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Post-election violence in Honduras

Honduras

Months after November’s rigged re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernández, demonstrations and widespread acts of rebellion continue in Honduras, as does a pattern of arbitrary arrest, police brutality and paramilitary violence.

Hernández won by less than two per cent after the reporting of results was suspended several times and the poll lead of his opponent suddenly evaporated. Despite monitors from the pro-US Organization of American States refusing to endorse the results because of ‘widespread irregularities’, the Trump administration congratulated Hernández on his victory. European governments, Canada and Mexico fell in line too. This is in contrast to the widespread condemnation of the various electoral manoeuvrings of Nicolas Maduro’s government in neighbouring Venezuela.

The Hondurans who took to the streets following the election were met by a hailstorm of teargas and sometimes live gunfire which has left 38 dead and hundreds injured. The continuing repression is led by the notorious US-trained TIGRES special forces. Night-time raids and the brutal treatment of detainees are standard fare in the departments of Cortés, Atlántida and Yoro where activists continue a series of highway blockades.

Elsewhere there were demonstrations at the UN office in the capital Tegucigalpa in opposition to a visit from Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, in order, she claimed, to thank Hernández for the Honduran vote in favour of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Honduras joined a handful of tiny Pacific US dependencies and neighbouring Guatemala as the only votes in favour of this anti-Palestinian manoeuvre. The US has a big stake in Honduras where they maintain the large Soto Cano Air Base and agribusiness giants like Chiquita Brands (successor to the infamous United Fruits Company) control the plantation fruit trade.

The police continue to round up leaders of social justice movements, most recently long-time protest organizer Edwin Espinal and activist Raúl Álvarez, currently being held in solitary confinement in a military base and facing a laundry list of charges, including damaging the Marriot Hotel in Tegucigalpa during anti-election fraud demonstrations. Journalists of integrity such as Bictor Ruiz Hernandez are fleeing Honduras in fear for their lives. No small loss in a country where news stories often differ little from government press releases.

Richard Swift

New Internationalist issue 512 magazine cover This article is from the May 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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