Saturday, 5 December 2009

Election officials revise down participation rate

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) - – Election officials in Honduras on Friday revised down the participation rate in controversial weekend elections from more than 60 percent to 49 percent.

Conservative Porfirio Lobo claimed a solid victory in Sunday's polls for a successor to ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

De facto leaders hoped the elections would turn a page on the June 28 coup.

The United States and European Union recognized the polls as a first step forward out of the five-month crisis, but the vote split the Americas, with Brazil leading claims that they would whitewash the coup.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) posted figures of 49 percent participation after two thirds of votes were counted, down from 62 percent given initially on Sunday.

The tribunal has 30 days to give final results for the general elections in which 4.6 million Hondurans were eligible to vote.

The impoverished Central American nation remains in limbo, with a de facto leader -- Roberto Micheletti -- in charge, while Zelaya is holed up in the Brazilian embassy, where he has been under threat of arrest since returning in September.

Honduran MPs vote for the coup

Honduran legislators have voted to uphold central America's first military-led coup in 20 years.

Some 111 members of the 128-member congress rejected the reinstatement of ousted President Manuel Zelaya, with only 14 members voting in favour following a seven-hour debate.

Right-wing MPs argued that they were right the first time when they voted to oust Mr Zelaya.

They maintained that he had ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum on whether to convene a constituent assembly to consider modernising the country's constitution.

That vote was held hours after soldiers had stormed into Mr Zelaya's residence in June and flew him into exile in his pyjamas.

Progressive MPs expressed outrage after Wednesday's vote.

Democratic Unification Party (DUP) MP Cesar Ham asked: "How can we call this a constitutional succession when the president's residence was shot at and he was taken from his home in pyjamas?

"This is embarrassing. He was assaulted, kidnapped and ousted by force of arms from the presidency," Mr Ham observed.

Fellow DUP MP Marvin Ponce warned that there was no chance of ending the constitutional crisis triggered by the coup unless Mr Zelaya was reinstated, saying that, until then, "we will be talking about a fictitious reconciliation."

While legislators debated, hundreds of Mr Zelaya's supporters protested behind police lines outside Congress.

The country's constitutional premier, who listened to the proceedings from his refuge in the Brazilian embassy, said even before the vote that he wouldn't return for a token two months if asked.

Mr Zelaya observed that he should have been reinstated before Sunday's presidential election and urged governments not to restore ties with the incoming administration of right-wing rancher Porfirio Lobo.

"Today, the MPs at the service of the dominant classes ratified the coup d'etat in Honduras," he declared.

"MPs with inadequate international backing are condemning Honduras to exist outside the rule of law, to keep afflicting the large impoverished majority," he warned.

Most countries in the Americas have indicated that they will not recognise Mr Lobo's new government and insist on Mr Zelaya's immediate restoration to the presidency.

But the US, Canada, Peru, Costa Rica, and Panama have decided to recognise the outcome of the election.

From Morning Star on Thursday 03 December 2009

Friday, 4 December 2009

Tragedy of Honduras appears lost in news

Albor Ruiz writes in the New York Daily News (December 3, 2009)

Lost in the wake of President Obama's dramatic announcement to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan is the tragedy of Honduras.

The tiny Central American country, one of the poorest in the hemisphere, had its democracy trampled on June 28 by a military coup. Legitimately elected President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped at gunpoint, forcibly expelled from his country and replaced with Roberto Micheletti, who had tried and failed three times before to become president.

Zelaya urges region to reject vote

Legitimate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya sent a letter to Latin American leaders on Tuesday urging them to reject elections held under the coup-installed government and help restore him to power.

"I ask you not to recognize the electoral fraud and for your cooperation so that this coup d'etat does not remain unpunished," he said in a letter released from the Brazilian Embassy, where he is holed up under threat of arrest.

In the run up to the elections the United States has stated that it would recognise the elections and has given the strong impression it continues with this position. In contrast, most Latin American countries, led by Brazil, say they won't recognize a coup-backed government that resulted from the elections. In addition to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, El Salvador, and Venezuela have expressed their rejection of the elections. Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia and Panama have indicated that they will recognise the elections.

Colin Burgon MP welcomes Government description of Honduras election as not valid – Calls for non–recognition of Honduras government.

Colin Burgon MP has welcomed the comments by Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant that the Honduran elections held on Sunday could not be “valid” as they did not take place under elected President Manuel Zelaya.  He called on the government to not recognise the Honduras government.

In a House of Commons debate on Tuesday 1 December, Foreign and Commonwealth Minister Chris Bryant MP said:

“We made it clear before the elections that we believed that President Zelaya should not have been removed from power, and that if the elections were to be valid, they had to be engaged in under President Zelaya. “

Mr Bryant also added that “Without his return before the end of his term, which is at the end of January, it will be impossible to believe that those were proper elections. However, we recognise and welcome the fact that the elections that did take place did so in a peaceful situation.”

In response Colin Burgon MP said:

“The government is totally correct when it says that these elections can not be valid. They took place against a backdrop of brutal repression that has seen at least 20 people killed, more than 600 people wounded and beaten and 3500 people detained since June.”

He added: “Most Latin American countries, led by Brazil, say they won't recognize a coup-backed government. I encourage the British government to do the same.”

Regarding reports from Honduras of repression that took place around the election, Mr Burgon said:

“These elections were neither free nor fair. Many thousands of soldiers were deployed across Honduras to oversee the election and an official State of Emergency was enacted. The UN, the Organisation of American States and the US-based Carter Centre did not send observers to the Honduras election. In the run up to the election Amnesty International denounced the atmosphere of intimidation and election day itself was marred by reports of police violence and intimidation”.

Chris Bryant’s statement was made on 1 December and can be found here:

Voting figures not to be released for weeks

The exact turnout in Sunday's vote is still not known, with the country's electoral tribunal saying official figures may not be available for weeks!

The Electoral authorities claimed 62 percent of eligible voters participated. However at least one independent monitoring group also reported a turnout rate much lower than the official one. Hagamos Democracia, the local partner of the U.S. National Democratic Institute, said its count of 1,000 polling stations put turnout at about 48 percent. Hagamos Democracia's count had a low margin of error and successfully projected the vote's outcome: 56 percent for Lobo and 38 percent for Santos.

Amnesty International on the elections

In two separate statements around last week's elections Amnesty International (AI) denounced an atmosphere of intimidation in the run-up to election day and on voting day itself.

Javier Zuñiga, the head of the Amnesty International delegation in Honduras said basic voting guarantees were not being respected. 'Rights like the right to communicate and receive information, which are fundamental for an electoral process so that people have a perspective on what is happening, are constantly suffering limitations”.

On election day, referring to reports of police violence and intimidation, he added: "Justice seems to have been absent also on election day in Honduras".

EU does not regard Honduran elections as "normal"

Madrid (DPA) - The European Union does not regard this week's elections in Honduras as 'normal' - but wants to find 'a political solution' for the crisis in the Central American country, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said Thursday.

Moratinos, whose country will take over the rotating EU presidency on January 1, said the EU had agreed on the basis for a common position on Honduras which will be finalized by foreign ministers in Brussels next week.

'A consensus has already been reached on a declaration in the sense that the elections proceeded peacefully, but in exceptional circumstances,' Moratinos said at a joint press conference with the EU's new foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The declaration would say that 'they were not normal elections, but with a will to seek a political solution in the future,' Moratinos said.

The EU was due to decide whether to recognize the victory of conservative candidate Porfirio Lobo.

The elections were staged by the de facto government which took power following a June 28 coup. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya called for an election boycott.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

International voices against coup elections

According to ABN news agency

The president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner described the Honduras elections as 'pseudo almost mock elections' that were “held in the framework of absolute illegality of democracy”

The same idea was conveyed by Brazilian counterpart Lula da Silva, who confirmed that his government will ignore the polls which he called a 'joke' (sp: ‘chiste’). Lula said 'Brazil will maintain its position of not recognizing the vote coordinated by a coup government, because we can not accept a coup'. 'If we do not condemn the coup, we do not know where there will be another’

Also, French President Nicolas Sarkozyis reported as saying that the elections "have not taken place within the constitutional order" and advocated a process of 'national reconciliation' as the 'only' way to give 'legitimacy' to the new authorities.

The president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, said Sunday that “these elections are not the solution” in Honduras”.

President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, said 'We will not recognize any outcome of the election, the only president of Honduras to us remains Manuel Zelaya”.

In Uruguay, President Tabare Vasquez likewise condemned the illegal elections, reiterating that his government will not recognize the elections.

Also, Nicaragua flatly rejected the fraudulent conduct of elections. The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega said that it is clear that the aim of the elections “is to legitimize the coup”. He added that ALBA group of countries does not recognize the results of that spurious process.

The Bolivian Government Minister Alfredo Rada confirmed that the Evo Morales government will not recognize the new president of Honduras. 'We confirm that Bolivia does not recognize either the government or the electoral process held under the military boot, "said Rada.

The Republic of Ecuador reiterated on Sunday, through a statement from the Foreign Ministry: 'The government of Ecuador will not recognize the elections in Honduras' Foreign Ministry said, adding that "these elections are quite obviously flawed and should not be recognized by the international community'.

The fraudulent elections organized on Sunday by the de facto government, were also rejected by international organizations the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Economic System Latin American and Caribbean (SELA), among others.

Latin America rejects elections in Honduras under dictatorial regime

Tegucigalpa, Nov 30. ABN.- Several Latin American countries expressed this Monday their rejection to the presidential elections that took place on Sunday in Honduras under the dictatorial regime of Roberto Micheletti. Latin American governments warned about the bad precedent this process is setting.

“This electoral farce is a new chapter of the coup,” denounced the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, and reiterated that he will not recognize any Government emerging from that election.

The Brazilian Head of State Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stated that if the election process is legitimated, it could set a serious precedent in the region, most of all in Central America, where many countries are still politically vulnerable, as informed Prensa Latina.

“Whether some countries can change their minds, Brazil will keep its position because we cannot accept a military coup dressed up as civilian, like the one in Honduras,” Lula added, in reference to the decision of four countries in the region accepting the results.

Brazil sheltered in its diplomatic building in Honduras the constitutional President of that country Manuel Zelaya, when he returned to Tegucigalpa after he was ousted by hooked military forces on June 28.

A dictatorship was imposed in Honduras, through a military coup with U.S. instigation and support, assured the Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez at the Nineteenth Ibero-American Summit, taking place in Portugal.

“To recognize the spurious Government emerging from these illegitimate elections would betray the principles of peace, democracy and justice, and this Summit should act adequately,” the Cuban foreign minister added.

The Sunday elections in Honduras were characterized by a high abstention level, which was estimated by the National Front against the Coup between 65 and 70%.

“Obviously, these elections are completely biased and should not be recognized by the international community,” said the foreign Minister of Ecuador Fander Falconi.

The elections will not put an end to the crisis created by the military coup, said Alfredo Rada, Bolivian Minister, and he added that under any circumstances Bolivia will recognize a Government emerged from a process marked by the force of the arms.

Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina also expressed their rejection to the general elections in Honduras, due to the lack of guarantees for free and transparent elections under a dictatorial regime.

Elections not observed by mainstream bodies - Amnesty reports abuse.

Unlike most elections, neither the UN, the Organisation of American States, the EU or the US-based Carter Center sent observers to the Honduras elecrion.

And Amnesty International reported:

"Justice seems to have been absent also on election day in Honduras," said Javier Zuñiga, the head of the Amnesty International delegation in Honduras. "It is essential the whereabouts of all people detained are made public and all incidents of abuse, investigated. The rule of law must fully be restored." The group urged the Honduran authorities to reveal the identities, whereabouts and charges against all people detained.

Domestic human rights groups have claimed that in the lead up to the vote, the government carried out intimidation, torture, illegal detentions and in some cases assassinations against those sections opposed to the coup regime.

Wide, the European network of women's organisations, accused the regime of engaging in "a systematic campaign of intimidation, physical and sexual abuse, and torture. Women have increasingly become target of this campaign." "Two women died of complications from tear-gas exposure; nine activist women were killed, their bodies showing evidence of torture."

Real news election day coverage

Zelaya: Honduran people don't accept electoral process as valid

TEGUCIGALPA, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said the "winner" of the presidential elections in Honduras on Sunday is the abstention of the people.

    In an interview with local radio station "Radio Globo," Zelaya said the abstention was as high as 65 percent according to his information resources.

    "The Honduran people did not accept the electoral process as valid. They did not feel it belonged to them," Zelaya said.

    "Today we defeated (de facto leader) Micheletti at the voting ballots, we defeated the violence at the voting ballots," he added.

    Referring to the fact that the candidate of the opposition National Party Porfirio Lobo won the elections, Zelaya said he would give a statement once he got the official results.

    According to Rafael Alegria, the coordinator of the Resistance against the Coup, the winner is the mass movement supporting ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

    "The people answered the call of the Resistance to defeat the coup," Alegria said, adding that "we salute all the Honduran people, all the Resistance, tomorrow (Monday) we will continue with a people's assembly to make a caravan," Alegria said.

    "We are very happy with the answer of the people. We are in a good path and for a real power of Resistance as a great movement of the country," he said.

International opposition to coup elections

The Xinhuanet new agency reports that
Many countries, especially those in Latin America, refuse to recognize the new government and insist on Zelaya's immediate restoration to the presidency.Others, however, including the United States, Canada, Peru, Costa Rica, and Panama, have decided to recognize the outcome of the election so as long as the process proves to have been clean and transparent.
It gives statements by those who have come out against the elections:
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Monday in Estoril that his government would not recognize the results of the voting and would not "reconsider" its negative stance on Honduras' general elections. Zelaya has been staying in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since returning to Honduras in late September.
    Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Mortatinos sided with Brazil, saying that Spain neither recognizes the elections nor "ignores them."
    Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez urged the Ibero-American countries (Latin America, Portugal, Spain and Andorra) to not recognize Honduras' "illegitimate government.""To recognize the illegitimate result of these illegal elections would be a betrayal to the principles of peace, democracy and justice," Rodriguez said.
    Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taina said "the elections cannot be valid if they are hosted without President Zelaya being restored to power."
    Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the elections in Honduras should not imply the validity of the coup because "it will set a grave precedent and bring a series of threats for Latin America."
    Bolivian Foreign Minister Alfredo Rada said his country would not recognize the new president of Honduras or the electoral process.
    Meanwhile, the presidents of Nicaragua, Uruguay and Guatemala also expressed their opposition to the election and the legitimacy of the new government.
In contrast, in a bizarre statement, 

   U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Sunday that the turnout "shows that given the opportunity to express themselves, the Honduran people have viewed the election as an important part of the solution to the political crisis in their country,"
It also quotes Colombian President Alvaro Uribe saying: 
"Colombia recognizes the new government, and the new democratic election process in Honduras of high participation, which cannot be questioned."
And that: 

   The Costa Rican government hailed the election outcome as "the decision of the Honduran people of seeking an exit to the crisis by a pacific and civic route." Juan Carlos Varela, the vice president and foreign minister of Panama, said in Estoril that his government recognized the legitimacy of the election and considers "it is a very important step to overcome the crisis."Canada and Peru also said they recognize the outcome of Sunday's elections.

Honduran Elections Marred by Police Violence, Censorship, International Non-Recognition,

This article by US think-tank Center for Economic and Policy Research gives a good overview of how Honduras' elections were neither free nor fair.

Washington, D.C. - Elections conducted in a climate of fear, human rights violations, and international non-recognition won't resolve the political crisis in Honduras, said Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

"Only a few governments that the U.S. State Department can heavily influence will recognize these elections," said Weisbrot. "The rest of the world recognizes that you cannot carry out free or fair elections under a dictatorship that has overthrown the elected President by force and used violence, repression, and media censorship against political opponents for the entire campaign period leading up the vote, including election day."

In Tegucigalpa, the Washington-based human rights organization Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) noted: "On election day, November 29, there were a number of incidents that confirmed the climate of repression in which the electoral process took place, which represented the consolidation of the coup d'etat of June 28th."

CEJIL described "a climate of harassment, violence, and violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly" on election day, and called for the release of people arrested by security forces.

Amnesty International issued a press release noting that authorities detained various individuals under a decree prohibiting gatherings of more than four people, some of whom have been charged with terrorism, and called for the identities and whereabouts of those detained to be revealed. "Justice seems to have been absent also on Election Day in Honduras," Javier Zuñiga, head of an Amnesty International delegation in Honduras, said. "It is therefore essential the whereabouts of all people detained are made public and all incidents of abuse, investigated. The rule of law must fully be restored."

The election day was marred by reports of police violence and intimidation, including a crackdown on a peaceful march in San Pedro Sula where marchers were tear-gassed, beaten, and detained. Authorities also shot a man in the head at a checkpoint on the eve of the elections, and raided the offices and homes of various civil society groups, including a Quaker agricultural cooperative. Opposition broadcasters had their signals jammed, and the authorities threatened criminal charges for anyone advocating a boycott of the election.

Weisbrot noted that the elected President, Manuel Zelaya, still had nearly two months left in his term, and called for his restoration along with a democratic government that could hold free and fair elections. He noted that all of the major organizations that observe international elections, including the Organization of American States, European Union, and the Carter Center, had refused to send observer delegations to this election.

"First, you need to restore democracy, human rights, and civil liberties, which were violated throughout the campaign period," Weisbrot said. "Then there can be a legitimate election with official international observer delegations. You can't have free elections under a dictatorship."

The level of voter turnout appears to be in dispute; it clearly was lower than in past elections, but there are no reliable numbers available yet. The Washington Post and leading Honduran newspaper El Tiempo reported that while Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal cites a figure of 61. 86 percent voter participation, the independent group Fundación Hagamos Democracia stated that the number of voters was much lower - only 47.6 percent.

"Clearly the allegations made by the U.S. State Department regarding voter turnout have no factual basis," Weisbrot said, noting that the State Department claimed that "turnout appears to have exceeded that of the last presidential election."