Honduras Election Chaos: Leftists Take to Streets to Protest Defeat
Perhaps more than any Latin American nation fighting the yolk of leftist oppression, Zelaya's reign tossed the nation into a chaos that persists today, four years after the military constitutionally evicted him to Costa Rica to the lament of his allies in Venezuela, Ecuador, and other "socialist Bolivarian" nations. With elections held on Sunday, right-wing National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared "irreversibly" the victor with 34% of the vote after 54% counted. Xiomara Castro took 29% of those votes.
The concern over potential fraud began Monday night, when international media began reporting that the entire election had blacked out—that no word had come from either candidate or the election commission for too long. Word soon came, however, and international observers agreed with the election commission: the election was clean, and Hernandez had won. It would not have been a surprise to observers who watched his lead surge with his anti-crime platform. Hernandez's promise to do anything in his power to stop crime resonated in a nation that endures twenty violent deaths a day.
It was apparently enough of a surprise to Castro and her husband, Manuel Zelaya, that they have threatened to advocate for mass protests if the election does not turn their way. Zelaya himself, advocating vocally for his spouse, warned that he would "take it to the streets if necessary," but he would not accept the victory of her opponent.
"We will not go fight to the institutions that we know are corroded by a system that doesn't work, that has conspired and is in cahoots," Zelaya insisted Tuesday. His call has been heeded, with students taking the streets and the Honduran police and military doing what it can to keep the throngs at bay. This report from Telesur TV shows footage of clashes with police, flaming vehicles, and other dangers amid the protests:
Honduras, the most violent country in the world gauging murders per capita, has been struggling to find a foothold of political stability since the overthrow of the leftist President Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Many on the left decried the "coup" as a mockery of the democratic process. President Obama voiced his support of Zelaya. Hugo Chavez did too, and Ecuadorian strongman president Rafael Correa even went to Honduras to back Zelaya. In the end, however, the efforts to keep Zelaya in place ended up looking more like a coalition of foreigners trying to keep Richard Nixon in power than opposition to any "coup."
In an excellent piece by my colleague John Simpson at the time, he explains the series of events that led to Zelaya's ouster:
President Zelaya was actively engaged in violating the Honduran Constitution by pushing an illegal ballot referendum to extend his term in office that had been vehemently opposed by the Honduran Supreme Court, the attorney general, the Congress and even Zelaya's own party. On June 25th, in violation of Supreme Court order, President Zelaya ordered the commander of Honduras' armed forces, Gen. Romeo Vasquez, to distribute the illegal ballots which, curiously, had just arrived from Venezuela courtesy of Hugo Chavez.
Gen. Vasquez refused. Zelaya fired him.
In other words, Zelaya was attempting exactly the sort of tyrannical legislative propositions Chavez made a name for himself by implementing—the sort of tyrannical legislative propositions his successor, Nicolás Maduro, is running amok with today. His successor, Roberto Micheletti, proved the good intentions of the so-called coup by stepping down to allow the winner of the 2010 elections, Porfirio Lobo, to take the reins. This week's elections would continue a streak of relatively peaceful transfers of power for the nation should the left not whip protesters into a potentially violent frenzy in [Xiomara] Castro's name.
The fear in these elections should not be that any fraud may have hurt Castro's candidacy. It is that, through her, Zelaya may have once again infiltrated the halls of Honduran executive power. And the two threaten to agitate the nation even further with their unsubstantiated calls of fraud—a situation to continue to follow closely, as few countries can handle this sort of turmoil less than Honduras.