Honduras’ Flawed Election: The Case of El Paraíso
|Written by Jake Johnston|
|Friday, 06 December 2013 17:01|
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.