Honduras: History always repeats itself

February 2, 2018
Photo: A protest against Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on national women's day in Tegucigalpa, on January 26. Photo: Warwick Fry

What has happened in Honduras confirms the old thesis that history always repeats itself: the coup against president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 as tragedy and the electoral fraud of 2017 as farce.

On June 28, 2009, masked military personnel captured Zelaya in pyjamas and deported him illegally to Costa Rica, after a stop-off at a joint US-Honduran military base.

Zelaya was accused of attempting to carry out a plebiscite on a possible call for a Constituent Assembly, although his true crime was a leftward shift in his policies.

The attack was not only against a progressive government, but also against the weakest link of the progressive Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas (ALBA), after a decade of newly elected leftist governments in the region.

Moreover, Honduras occupies a key geopolitical position in Central America: it was used by the CIA in the 1980s as a platform to train the Nicaraguan contras; and in 2009 it became a laboratory for the kind of smart power defended by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, combining hard power (classic-style coup involving the Armed Forces) with soft power (political support from the judiciary, together with media manipulation and a news blackout).

Eight years later, Zelaya’s party Libre (Liberty and Refoundation) participated in elections as part of the Alliance in Opposition  against the Dictatorship, together with the Party of Innovation and Unity (PINU) and the Anticorruption Party (PAC). The alliance chose the leader of this latter party, the well-known television presenter Salvador Nasralla, as its candidate for president.

His main opponent was Juan Orlando Hernandez (known as JOH), the candidate of the National Party and president since 2013, who presented himself for re-election despite the constitution prohibiting this.

On November 27, one day after the elections, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) made public a report of results where, with 57% of the votes counted, Nasralla had a lead of more than 5 points over JOH.

In most electoral systems in the world, an advantage of 5 points with more than 50% of the count completed is considered an irreversible tendency.

But not in Honduras where, after a more than suspect failure of the computing system, a new recount found JOH had a 1.6 point advantage over Nasralla.

The fraud was consolidated on December 18 when the TSE delivered the final results, giving victory to JOH with 42.95% against 41.5% for Nasralla.

All this took place under a curfew decreed on December 1, which has left, up to now, more than 40 people dead at the hands of security forces.

The fraud was so flagrant that even the Organization of American States – hardly suspect of sympathising with progressive governments – was obliged to release a report on December 17, stating that irregularities in the election and vote count made it impossible to accurately determine the winner.

A coup that was a tragedy for the Honduran and Latin American people and an electoral coup that has been a farce for the whole international community: let us learn from history, so that we may not come to repeat it.

[Abridged and edited from Alainet. Originally translated by Jordan Bishop]

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