The Sister Cities-SHARE Foundation Honduras Elections Observation and Human Rights Solidarity delegation came together in El Progreso, a town outside of San Pedro Sula in northwest Honduras, on November 20th. Together, our diverse group of 50 people represented several organizations in El Salvador that work for solidarity and social justice, as well as a number of individuals from the US who have been active in solidarity work for many years. This wellspring of knowledge and experience was put to good use during what proved to be a challenging week, during which we met with resistance leaders in the Bajo Aguan and tried to understand the pr-electoral context of uncertainty and repression. Ultimately we became witnesses to widespread electoral fraud and an equally widespread media coverup.
The following press release, which we shared with several media outlets Friday morning in front of the Honduran Embassy, is but a small portion of the larger story that our Honduran brothers and sisters have asked us to share with the world to break the media wall that has blocked the real news from leaving the country.
The press conference was covered widely by the Salvadoran and even international press, including TeleSur which produced this short television report- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DSy7ELIYsY
Election Observers Confirm Fraud and Militarized, Intimidating Environment during Honduran General Elections
From November 20th to 26th, our group of 50 Salvadoran and U.S. observers participated in an election observation and human rights solidarity delegation to witness the general elections on November 24. The observers, who represented Salvadoran organizations and alliances like the Movement for Popular Resistance of October 12 (MPR-12) as well as international solidarity organizations like U.S.- El Salvador Sister Cities and the Share Foundation, joined the even larger observation group of the Honduras Solidarity Network (HSN). The HSN delegation was composed of 166 international observers accredited and trained through Honduras´ Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). Our election observers were present at polling stations in the departments of El Progreso, Copán, Colón, Ocotepeque, Lempira and Santa Barbara. We were able to witness and document the following conditions:
- A pre-electoral climate of militarization and intimidation
- Intimidation and harassment of our group of observers by the Honduran authorities
- Irregularities, vote buying and intimidation of voters on election day, as well as alterations in the ballot count and transmission
- The Failure of the U.S. Government to Denounce Problems with the Election and Respect the Right of the Honduran People to a Transparent Election
An electoral context of violence, human rights violations and militarization
The elections were conducted in a context of continual violations of human rights, which left space for really fair and free elections. Politically motivated violent attacks against candidates and activists intensified before the election, especially violence against the LIBRE opposition party. According to a report published by Rights Action, 18 LIBRE candidates and party activists were murdered from May 2012 to October 2013 and 17 candidates from other opposition parties were also murdered. Even on the night before the elections the violence continued. That night, November 23rd, Julio Ramón Araujo Maradiaga, leader of the National Confederation of Workers (CNTC) and official representative for the LIBRE party at his voting center, was murdered along with another LIBRE activist, María Amparo Pineda Duarte, after leaving a TSE training at a local polling station.
The intimidation and harassment of our group of observers by the Honduran authorities
In the city of El Progreso, Honduran immigration agents raided a building where two groups of observers from the HSN network were receiving a training from an official TSE training for election observers was ending. During the raid, immigration agents demanded to see the documents and credentials of all the observers and then intimidated and threatened to deport some of the U.S. observers. The HSN delegation was not the only delegation that suffered this kind of repressive actions. Other groups of Salvadoran, German, and Brazilian observers reported harassment by immigration agents, despite having been accredited by the TSE and having their immigration papers in order.
Irregularities, vote buying, and intimidation of voters on Election Day and problems with the vote count and transmission of the final count
Our delegation was shocked by the level of irregularities and problems we saw on Election Day. Vote buying was so widespread that we were able to photograph and videotape candidates and party activists buying votes right outside the polling stations. We also observed an abusive attitude toward the disabled population, senior citizens and first time voters, who were pressured to vote publicly, mostly for the National Party. The limited presence of TSE officials was not enough to prevent vote buying and other irregularities and credentials, much less help people vote without confusion or mistakes. This left the population even more vulnerable to manipulation, intimidation and fraud. In addition, many of the TSE officials in charge of the polling stations were afraid to report anomalies or fraud because they had received threats to their physical safety. When it came time to count the ballots and send the results in to the TSE center in Tegucigalpa, most polling station’s scanners or electronic systems failed to transmitt the data correctly to the TSE.
The Failure of the U.S. Government to Denounce Problems with the Election and Respect the Right of the Honduran People to a Transparent Election
The violence, intimidation and fraud that our observation mission documented has been almost completely unreported in the Honduran and international media. Despite the public availability of this information early on election day, we were puzzled by the overwhelming silence of certain groups of international observers, the U.S. Embassy in particular, about these conditions that cast doubt on the transparency of the process and reliability of the results announced by the TSE.
Lisa Kubiske, the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras, has classified the Honduran elections as "free” and “successful," and has called on the populace to respect of the results announced by the TSE. Due to what we saw in Honduras-the environment of threats and violence before and during the elections, the irregularities on Election Day, and the revelations of more and more discrepancies in the vote count - we as human rights organizations can not endorse the official results that have been announced by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. We call on the Honduran authorities to act transparently and take our report into account. And we call on the United States government to respect the democratic will of the Honduran people, starting by recognizing the many problems in the recent electoral process.
November 29th, 2013, San Salvador
Check out media coverage of our delegation and the situation in Honduras:
- The Honduras Solidarity Network's initial report- http://www.hondurassolidarity.org/report1/
- Honduras Election Observation and Human Rights Monitoring Program- Facebook page (good for timely updates) https://www.facebook.com/hsnelectionwatch
- Good coverage on Democracy Now
- Short Tele Sur documentary about the militarized electoral context in Honduras
- Honduran Election results Contested Amidst Claims of Fraud
- The Different Souls of the Libre Party and Repression against Honduran Students
- Observer reports fraud in Honduras election
- Honduras: Huge political crisis as right steals elections
- Honduran Elections: CEPR Live Blog
- Video: Alleged Voting Irregularities Mar Honduran Elections
- TeleSur-"La embajada" dice quién ganó
- Sister Cities en La noticias-Diario Co-Latino: Observadores Denuncian Fraude
- Ciudades Hermanas en la noticias- Telesur