Crisis in Honduras: one country and two presidents
A week after the presidential elections, the Central American country still does not know who its new president is. Irregularities, an alleged fraud and the violence unleashed have plunged the population into one of the worst crises in recent years.
The Honduran situation is a vivid example of Latin American political habits: a president seeks his re-election and when the opposition candidate leads the results, fraud and irregularities arise.
Juan Orlando Hernández and Salvador Nasralla were running for the presidency of Honduras a week ago, a country of 8.5 million inhabitants whose 80% live in the acutest conditions of poverty. After the polling day, Nasralla - leader of the opposition Alliance - was five points ahead until several irregularities in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) system, controlled by the National Party of Hernandez, reversed the results, indicating an explicit fraud.
The enraged population has taken to the streets of Tegucigalpa between Wednesday and Friday, boosted by the opposition party and claiming the results were illegal. Before the violence unleashed, the security forces decreed a curfew that has been challenged by the demonstrators, and the capital is in "total anarchy," as reported by the BBC.
To try to solve the situation, the TSE called on Sunday the directives of both parties to conduct a special scrutiny of the presumed 1,000 ballots that would present problems, but the opposition Alliance has demanded that more than 5,000 be reviewed, and refused to appear at the summons.
According to analysts, this crisis would be a consequence of the "consolidation of power" on the part of Hernandez and his right-wing allies since the coup of 2009 against the then President Manuel Zelaya.
The National Party took advantage of the political instability during these years to take control of Congress, the courts, and the armed forces. And to show an example: Hernandez resorted to a controversial sentence by friendly judges in the supreme court to justify his candidacy for re-election, something that is prohibited by the Honduran constitution, according to The Guardian.
This Monday, the Alliance is in the process of negotiating with the TSE around an 11-demand list, while the Supreme Court has suspended the count of irregular acts, as explained by Justice Marco Ramiro Lobo.
For his part, the TSE's president, David Matamoros, declared that the citizenship is affected by "an electoral process that defines the future of a nation and therefore cannot be in their hands a decision that falls in the Honduran people. It cannot be left up to them to decide whether the Tribunal is still working or not," the El Salvador newspaper reported (in Spanish).
The exacerbation of the situation in Honduras could imply instability in the entire region, especially affecting the United States.
So far, the White House has not spoken about it, but the relationship between the two governments is very close: Honduras receives millions of dollars every year in aid, and its elite police have been trained by the US armed force.
According to the Washington Post, Hernandez is perceived as "a reliable ally for the United States, with friends in high places," including White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, and his right-wing positions are fundamental in maintaining of a politically tuned axis.
Daniel Runde, Republican advisor on foreign policy, who perceives Hernández as “an improvement in the leftist inclination” of the area, explains this: "If Hernandez loses the election, the United States will not have effective partners in the region, the effectiveness of our billions of dollars would be at risk and more people will be tempted to come to the United States," Runde said.
The paradox is clear: the same soldiers who expelled Zelaya (leftist president) to Costa Rica in 2009 for trying to reform the Constitution and to achieve re-election, are the ones who today are in the streets defending a right-wing president who actually did it; a president who sympathizes with the US government but who has been exposed as a sponsor of drug cartels and the perpetuation of Honduras as an express corridor for drug trafficking in Central America, as The Economist explains.