Honduras Presidential Elections in Dispute as Activists Defy Violence to
Back Ousted Leader’s Wife
Both candidates are claiming victory in Honduras’ disputed presidential
election. The race has pitted Xiomara Castro, wife of ousted President
Manuel Zelaya, against right-wing candidate Juan Orlando Hernández.
According to election officials, with more than half of precincts
reporting, Hernández has won 34 percent of the vote, while Castro has 29
percent. Castro’s husband, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup
in 2009. The campaign has been marred by violent attacks in a country with
the highest homicide rate in the world. At least 18 members of Castro’s
Libre party were murdered in the runup to the election, more than all
other parties combined. We go to Honduras to speak with Adrienne Pine, an
assistant professor of anthropology of American University, and Edwin
Espinal, a community organizer who has survived harassment and torture by
police. “This election, I think for most Hondurans, represents the
possible overturning of the coup, finally,” Pine says. “People, in Xiomara
Castro, have seen a leader … It is impossible to overstate the amount of
hope, excitement, and organization people have been engaged in leading up
to these elections.” We also hear from Zelaya and leading Honduran human
rights activist Bertha Cáceres, who has been in hiding for two months.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Honduras where both candidates are claiming
victory in the country’s disputed presidential election. The race has
pitted Xiomara Castro, the wife of ousted President Manuel Zelaya against
right wing candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez. According to election
officials with more than half the precincts reporting Hernandez has won
34% of the vote, Castro 29%. Castro’s husband, Manuel Zelaya, was ousted
in that 2009 coup. She is running on a platform of a new party called
Libre. The campaign has been marred by violent attacks in a country with
the highest per-capita homicide rate in the world. At least five people
were killed near a polling station in the eastern part of the country
before voting began Sunday. According to the group Rights Action, at least
18 members of the Libre Party were murdered in the run-up to the election,
more than all other political parties combined. On Sunday, Castro said
results proved she was the winner.
XIOMARA CASTRO: (Translated) Right now the data that we have received
according to the exit polls we have received from the entire country and
also the count of information and ballots that we have received today, we
can clearly tell you that I am the president of Honduras.
AMY GOODMAN: The final election results are expected later today, but
Castro’s supporters are alleging widespread electoral fraud. Nearly 30,000
police and army officers were deployed to oversee polling. President of
the National Lawyers Guild was one of about 800 international observers
monitoring the vote.
AZADEH SHAHSHAHANI: Despite all of the documentation that has happened
with the human rights violations that are happening here on a daily basis
and leftists getting murdered that the U.S. government continues to
support the military here. I mean, on the way here from Atlanta we saw
scores of military people from Honduras who had just got, received
training at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning and they were just
coming back to Honduras and there is impunity for murder, for all kinds of
human rights violations and it is truly unfortunate that the law is not
being implemented in the U.S.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Pine Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American
University, currently in Honduras where she is conducting research on a
Fulbright scholarship. She is author of, “Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On
Violence and Survival in Honduras.” And we’re joined by Edwin Espinal, a
community organizer and resistance movement activist in Honduras. He has
been subjected to repeated harassment and torture the hands of police.
Espinal’s partner, Wendy Díaz, was killed — died as a result of teargas
inhalation outside the Brazilian Embassy in the violent ouster of a
resistance member following the return of President Zelaya to Honduras in
2009. Adrienne Pine, let’s begin with you. The results are not fully in
yet. At around 53%, 54% of the count, — what Honduras is saying, what the
authorities are saying is the right wing candidate Juan Hernandez has
beaten Xiomara Castro. Your response?
ADRIENNE PINE: Yes, that is the official story that we’re hearing from the
Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Amy, but it contrasts with the numbers that
are coming out of the polling places themselves, which show an
overwhelming lead for the candidate Xiomara Castro. So, there is real
concern on the streets, there’s real concern over the social networks and
we are expecting that there will probably — that these results have not
been accepted by the Libre Party and we are expecting people will probably
be going out on the streets to them protest today.
AMY GOODMAN: And Edwin Espinal, if you could talk about the significance
of this election, why it matters so much to you and what happened to your
EDWIN ESPINAL: Good morning. My partner was killed by teargas in September
23, after President Zelaya came back to the country to the Brazilian
Embassy. She was exposed to teargas for a long period of time. A couple of
days after we were evicted from the Brazilian Embassy she passed away in a
public hospital because of the excess of teargas in her respiratory
system. The thing is that the doctors at the hospital, they were trying to
cover her, the reason she died. Then they tell me she died by the flu
disease and not from teargas. They were trying to hide the real reason
that she passed away. This electoral process is very important to me and
my family because we the social movements and the community organizers, we
have been targeted by the military and the police and the government. But,
just like the [Indiscernible] organizing people in our communities to
improve our communities and educate people in our communities about the
political situation in our country.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Edwin Espinal, community organizer, and
Adrienne Pine of American University, who lives in Honduras. We’re
speaking to them in Tegucigalpa, this day after the election. I want to
turn to a leading Honduran human rights activist, Bertha Cáceres, talking
about the significance of Xiomara Castro new party. Bertha is a leader of
the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. She
has been in hiding for the past two months.
BERTHA CASERES: (Translated) The population today, those who have been in
resistance who are from the Libre Party are challenging the repressive
apparatus. With the absence of construction of real power from the
communities, but now these people are voting enthusiastically for the
Libre Party that we hope will be distinct from the other political
parties. The scenarios playing out in all regions of Honduras, in Zacate
Grande, Garifuna Communities, Campesino Sectors, women, feminists,
artists, journalists and indigenous communities. We all know how these
people have been hard hit, especially the journalists, LGBT community, and
indigenous communities. This is all part of what they’ve done to create a
climate of fear. Here there is a policy of the state to instill terror and
political persecution. This is to punish the Honduran people so that
people don’t opt for the other way and look for changes to the political
economic situation and the militarization.
AMY GOODMAN: Honduran human civil rights activist, Bertha Caseres, who
actually has been in hiding for the last two months, leader of the Civic
Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Adrienne,
would you put this election in context? I mean, Democracy Now! in 2009
extensively covered the ouster, the coup against President Zelaya. Then he
returned to the country and we were on that plane when he flew from
Nicaragua to Honduras, but could not run again. His wife, as we were on
that plane — interviewed Xiomara Castro. She right — back then, when they
were returning — was already planning to run for president. Talk about the
significance of this election in that trajectory since 2009 and then who
the opponent she’s running against, Mr. Hernandez, is, and the
significance of his possible election.
ADRIENNE PINE: Sure. This election, for most — I think most Hondurans, it
represents the possible overturning of the coup finally, because the
elections that took place in 2009 were fraudulent, they were militarized,
they were not recognized for two years, in fact, by most of international
community. And they were boycotted by everyone who had opposed the coup,
but candidates and voters. And there’s been, as Bertha Caseres mentioned,
intense repression against all sorts of activists, including Edwin, in
that time and that stems from the impunity that comes out of the coup. So,
people, in Xiomara Castro, have seen a leader who is not just the wife of
Manuel Zelaya, but really has come into her own as a leader, and there has
been — it is impossible to overstate the amount of hope and excitement and
mobilization that people have been engaging in leading up to these
elections. Yesterday, the feeling on the ground was one of exuberance. You
could see that the turnout was higher than ever before in Honduran
elections. People were turning out for the Libre Party.
The other candidate, Juan Orlando Hernandez, is with the National Party,
which is the same party the current president is from, Porfirio Lobo Sosa.
His main platform has been one of militarization. He has promised to have
a soldier on every corner in order to combat the crime situation, which is
quite dire in Honduras, but in his reach the levels of — the extreme
levels where Honduras is now the most dangerous country in the world, only
since the coup itself. That is a direct result of the impunity that comes
from the coup. So, very radically different models of governance being
proposed by the two major candidates. One of which has to do with greater
democratization and the other which has to do with greater militarization.
AMY GOODMAN: In 2011 after almost two years in exile, when Former
President Zelaya and his family were greeted by tens of thousands of
supporters as they flew in from Nicaragua to Tegucigalpa, I had a chance
to ask the former first lady, now the presidential candidate, Xiomara
Castro, about her likely candidacy, back then.
AMY GOODMAN: President Zelaya cannot run for president again, is that
XIOMARA CASTRO: (Translated) No.
AMY GOODMAN: But, Mrs. Zelaya Mrs.Castro de Zelaya, you could, is that
XIOMARA CASTRO: (Translated) The law does not prevent me from doing that.
I do not have any obstacle in order to participate in the process. It is
in the electoral process, but at this moment —
AMY GOODMAN: You could run for president.
XIOMARA CASTRO: (Translated) No, what I’m saying is that I do not have any
obstacles. The law does not stop me from doing it.
AMY GOODMAN: So you could run for president if you chose.
XIOMARA CASTRO: (Translated) Yes. The law does not stop me. That is very
clear. The law does not stop it. The law does stop Mel from doing that
because the process of the same law establishes only one president can be
president for 4 years.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re saying that President Zelaya did not serve out his
full term. Is there any kind of allowance that is made for that? The same
thing happened to President Aristide.
XIOMARA CASTRO: (Translated) No, there’s no established procedure to make
AMY GOODMAN: To see that journey back when the Zelayas returned, Manuel
Zelaya and Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, returned to Honduras, you can go to
our website at democracynow.org. I wanted to turn though, now to
international observer Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who was in
Honduras saying how important it is to remember the chaos surrounding
BALTASAR GARZON: (Translated) Precisely because of what happened four
years ago, this process is so important to ensure that democracy is
consolidated in Honduras and above all, the credibility of the political
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Pine, your response? That is the famous Spanish
judge who held Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, to account, calling
for his arrest when he was in Britain. The significance of what he has
just said, Adrienne Pine?
ADRIENNE PINE: Well, the international election observers here have played
a crucial role in ensuring that there is an eye on Honduras. I wouldn’t
say ensuring the legitimacy of the process, because I believe that the
process is — right now is — there is fraud that is in the works. But,
international observers, in fact, have been subject to harassment and
intimidation by police here in Honduras in the two days leading up to the
elections. Masked police entered the hotels of several international
observers and demanded to see all their documents and have been basically
intimidating them. These are migration police. And so, I think that their
presence is really important because it is showing the world how the
Honduran security forces treat the Hondurans on a daily basis and the fact
there have not been free and fair conditions for this election and it is
really important they’re here to document that.
AMY GOODMAN: Edwin Espinal, what is at stake today in the election? What
will it mean to you if Hernandez is declared the winner or Castro?
EDWIN ESPINAL: It would be a complete disaster for me and my family and
all Honduran families because we have already been on assistance for four
years. The violence, the poverty, the misery has just increased in this
country. We cannot just wait until another four years being in this
country with Juan Orlando as a president. Me and my family and Honduran
people in general, we are so scared that the situation will just get worse
and this country. I hope the international community keeps their eyes on
this country and help us to put pressure on the government and at least to
be transparent with Honduran people because — we witnessed yesterday that
the electoral process was not transparent at all.
We are really sad because we had hoped on the candidates of Xiomara Castro
that she will bring big changes for our country and the reality in our
society to make big changes that could change the way we live our lives.
We don’t want to live our neighborhoods with the violence, with kids on
the streets begging for food or stealing from people. We don’t want to
live in the system anymore. We want changes. I hope the international
community keep their eyes and pressure on this government at least so they
can respect Honduran people’s will.
There was, yesterday, an electoral process, was, Honduran people showed to
the to international community what was their choice. We choose to change
the government that are using their [Indiscernible] to stay in power. I
hope the international community and we as Hondurans take actions to take
to the actual government out of power.
AMY GOODMAN: Edwin Espinal and I wanted to go to ousted president Manuel
Zelaya the husband of the current presidential candidate Xiomara Castro.
This is Former President Zelaya talking about these election results.
MANUEL CASTRO: (Translated) The results handed down by the electoral court
are not a faithful reflection of what is happening the polls. The facts
show that Xiomara won with a 3.5% margin.And yet when the court speaks, it
has placed us at seven points below. So results handed down by the court
are totally contradictory to what took place. There is an important point
I want to underscore. Twenty percent of the registries of votes that they
collected have have been hidden from the vote count under the pretext that
they are inconsistent. If an election takes place with more than three
percent margin of error, and here the margin is 20%, the election would be
nullified from whatever point of view in any country anywhere in the
AMY GOODMAN: That was former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya speaking to
Andrès Conteris for Democracy Now! Adrienne Pine, the significance of this
and also, the fact that you have a whole range of international observers,
among them was the former head of the Republican National Party in
California. I wanted to turn to that clip as well, the former Republican
head of the California Republican Party Ron Nehring.
RON NEHRING: Strong democratic governments in Central America are very,
very important. This is a critical election for Honduras. Honduras faces
very, very significant challenges. There are issues in the United States
which transcend borders that the United States and Central America impact
one another in areas including not only the economy, but human
trafficking, drug trafficking, violence, corruption, other unintended
consequences of the drug trade and so on. This is a very important
election for Honduras and we want to make sure that whoever wins tonight,
regardless of who that person is, is the winner of a legitimately held
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Ron Nehring former head of the California Republican
Party, one of some 800 international observers monitoring the Honduran
elections. Adrienne Pine, if you could respond to both Ron Nehring as well
as former president — the ousted President Zelaya.
ADRIENNE PINE: I would certainly agree with Ron nehring that what we all
hope is the will of the Honduran people is respected in this election and
in terms of what Mel Zelaya said, I share his concern about the accuracy
of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal vote count and I think a couple of
important points are to be made here, that first of all, the Supreme
Electoral Tribunal was illegally appointed in the first place by
Micheletti who was the dictator following the coup, just prior to the
coup, in that they were elected officials and they’re not by the Honduran
constitutional allowed to be appointed to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
So, they were appointed [Indiscernible] to carry out the coup. They then
were the main body that legitimated and carried out fraud in the 2009
election, and they have now have been very clearly acting on the side of
the national party and also of the religious leaders of the country who
were the strongest backers of the coup. So, this is a very biased
institution. Another point I that think is frightening is that the U.S.
ambassador to Honduras last night made a call to respect the numbers that
were coming out from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and they’re not even
final numbers yet. But, basically, put her hat in on their side. We are
really worried about the U.S. making declarations this early when there
still aren’t numbers that anybody is agreeing on or trusts from any side
yet. There isn’t a final count. So, the process has not been transparent.
There were irregularities throughout. There were murders as have been
mentioned earlier, intimidation of voters, vote buying. But, I think the
most fraud has happened by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal which has both
carried out and itself is a product of the 2009 coup.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, Adrienne Pine,
of American University, living in Honduras, currently there conducting
research on a Fulbright scholarship. Among her books, “Working Hard,
Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.” And Edwin Espinal, a
community activist who is in Honduras right now, of course lives there,
has been subjected to repeated [harassment] and his partner Wendy Diaz
died as a result of teargas inhalation during the time of the return of
President Zelaya to the country when so many came out to greet him.
Special thanks Andeluja Nole and Andrès Conteris.