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Honduran Elections: Live Blog

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Written by The Americas Blog   
Sunday, 24 November 2013 00:00

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.

Tags: elections | Honduras | human rights | LIBRE | press freedom

 

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