This morning’s focus is yesterday’s vote in Honduras. Given the variety of reports on the matter, I’ll be breaking up today’s news by subject.
Conservative businessman Porfirio Lobo (National Party) has been declared the winner of Sunday’s disputed presidential election in Honduras. As the New York Times reports this morning, the Electoral Tribunal (TSE) said late Sunday that Mr. Lobo had secured approx. 52% of the national vote, some 16 percentage points ahead of his nearest rival, Elvin Santos (Liberal Party). In 2005, Mr. Lobo was defeated by Manuel Zelaya in his bid for the presidency.
The Washington Post calls the environment of Sunday’s vote “mostly peaceful,” and puts Mr. Lobo’s unofficial share of the vote at somewhere between 50 and 55%.
The Miami Herald also calls election day “largely peaceful” and highlights the fact that the apparent winner of Sunday’s election, Mr. Lobo, is a Univ. of Miami graduate (class of 1970). Further, Lobo tells the Herald, that: “We need dialogue that's broad, with all sectors represented. It's the only way. Staying in conflict doesn't help,'' adding such a discussion is “for Jan. 27 forward.”
In Bloomberg’s reporting, Heather Berkman, of the Eurasia Group in New York says, “There was no violence, the vote was peaceful, people weren’t intimidated and now Lobo can move ahead. Honduras is definitely getting toward the end of the crisis.” Kevin Casas-Zamora of the Brookings Institution adds: “the U.S. shift toward backing the election will create a ‘domino’ effect in the region, with other countries slowly accepting the ballot. ‘The key relationship that Honduras has to nurture and protect is with the U.S. As long as the U.S. is on board, they’re fine.’”
Voter Turnout / Abstention
The Washington Post reports that turnout was 47.6%, “several points less than in 2005.” In addition, the paper writes that initial figures show approx. 6% of ballots were intentionally nullified or cast blank. The Post also notes noticeable differences in turnout between traditionally middle class/wealthy neighborhoods vs. poor neighborhoods in and around Tegucigalpa.
RAJ at Honduras Coup 2009 reports that TSE officials said at 10pm last night that turnout was 48.6% which would lead to a projected total turnout of 2.3 million voters.
Other reports in the country, including from the Hagamos-NDI, agree, putting turnout at approx. 48%.
Bloomberg, also quoting a TSE official (at what time, we do not know), reports the turnout at 62%. But those in-country emphasize this is not in any way an official figure.
The Wall Street Journal’s turnout numbers are also just above 60% (61% they report). The paper the spins the numbers against Mr. Zelaya: “The turnout was a loss for Mr. Zelaya, who had urged supporters to boycott the election.”
Human Rights Violations
Both the Post and Times mention what appears to have been the most significant use of force against anti-coup groups Sunday in San Pedro Sula. As the Post writes: “human rights groups protested after police and military launched tear gas and water cannons at a peaceful pro-Zelaya demonstration of about 500 people in the northern city of San Pedro Sula.” The Herald adds that a reporter for Reuters was injured in the protests. And the WSJ highlights Tom Loudon of the Quixote Center, one of the 500 or so protestors dispersed by water cannons and tear gas. The Quixote Center has reports (here and here) on the San Pedro Sula march which was broken up:
“A peaceful march of over 500 people was just culminating at the Central Park of San Pedro Sula when a large armored tank with high pressure water cannons mounted on the top pulled up at the rear of the march - along with a large truck full of military troops. The 500 peaceful, unarmed protesters turned around to face the tank and troops - and in unison, they sat down in the middle of the street. The truck retreated 2 blocks. The soliders got off the truck , and began to put on gas masks. Everything went silent - and suddenly the crowd was attacked with water cannons and gas. People are fleeing. There are wounded and detained. The QC Delegation is fleeing the scene at this moment and will send reports.”
There were also reports that security forces raided the offices of COMAL (Alternative Community Marketing Network), a coalition of small-farming and women’s organizations (started by the American Friends Service Committee), based in Siguatepeque, Comayagua on Saturday. Laura Carlsen of CIP’s Americas Policy Program has a letter on the raid from COMAL here. And the Quixote Center writes the following:
“According to one of the 12 soldiers who was guarding the entrance to the nearby School for Solidarity Economy, a project of the Red Comal, there was in fact a warrant issued to search for and confiscate any firearms or articles which would threaten people. Apparently the protest banners, notes from workshops on the impacts of the coup on the communities with which the Red works, several hundred dollars, and laptop computers fall into one of those two categories, since these articles and more were confiscated by the 50 or so police and additional military and prosecutors who came to conduct the search and seizure.”
Amnesty International’s most recent release on human rights abuses around the vote Sunday says the organization is:
“Deeply worried about the safety of victims of and witnesses to a shooting at a military blockade that took place in Tegucigalpa last night. The organization called on the Human Rights Prosecutor to urgently investigate the incident. According to eye witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International, last night, four men were on their way back home when they saw a military blockade moved from its normal position, close to the Estado Mayor (military compound). They were not given any indication to stop or request to slow down so they drove past.”
The Herald also notes that COFADEH human rights activist Berta Oliva says the organization documented “some 20 or 30 detentions” across the country yesterday of anti-coup protestors.
Spain’s El País writes that pro-Zelaya Canal 36 had its transmission blocked all day yesterday. On the station, viewers could only read: “Interfieren señal de Canal 36 para evitar que informemos.”
And for more reports of incidents of repression, voter intimidation, etc. Voselsoberano.com has a full listing from around the country.
The U.S., Panama, and Costa Rica have all said they will recognize the vote. Peru and Colombia have hinted that they may as well. Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias did, however, later emphasize that constitutional disputes must still be addressed after the election.
Brazil, Guatemala, Argentina, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and El Salvador said before the vote they do not plan to recognize the elections. The OAS, UN and EU (via Spain) did not send observers. Others, including Canada and Mexico, have made ambiguous statements.
Brazil’s Lula, speaking Sunday, said: “Brazil will maintain its position because it's not possible to accept a coup.”
The United States State Dept. issued the following official statement late last night:
“We commend the Honduran people for peacefully exercising their democratic right to select their leaders in an electoral process that began over a year ago, well before the June 28 coup d'etat. Turnout appears to have exceeded that of the last presidential election. This 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.
We look forward to continuing to work with all Hondurans and encourage others in the Americas to follow the lead of the Honduran people in helping advance national reconciliation and the implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord. Significant work remains to be done to restore democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, but today the Honduran people took a necessary and important step forward.”
There’s one pro-vote, anti-Zelaya/anti-Chavez opinion this morning. In the WSJ, Mary O’Grady becomes an anti-colonialist and writes:
“Unless something monumental happens in the Western Hemisphere in the next 31 days, the big regional story for 2009 will be how tiny Honduras managed to beat back the colonial aspirations of its most powerful neighbors and preserve its constitution. Yesterday's elections for president and Congress, held as scheduled and without incident, were the crowning achievement of that struggle.”
Also, see a recent piece by Rodolfo Pastor, former Minister of Culture in Honduras, and now a visiting scholar at Harvard.
In other news this morning:
· There was also a less-watched vote in Uruguay where José “Pepe” Mujica of the left leaning Frente Amplio came out victorious. The New York Times reports on the victory of the 1960s guerilla fighter—held for over a decade in solitary detention during the Uruguayan dictatorship of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. “The victory of Mr. Mujica, 74, solidified the control the Broad Front has assumed over Uruguayan politics since the current president, Tabaré Vázquez, was elected. Mr. Vázquez pursued a pragmatic path of reforms with socialist and market-friendly elements that lowered unemployment and poverty while generating confidence among investors.”