publicidad
El candidato presidencial opositor Salvador Nasralla está llamando a más protestas. Las pérdidas económicas se calculan en 63 millones de dólares, según la Cámara de Seguros hondureña.

Post-election turmoil in Honduras a throw-back to 'Banana Republic' days

Post-election turmoil in Honduras a throw-back to 'Banana Republic' days

Three weeks after a botched election, street protests and allegations of fraud have heaped doubt on any chance of a credible result from the Nov 26 election. Long term instability could lead to a surge in migration, analysts warn.

El candidato presidencial opositor Salvador Nasralla está llamando a más...
El candidato presidencial opositor Salvador Nasralla está llamando a más protestas. Las pérdidas económicas se calculan en 63 millones de dólares, según la Cámara de Seguros hondureña.

Lea esta historia en español

Three weeks after a botched presidential election Honduras appears to be in danger of reverting back to its century-old image as the original 'banana republic,' in which a U.S.-backed caudillo rides roughshod over democracy and the United States turns a blind eye.

At least that is the dangerous perception that is growing on the streets of Honduras, according to political analysts.

"There is a very anti-U.S. state of mind over the double standard that many people see in the U.S. conduct," said Victor Meza, a political analyst and director of the Honduras Documentation Center (CEDOH), who compared docile U.S. policy in Honduras to its strong denunciation of leftist leaders in the region.

On Sunday, President Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner of the Nov. 26 election by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), amid the opposition’s allegations of vote fraud. According to the court’s official count, Hernandez won with 42.95 percent to 41.42 for runner-up Salvador Nasralla, who challenged the result and said he would not recognize it.

The U.S. State Department has made little comment about the election turmoil, raising speculation that its close ties with Hernández, a key U.S. ally in regional security and immigration policy, was influencing its silence.

Protests since the election have resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people and 1,675 arrests, according to the country's human rights commission.

In photos: Police clash with the opposition protesters over disputed election in Honduras

In a tragic twist to the political crisis, Hernández' sister, and key adviser was killed Saturday in a helicopter accident. Hilda Hernández, served in the government as Communications Minister, and her death could cause a temporary lull in the protests.

But after Sunday's announcement of the result the opposition called for nationwide protests and Nasralla flew to Washington to meet with the State Department and the Organization of American States.

A desperately poor country with a population just under 10 million, Honduras is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid in Latin America, in large part due to deep-rooted gang violence and drug trafficking that has sparked mass migration to the United States.

Critics point to the inept handling of the crisis by the State Department. Last weekend, the deputy chief at the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa, Heide Fulton, appeared at a press conference next to the president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, David Matamoros, a close ally of Hernández and the target of harsh criticism for his handling of the election.

publicidad

Saying she was there "to observe this important process," her presence only fueled concerns about the U.S. role in Honduras. Fulton spoke of the importance of reaching a "credible and transparent" conclusion to the election "that reflects the will of the Honduran people."

But, her seemingly impartial words were not enough to alter the awkward optics of a senior U.S. official appearing at the side of one of the country's least trusted figures.

Perception problem

“There is a problem of perception. The Honduran people believe the Trump administration supports President Hernández, when, in fact, we should support a free and fair process, not a particular candidate," U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, one of Congress' most influential voices on foreign policy, told Univision before Sunday's results were announced.

The veteran Democrat from Vermont who is Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted "there are half a dozen elections planned in Latin America next year (including Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia) and it’s important for the United States to get this right, given our history of meddling in that part of the world."

In what critics say was another blunder, two days after the election the State Department approved the Hernández government for future U.S. funding, certifying that it was meeting human rights conditions, and making efforts to improve transparency and tackle corruption.

“I don’t believe that our country is trying to manipulate the vote tally. But sometimes perception is as important as reality," said Leahy, who called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to spell out the U.S. position.

"He should make an unequivocal statement that we do not favor any candidate, and that we will not support the outcome unless it is recognized and accepted by international observers as the result of a fair and transparent process. Otherwise, the perception will be that the United States did not do what we should have done, the Honduran people will remain deeply divided, and the country will face a very difficult future,” he said.

The original 'banana republic'

As Leahy highlighted, U.S. history in the region is tainted by support for repressive, right-wing regimes.

The term 'banana republic' dates back to early last century and was coined by a witty American author O. Henry who visited Honduras and observed the enormous influence of multinational American fruit corporations such as the United Fruit Company.

In 1911, Alabama businessman Sam 'the Banana Man' Zemurray conspired to overthrow the government of Honduras and install a military government friendly to U.S. fruit exporters.

Portrait of Russian-born American business executive Sam 'The Banana...
Portrait of Russian-born American business executive Sam 'The Banana Man' Zemurray (born Schmuel Zmurri, 1877 - 1961), head of the United Fruit Company, as he stands in front of stacks of bananas, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1951.

Decades later, in 1975, another U.S. fruit company owner, Eli Black, was implicated in a $2.5 million bribe to the Honduran president Oswaldo López Arellano to reduce taxes on banana exports. Black famously jumped to his death from the 44th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper.

In the 1980s the Central American nation was dubbed 'USS Honduras' due to the large presence of CIA agents and U.S. military advisers involved in the covert Contra war against the leftwing Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. At the time, the U.S. was also deeply involved in civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as the emergence of military strongman Manuel Noriega in Panama.

The Central American nations signed a historic peace accord in Guatemala in 1987, defying pressure from the administration of Ronald Reagan which wanted more concessions from the Sandinistas. It earned Costa Rican president Oscar Arias the Nobel Peace prize.

publicidad

But peace turned into a new nightmare as the region was engulfed by street gangs, or 'maras'; the product of extreme poverty and state neglect, but also fueled by the deportation of gang members from U.S. jails.

By 2014 Honduras had the world's highest murder rate.

"Uncomfortable ally"

In recent years, Honduran poverty and violence has led to mass migration as tens of thousands of Hondurans sought refuge in the United States, many of them unaccompanied minors.

As a result, the U.S. has worked closely with Hernández to try and restore order providing increased security assistance, especially for police training. In the process Hernández held frequent meetings with John Kelly, then the commander of United States Southern Command and now President Trump’s chief of staff.

Kelly became such a frequent visitor he was quoted in the Honduran media in 2015 as saying that he felt like "a Honduran citizen." ("Me siento como un ciudadano mas, como vengo con frecuencia a este pais.")

Hernández is also known to brag of his special relationship with the United States, especially his friendship with Kelly.

Secretario Kelly y Juan Orlando Hernández
Secretario Kelly y Juan Orlando Hernández

A press release after a March 2017 meeting between Hernández and then Homeland Security chief Kelly, noted that "both leaders emphasized the close relationship between DHS and the Government of Honduras and expressed enthusiasm for their shared partnership going forward."

"Hernández has been a very pliant ally in U.S regional security strategy, so he is seen favorably by the United States," said Meza, the Honduran analyst. "But at the same time, he is an uncomfortable ally."

U.S. officials credit the Honduran government with reducing violence thanks in large part to U.S. funding for police training. In June, Kelly went as far as calling the progress of Honduras and its neighbors, "a miracle."

But analysts are concerned by pervasive drug corruption and its influence over Honduran politics. In September, the son of former president, Porfirio Lobo, was sentenced to 24-years in U.S. prison for conspiring to import cocaine.

publicidad

On Friday, Yani Rosenthal, a prominent politician from one of the most powerful banking families in the country, was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a U.S. drug money laundering charge. His cousin, Yankel Rosenthal, a former minister of investment in the Hernández government, is also charged in the same case.

Hernández' brother, Honduran legislator and attorney Antonio Hernández, has also been accused in U.S. court documents of taking bribes from a drug trafficker.

Relacionado
Excapitán Santos Rodríguez Orellana en entrevista con Univision.
From hero to villain: the saga of a Honduran army captain caught in a drug war
A helicopter allegedly tied to the president's brother, a plot to kill the U.S. ambassador and a charge of torture are part of Capt. Santos Rodriguez's story.

Critics point to the manner in which Hernández stacked the Supreme Court in order to pass a reform allowing him to seek re-election, previously banned in Honduras due to its history of power grabbing caudillos.

Most observers say the U.S. would clearly prefer to have Hernández rather than Nasralla, a left-leaning populist businessman with little political experience.

"The problem is that the open support of the U.S. embassy was so clumsy, so obscene," according to Carlos Dada, the award winning director of El Faro, a news website in neighboring El Salvador, who covered the Honduran election.

In an interview for Dada questioned the role of Matamoros at the electoral tribunal, and his ties to Hernández. "Either we are looking at Olympic incompetence by the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), or fraud," he said.

publicidad

Fraud allegations

The election turmoil stems from the bizarre vote-counting process which initially had Nasralla leading by 5% with 57% of the ballots counted, before a sudden halt due to an alleged computer malfunction. The count was suspended for a day and a half. When it restarted Hernández was mysteriously ahead.

Observers from the Organization of American States (OAS) refused to sign off on the election, saying it was "marred by irregularities."

One of the four members of the TSE has since accused Matamoros of unilaterally halting the count without consulting the other members. In an interview with El Faro, TSE member Marco Ramiro Lobo, said Matamoros spoke by phone with Hernandez on the night of the election and resisted publishing early results showing Nasralla ahead by 5%.

Matamoras argued that that it was still too early to indicate which way the vote was going, even though 57% of ballots had been counted.

Only after the OAS observers intervened were the results made public. Not long after, the computer system went down. "I have doubts that it was an accident or it was on purpose. That's why we need an investigation," Lobo told El Faro.

Lobo also expressed his doubt that the vote count had any remaining credibility. "It’s going to be difficult .... At this point, any result will be complicated regardless of the explanations we give. Doubts are going to persist," he said.

Matamoros has denied any skullduggery, saying that a memory system overload caused the computer system to be shut down.

publicidad

Uncertain future

Hopes remain that an election observers from the OAS and the European Union can help negotiate a resolution of the crisis, that could entail new elections, but Honduras lacks the cash for a new vote.

"That's the big question right now. Will the international community resolve this is a way that Hondurans feel was a fair process," said Adriana Beltrán, with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

Analysts warn that if the international community accepts Hernández as the winner in a less than transparent fashion, continued instability is almost inevitable as well as another wave of migration north.

Opposition protests are being promoted on social media with the English hashtag #IDontWantToLeaveMyCountry.

Migration remains a major U.S. concern. The number of illegal immigrants detained along the U.S. border with Mexico saw its biggest surge in a year last month, according to the latest official data released Friday.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data shows 39,006 people were detained while attempting to cross the border in November, an increase of 12 percent from the previous month and more than double the number of arrests in March and April.

The vast majority were from Central America.

Relacionado
Migrants cross the Suchiate River that divides Mexico and Guatemala.
Rise in U.S. immigrants from Central America outpaces rest, study finds
The number of U.S. Mexican immigrants decreased by 6%, from 2007 to 2015, according to a new survey of U.S. Census data by the Pew Research Center. Overall, the total U.S. immigrant population increased by 10% during those years.
In photos: Police clash with the opposition protesters over disputed election in Honduras
publicidad
publicidad
The Colombian soldier Mauricio Calvo shares his experience as part of a burgeoning industry of men who travel the world to fight in other people's wars.
They grew up in Chicago and their husbands, the Flores twins (aka ‘Los Mellizos’), worked for the Sinaloa cartel. The twins later became DEA informants in Mexico who helped bring down El Chapo Guzman. They have written a book, Cartel Wives, telling their story as a lesson to others not to fall for the narco life, and they regret what they put their families through. "Our fathers put on their suit of armor and their badge, and they are going out there on the streets of Chicago,” Mia confesses. “It’s the very same streets that our husbands were flooding with drugs.”
Nelson Denis, author of 'War Against All Puerto Ricans,' details how the commonwealth's 119-year-long association with the U.S. has produced total economic and governing dependence. With over $70 billion in crushing debt, Puerto Rico's governor turned to the courts on Wednesday to put certain debts before a federal bankruptcy court.
We traveled to Ciudad Juárez to see if hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Mexican maquiladora industry would return to the United States if Trump were to modify or abandon the NAFTA free trade agreement, as his government is considering. A border tax would have serious consequences in Mexican cities.
A wave of demonstrations in Venezuela has left several dead and hundreds more detained in the last two weeks. Univision reporter Tamoa Calzadilla explains how a democratic crisis, inflation and shortages of food and medicine have sent Venezuelans into the streets.
As the legend goes, a UFO landed in Capilla del Monte in 1986, leaving a mark on the side of the Pajarillo mountains. Since then, this Argentinian village has lived off UFO tourism. It's currently hosting its annual Alien Festival.
The announcement to scrap the benefits came as a bucket of cold water for the Cuban migrants who just arrived in the United States. As this group waits for their papers, the uncertainty grows on whether they will ever be reunited with the relatives they left on the island.
It is estimated that the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and its rival Barrio 18 gang together have about 40,000 members in the United States. And at least another 100,000 in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and Italy. How did the gangs come to be among the world's best known criminal organizations?
A group of Argentines diagnosed with mental illness set up a radio station from where they broadcast their experiences
How Fidel Castro's plan to save Cuban baseball unraveled. The once mighty amateur baseball champions have lost much of their talent in recent years to U.S. Major League Baseball. Now the Cuban government is in discussions with MLB to stop the desertions. But will a Trump presidency make that more difficult?
A half-century of armed conflict has left behind 8 million victims in Colombia. It has also affected the country's unique natural resources. We explore the war’s impact on Colombia’s environment.
Forty three students in Mexico were abducted two years ago, and to this day, none have ever been found. When his son Jorge disappeared, New York City plumber Antonio Tizapa began to run marathons, not to win, but to send a message at the end of each race: he won’t stop until he finds his son or the truth about what really happened on that shameful day. On Sunday, Antonio and 20 friends will be running the New York City Marathon.
The evidence against El Chapo: undercover recordings, intercepted communications, protected witnesses’ declarations, drug seizures, and a confession. As U.S. prosecutors prepare their case against the world's most feared drug trafficker, this is what the government's case is built around.
Six months after the U.S. president visited the island, Cubans are divided over his impact. A government reform program is on hold as anxious residents pray for a tourist invasion.
Cubans seeking to flee the island are taking to rustic, homemade boats in increasing numbers since the U.S. and Cuba agreed to normalize relations 18 months ago.
La Tropical beer was popular in Cuba before the 1959 Revolution, but the factory was nationalized and the brewery later closed.
Laura - ‘Estoy harta de alcahuetear las infidelidades de mi madre’
Mi madre engaña a mi padre con otro hombre, mi hermana la ha apoyado porque su amante nos da dinero. Mi madre provocó que todos los negocios de mi papá se fueran a la quiebra y tuvo que irse a trabajar lejos de nosotras.
"Debió haber entrado, identificar al tirador y matarlo": Alguacil de Florida reprocha a policía que custodiaba la escuela en Parkland
Los alumnos sobrevivientes del tiroteo dicen que el agente puso su vida por delante de la de los estudiantes. El presidente Trump también calificó a este oficial como un cobarde.
"Se sentía una estrella famosa": Ana Patricia contó que Giulietta quería modelar sola frente a la cámara 360
La pequeña hija de Ana Patricia se robó la noche de Premio Lo Nuestro y lució como toda una estrella. Giulietta acompañó a su mamá a desfilar por la alfombra magenta, y la conductora reveló lo mucho que la disfrutaron juntas.
El vestido que Selena Gomez usó en la boda del papá de Justin Bieber ya se agotó en las tiendas
Mucho furor causó el vestido que la cantante lució en la boda de Jeremy Bieber, padre de su novio Justin. Al no ser un vestido costoso, la prenda se agotó en las tiendas en línea en cuestión de minutos.
publicidad
Una niña muere y cuadras de una vecindario son evacuadas tras la explosión de una casa en Dallas
Estudiantes de la primaria Stephen C. Foster fueron desalojados por precaución. A vecinos de la zona se les ordenó evacuar luego del siniestro que mandó a cinco personas al hospital, incluyendo la niña de 12 años. La compañía de gas Atmos estaba en el lugar, señalaron los bomberos.
¿Cómo estarán las temperaturas en Nueva York durante este fin de semana?
Para este fin de semana, se espera un aumento en las temperaturas. Este sábado, las máximas estarán en 56 grados y las mínimas en 41 grados en Nueva York.
Policía investiga la muerte de una bebé de 5 meses en East Harlem
La menor, identificada como Tamiyah Davis, fue encontrada inconsciente en su apartamento, ubicado en el complejo residencial Robert F. Wagner Houses. La niña fue transportada al Hospital de Harlem, donde la declararon muerta. Según las autoridades, el padre de la niña parecía estar intoxicado.
Lo que debe saber un empleador si ICE realiza una auditoría en su compañía
La abogada de inmigración Noemí Ramírez explica que, en caso de una auditoría, el empleador debe ser notificado días antes y debe comunicarles a sus trabajadores sobre tal inspección. Si se trata de un operativo sorpresa, "en California, el empleador tiene la obligación de proteger al trabajador. Por lo tanto, no puede dejar entrar a ICE a ningún lugar privado", dice.
La suerte favorece a Guerrero y ya gana Puebla
EL ‘Chepe’ Guerrero se armó y con un remate de media distancia, que pegó en Lichnovsky, le da la ventaja a los poblanos.
¡GOOOL! Nicolás Sánchez anota para Monterrey
¡GOOOL! Nicolás Sánchez anota para Monterrey on February 23, 2018
¡Terminó el segundo tiempo!
¡Terminó el segundo tiempo! on February 23, 2018
¡GOOOL! Martín Barragán anota para Necaxa
¡GOOOL! Martín Barragán anota para Necaxa on February 23, 2018