone, which is not permitted at the voting table.

10:02 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso has posted a photo showing what is says are political party tents outside the voting center at the escuela Cabañas de El Progreso, in Yoro, in violation of the law.

9:58 A.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network has reported an update from their Santa Rosa de Copan team: “Todo tranquilo. Polls opened [between] 7:05 & 7:30. Two women report credentials were stolen in street”

9:52 A.M. EST: The Honduras Solidarity Network reports that two more election-related murders happened last night:

Two members of the Carbon Cooperative,  affiliated with the National Council of Rural Workers (CNTC),  were killed last night as they returned from an election observer training. They were fired at by gunmen from cars, and died immediately.

The community is the site of an ongoing land struggle in the area, and both victims were active members in the LIBRE party.

9:45 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso reports that the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE – the electoral authority) hopes to know by 12 noon all of the centers that are connected to the data transmission system.

9:39 A.M. EST: The Washington Post lays out some of the key challenges to the electoral process:

Honduras has minimal electoral infrastructure, and Sunday’s votes will be counted by representatives of the political parties, not impartial poll workers. This method was designed for the two-party system that dominated here for decades, but some of the eight parties in this election don’t have the resources to deploy campaign workers across the country.

Tally sheets of the votes are supposed to be scanned and sent electronically to election authorities, but at least 10 percent of polling stations don’t have electricity or Internet access. The pronouncements of international observers — especially the OAS — will be critical in shaping perceptions of the election’s integrity.

At least 16 Free Party activists and candidates have been slain since summer, according to rights groups, more than all the others parties combined.

9:13 A.M. EST: Radio Progreso has reported that at the polling station at the Petronila C. De Villalobos school, two voting representatives had altered their credentials. “Trustees and military intervened and this delayed the opening of the voting center. Our reporters were not allowed to enter.”

8:48 A.M. EST: An election monitor reports another area where polling stations have opened late: “Largest voting center in El Progreso opened at 7:37. There are 7368 registered voters at this site and 21 voting tables.”


8:45 A.M. EST:
COFADEH reports:

Last night the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared of Honduras (COFADEH), one of the country’s leading human rights groups, received reports of acts of intimidation and harassment by heavily armed men in ski masks present in the communities of Quiscamote and Chintal in the Lempira department in western Honduras.  The Network of Human Rights Defenders of Lempira also signalled the presence of armed men in the communities of San Bartolo and Gualcira. According to witnesses these men were transported to the town of La Unión and deposited at the house of a well-known owner of a coffee plantation with close ties to presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez. Human rights defenders filed a complaint with a local police lieutenant, but he asked for evidence of the allegations, such as photographs, and refused to take any action.  Eventually most of the armed men [left] in vehicles, though a small number remained deployed in San Bartolo and Gualcira early this Sunday morning.
(From the Human Rights Monitoring Project of the 2013 Electoral Process)

 8:27 A.M. EST: Reports from Ocotepeque [at 7:24 local time that] polls are not yet open; “confusion at setup.”

8:17 A.M. EST: Radio Globo has reported on-air that their installations have been militarized.

This follows several worrying incidents of what human rights organizations and electoral observers are describing as intimidation of observers, and LIBRE party members and supporters. Human rights organization COFADEH is reporting that military troops have been going to the homes of women involved in “all stages of the electoral process,” including observation and polling station representation, in order to “gather intelligence.”

The Honduras Solidarity Network reports that

agents identifying themselves as workers of the Honduran Immigration Service, have harassed international election observers, tracked them down at their hotels or training centers to confirm that their documentation is in order. In some cases, this has occurred soon after these same observers have received official observer training from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. In one instance, the “agents” were armed and wearing ski masks.

Latin American and North American observers were subject to one such visit at the Hotel Suites Aurora in Tegucigalpa yesterday.

Friday night, about three dozen military police apparently attempted to raid the offices of the LIBRE party in Colonia Kennedy in Tegucigalpa – see COFADEH’s description of the incident here, and video testimony of a witness here.


Beginning at 7:00 a.m. today, Hondurans go to the polls to elect a new president, 128 congressional representatives, and many mayors and other municipal officials. In a historical break from the past, in which two parties (the Liberal, and National, respectively) have for decades dominated the presidency, this time there are eight presidential candidates, some of whom – most notably Xiomara Castro de Zelaya of the new LIBRE party, and Salvador Nasralla of the new Anti-corruption Party – have polled highly enough to be poised to win. There is no run-off; the candidate that receives the most votes is declared the president-elect. The elections are also notable in that if she wins, Castro would be Honduras’ first woman president.

The presidential elections are the first since those that were held under the coup regime in 2009 in a context of repression against anti-coup activists and a government crackdown on critical media outlets.  Though the U.S. considered the elections to have been “free and fair” and soon lifted its hold on all assistance to Honduras, most Latin American governments were reluctant to recognize the new president, Porfirio Lobo, who took office in February of 2010. It was only in June of 2011 that the suspension on Honduras’ Organization of American States (OAS) membership was lifted.

The most important political development for these elections is the emergence of a new political party, Libertad y Refundación, or LIBRE (Free), that is made up of many of the movements that mobilized in opposition to the 2009 coup.  Their presidential candidate, Xiomara Castro, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya, has been identified as the leading candidate in most opinion polls.  However, these elections are fraught with challenges.  Fraud is a common occurrence in Honduran elections and, though there are some new safeguards in place, the ruling National Party is dominant in the electoral body and exercises tight control over many of national institutions, including the Supreme Court.  Secondly, killings and violent attacks against a number of opposition candidates and their families, particularly those of LIBRE (see below), have had a chilling effect on campaigning.  Finally, over the last months, the Honduran government has deployed a new military police force throughout the country that has been a central feature of the National Party’s campaign.  Honduran human rights groups allege that the new force has already engaged in attacks against LIBRE activists and there is a fear that, should protests occur following the elections, this force could be used to violently repress demonstrators.  

Though the National Party has focused their campaign on the issue of fighting crime (through the deployment of the new military police), recent polling suggests that a priority issue for many Hondurans is the state of the economy.

Unlike in 2009, when most international bodies and countries refused to send observers, this time a number of institutions including the OAS, the European Union (EU), and the Carter Center have sent observers. They are joined by teams from the U.S. government-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) – both of which were among the few groups that did observe the controversial 2009 elections that were held under the military coup regime, and which the organizations were quick to declare “credible and peaceful,” even as groups such as Amnesty International and the Center for Justice and International Law condemned violence, repression and media censorship ahead of, and during, the elections.

The U.S. government is spending almost $11 million on the elections, including through funding for NDI and the International Foundation for Electoral systems, organizations which it is important to note have intervened politically in various countries, including – in IFES’ case – in helping to orchestrate the coup [PDF] in Haiti in 2004.

There are also over 170 people from North America in numerous delegations who have traveled to Honduras to monitor the electoral process. Delegations include those organized by the AFL-CIO, the National Lawyers Guild, Just Associates, Canada’s Common Frontiers, the Honduras Solidarity Network, and many others. Many of these delegations also have the additional goal of investigating the current human rights situation and how particular communities – women, the LGBT community, trade unionists and others – are being affected, or in the case of Common Frontiers, “Canadian investment in the areas of resource extraction (mining), maquiladora and the mega tourism sector.”

Numerous members of the U.S. Congress have expressed concern over whether the election will be free and fair:

  • “…challenges raise serious concerns over the Honduran government’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.” – Senator Kaine and 12 other Senators.
  • “I’m very concerned by the ongoing violence in Honduras and the impact on the November 24 elections,” … “We are receiving reports of threats against journalists and even assassinations of candidates.” – Senator Tim Kaine (D – VA)
  • “The evidence so far indicates that the freedom and fairness of this election is very much at risk, as human rights abuses under the existing government continue to threaten basic civil liberties, opposition candidates do not enjoy a level playing field, and state security forces are taking on an increasingly central, and ominous role in context of the election.” – Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva, Hank Johnson, and Mike Honda
  • “Security problems are legion; organized crime is in the ascendant; security forces are feared and resist attempts at reform; and, institutions are weak or worse. The judiciary is utilized as a weapon to settle political scores, and journalists and human rights defenders are under siege.” … “There are also crucial issues regarding Honduras’s election system itself.” – Rep. Eliot Engel (Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee)

Under the presidency of Porfirio Lobo, the human rights situation – already dire in the months following the coup – has further deteriorated.  Since 2011, Honduras has had the highest homicide rate in the world.  Rather than assisting in abating the country’s extreme level of violent crime, Honduran security forces are allegedly responsible for many killings and attacks.  Paramilitary activity, which had ceased to be prevalent since the 1980s, has reappeared according to human rights groups and news organizations.  Though the targets of extrajudicial killings often include suspected gang members, they also have included many journalists, lawyers, land rights advocates, LGBT activists and political opposition leaders.  The country’s judiciary, widely considered to be dysfunctional and corrupt, largely fails to investigate these crimes, let alone prosecute the perpetrators. 

A wave of politically-motivated violence has been documented ahead of the elections. 18 members of the LIBRE party– including candidates – have been murdered since May last year, at least as many as from all the other major political parties combined, according to a recent Rights Action report [PDF] that mostly cites Honduran media sources and human rights organizations. Honduran human rights monitors Committee of the Families of the Detained and Disappeared have released a similar list [PDF] that likewise reveals a disproportionate number of those targeted for murders, attempted murders and other violence have been affiliated with the LIBRE party. The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America has released a report documenting 229 murders that they describe as “politically motivated” since the current government of Porfirio Lobo has been in office.

Human rights defenders and people who have criticized the climate of repression going into the elections – including COFADEH – are under threat. Several prominent international human rights organizations have voiced concern in recent weeks:

And Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams has written, “violence against women human rights defenders has not slowed down. …The victims report that the vast majority of the threats and attacks come from the government.”

All this sets a worrying backdrop for what are sure to be closely-watched events today.

For more background, see CEPR Senior Associate for International Policy Alexander Main’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today, the new Foreign Affairs article “Hopeless in Honduras” by Dana Frank, and this overview article by L.A. Times correspondent Tracy Wilkinson. See also

  • CEPR’s report on Honduras’ economic climate going into the election.
  • A video of CEPR’s congressional briefing on the elections featuring Bertha Oliva of the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras and Victor Fernandez, coordinator of the Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice.

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