Honduran Unionists Back Presidential Election Recount

Honduran union activists are supporting the call for a recount in the country's presidential elections, suspecting fraud by the ruling neoliberal party. Photo: Red Nacional de Defensoras de Derecho Humanos en Honduras

Hondurans went to the polls November 26 to elect a president, national congress, and local authorities. The elections tested the strength of the neoliberal regime in power since June 2009, when a coup d’etat ousted President Manuel Zelaya, whose government had raised the minimum wage substantially and undermined the interests of the traditional oligarchy. Labor groups were an important part of the resistance to the coup, and they have suffered retaliation accordingly, teachers in particular.

The presidential election pitted incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández, in office since 2013, against challenger Salvador Nasralla, the candidate of a center-left coalition that includes Libre, the party founded by Zelaya and organizations opposed to the coup.

Honduran Union Leader at Labor Notes

Tomás Membreño, president of the STAS, the Union of Agricultural and Related Workers, in Honduras, will be speaking at the 2018 Labor Notes Conference. Register today!

For more on STAS’s organizing, see our article “Honduran Melon Workers Push for Union Rights”.

The first official election results, announced in the early morning hours of November 27, showed Nasralla leading by about 5 percent with more than half the returns counted.

Then the electronic election reporting system crashed. When official results were next updated, more than 24 hours later, Hernández gained ground and eventually passed Nasralla.

Many Hondurans rejected the delayed official results and took to the streets in protest. Popular movements had predicted that Hernández would find a way to win no matter the actual result. He had already managed to supersede the constitutional prohibition on running for reelection—the same prohibition cited as the reason for the 2009 coup—and his ruling party controls government institutions, including the election commission.

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In response to the protests, elements of the police and military reacted with U.S.-made tear gas or other “less lethal” munitions, as well as live fire, killing a reported 12 protesters in one week. A presidential decree declared a state of siege, imposing a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The regime’s violence—a hallmark of post-coup governance in Honduras—was surprisingly weakened when certain units of the police stood down and declared themselves unwilling to continue repressing fellow Hondurans.

At the time of this writing, government election authorities still have not declared an official winner, and the election outcome still hangs in the balance—as do the rights and safety of Honduran activists. Both Honduran groups and international observers are calling for a credible, verified vote count.

Statement by the Honduran Network of Unionists Against Anti-Union Violence

The Network of Unionists against Anti-Union Violence, an organization in defense of life composed of union members and labor activists in Honduras, states the following to the national and international community:

  • We condemn the disgraceful role played by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal [TSE by its initials in Spanish] in the recent elections of November 26, 2017, in which the lack of transparency and the delay in the declaration of the president-elect have generated a multi-dimensional crisis that injures the peace of all Hondurans;
  • We demand that the state of Honduras stop police and military repression against the Honduran population peacefully mobilizing across the length and breadth of the territory of the nation against the possible consummation of an electoral fraud;
  • We energetically urge the government of Hernández Alvarado to reverse the suspension of constitutional guarantees and respect the full enjoyment of the human rights of the citizenry;
  • We denounce the murder of more than 10 persons during protest activities over the last four days, the search of homes by members of the Military Police, and the excessive use of force by state security agents against the protests;
  • We join the national and international voices demanding that the TSE publicly count all of the polling place tally sheets of ballots that record the results of the electoral process for the office of president;
  • We urge Hondurans to continue demonstrating peacefully in order to guarantee respect for the popular will as manifested at the ballot boxes and to avoid a possible electoral fraud culminating with the illegal reelection of the current president Hernández Alvarado;
  • We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims of this new wave of institutional violence against the citizenry who are defending respect for popular sovereignty;
  • Finally, we call upon the international community to be alert to the development of the electoral process and to be vigilant about the human rights situation in the country.

“They can cut down all the flowers, but they can never stop spring.”

John Walsh is a longtime union shop steward active in Latin America solidarity work.