Report from Post-election Honduras Cites Violence, Intimidation

This is a preliminary summary from the US-based Honduras Solidarity Network / Alliance for Global Justice election observation delegation. The summary casts doubt the credibility of Honduran Supreme Electoral Council, which claims that the elections were free and fair, siting the US Ambassador and mainstream corporate media in the USA. Others on the ground, however, disagree.

The report below denounced the deaths of two land defenders who were active members of the Carbon Cooperative, affiliated with National Council of Rural Workers (CNTC), a Grassroots International partner.  Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte was the elected President of the Carbon Cooperative and Julio Ramon Maradiaga was an active member. Masked gunmen with high caliber weapons ambushed them as they returned home from election training. Both Maria and Julio were working for free and fair elections in Honduras and had official electoral duties the day of the election.

Grassroots International is in solidary with our partners in Honduras defending their rights and working tirelessly for justice in their homeland.

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Preliminary Report of the Delegation of Honduras Solidarity Network regarding the Honduran Elections of 2013
November 26, 2013
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

This report is a preliminary summary of observations based on the accounts from the US-based Honduras Solidarity Network / Alliance for Global Justice election observation delegation. The HSN/AGJ delegation was comprised of 166 International Accompaniers accredited and trained through the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Our election observation delegates were organized into two zones, one in Tegucigalpa and one in the North with a presence in Progreso, Copan, Colon, Ocotopeque,  Lempira, and Santa Barbara.  This is our initial public statement regarding the work in the northern zone where we observed at least 100 voting tables (MER).

Our goal was to accompany the people of Honduras in their electoral process as they seek social justice in their country. We have been clear that our limited presence – and the presence of election observers in general – cannot guarantee that a fair election would be held. The elections took place within a context where international and Honduran human rights groups have expressed alarm at conditions that could prevent the possibility of fair and free elections. We are concerned by the violence and harassment against the political opposition, human rights defenders, small farmers and indigenous communities.

First of all, without exception, our delegates observed a grand number of Hondurans going to the polls and participating in good faith in the electoral process. In many polling places, workers from all parties cooperated in a peaceful and orderly casting of ballots. It was reassuring to witness the level of commitment to the election as an expression of the popular will. However, this heartening manifestation of Honduras’s possibilities was overshadowed by violence, intimidation and outright fraud, all of which went almost completely unreported in the Honduran and international media. Despite the public availability of this information early on Election Day, we are left baffled by the deafening silence of international observer groups and also the U.S. Embassy regarding the following events and their obvious and explicit impacts upon the electoral results.

1. Vote buying – Many of our delegates were simply shocked to see party representatives overtly reward voting Hondurans with cash amounts between L100-L500. This practice was so wide spread that we were able to document it in a half dozen forms. The most common form witnessed, however, was taking a photo of one’s own ballot and presumably sending it, or showing it to the responsible party official. More than a couple voters failed to turn off their camera flashes and drew undue attention to themselves while in the voting booth.

2. We observed that MERs tables were often comprised of people from different parties than the one they represented on the MMERs. In one occasion, at table #15261, MMERs members voted to disqualify another member because she publicly announced that she would vote for a candidate different from the party she was representing at the MMER. As of the writing of this report, the Acta for table #15261 still remains to be entered in the TSE count.

3. Violent Acts and Intimidation

  • On the eve of the election, Maria Amparo Pineda Eduarte and Julio Ramon Araujo Maradiaga from Cantarranas, Francisco Morazan were ambushed by masked gunmen as they returned from an electoral worker training. Both had reported to police that they had received repeated death threats, but these were consistently unattended.
  • In the city of Lempira in the department of Gracias a Dios, five people were killed, the media calling it narco-trafficking violence. This violence happened in the morning of Election Day. The authorities closed the polling station thereafter, largely disrupting the people’s access to polls.
  • Our delegates received testimony from two poll workers outside a polling station in Santa Rosa who were assaulted and their MMERs credentials were stolen.
  • 50 MER workers were held captive by armed, masked men in a hotel in Paraiso, Copan until 9:00AM, ostensibly with the goal of preventing their integration into the MMERs tables. Our observers recorded first person interviews with two of these workers. In the middle of the interview, the workers received an anonymous phone call saying, “You’re still in town? You better leave.”

4.    State intimidation of Election Observers/Accompaniers

  • During the week before the election, a group of our delegates was temporarily blocked from visiting a group of campesinos who have been the victims of extreme political violence and repression in their opposition to the Agua Zarca Project. HSN/AGJ delegates were ominously told by a group of employees from the DESA Corporation that if they passed the road block, they would “never leave” the area. Unimpeded by these threats, delegates nervously continued on foot to their destination, where they spent the night.
  • Our delegations in Progreso were subjected to a raid by Honduran immigration agents when we had just been given a official electoral observation training by TSE Trainers. During the raid, our delegates were subjected to harassment and some were threatened with deportation. The raid not only sent a shock through our delegate corps, but also delayed our schedule so that we were forced to skip important aspects of our training schedule.
  • We were not the only delegation to suffer this type of repressive action. Groups from Germany, El Salvador, Brazil also reported harassment by immigration agents, despite having been accredited by the TSE, and their immigration papers in order.

The aforementioned observations made by HSN delegates were made in good faith by people who voluntarily served as witnesses to the entire electoral process.  Given the extensive list of threats and violence before and during the election, and given the hourly revelations of discrepancies in the data on the vote tallies (Acts), and considering the fact that 20% of the votes are held by the TSE, the Honduras Solidarity Network cannot and will not in good conscience join in the rubber stamp endorsement of the results as they have been announced by the TSE.

We continue to stand with the Honduran people in defense of their human rights and of their struggle to build a Honduras that provides a better life for everyone.