Saturday, November 30, 2013

Honduras election reports and commentary - a compilation

Trustworthy international sources* are reporting evidence of electoral fraud in Honduras, supporting the claims of the LIBRE and Anti-Corruption parties (who are not accepting the results), students, and numerous other groups and organizations within the country. They strongly criticize some of the official reports and media coverage, and call for a thorough investigation. Here’s a compilation of relevant reports:

• The National Lawyers Guild questions the validity of the elections and “takes issue with the United States government’s characterization of the electoral process as transparent, given the country's recent and pervasive human rights violations.” Azadeh Shahshahani, NLG president, has co-authored a highly informative op ed in Al Jazeera, “Honduras’ presidential election demands an investigation.” It concludes:
[I]n this election, the Obama administration has two stark choices: to affirm its commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law and insist on a full investigation into allegations of a disputed electoral process and pervasive repression, or endorse the findings of the TSE and ignore alarming signs that the will of the Honduran people is being trampled once again.
• Leo Gabriel, a member of the EU observation delegation, contests its preliminary report, which,
[d]espite demonstrating ‘serious signs of trafficking in [election worker] credentials and other irregularities’ in addition to a ‘clear imbalance in the visibility of different [political] parties in the media’ and ‘a lack of transparency in electoral campaign financing’,...gave high marks ‘in terms of voting transparency as well respect for the will of voters in the tabulation’.
confirmed that ‘the system used for the transmission of official tally sheets guaranteed all political parties a trustworthy mechanism for the verification of the results published by the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal)’, and congratulated electoral authorities for having achieved ‘greater transparency’ than in previous elections.
Gabriel stated that
I can attest to countless inconsistencies in the electoral process. There were people who could not vote because they showed up as being dead, and there were dead people who voted. It was also clear that there was a huge mess at the voting stations, where the hidden alliance between the small parties and the National Party led to the buying and selling of votes and [electoral worker] credentials [note: by law each party has the right to have an election worker at each mesa electoral or voting station, but as Gabriel notes, in many voting stations, the smaller parties sold their rights to the National Party].

During the transmission of the results there was no possibility to find out where the tallies where being sent and we received reliable information that at least 20% of the original tally sheets were being diverted to an illegal server that they kept hidden.

To speak of transparency after everything that happened last Sunday is a joke and I believe that, first and foremost, we observers have to be honest and portray what we have really seen.
He argues that
In the general evaluation meeting, the majority of my colleagues who observed the elections ‘on site’, on the ground, were in agreement about the irregularities I just laid out. No one defended the content of the report or the idea that there had been transparency in the process, and that brought us up against the intransigence of the EU-EOM team leaders, who did not want to cede even one millimeter. We argued for a serious discussion of the topic, taking into account what we had witnessed and suggesting changes to the text, but they firmly refused.
Gabriel believes that the announced results were predetermined and charges that most of those who pushed through the EU report were politically motivated:
Some of them really believe what the TSE says, but in general there is a deeper political and economic reason. The 2009 Coup d’État harmed the image of Honduras around the world, slowing down progress on the Association Agreement signed by the European Union and the Central American region (EU-CA AA). Presenting [an image of] a clean and transparent electoral process helps the European Union to clean up Honduras’s image around the world and set this commercial project into motion.
• The SOA Watch delegation
observed numerous irregularities and problems during the elections and vote counting process that cause us not to trust the electoral results released by Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). In additon to what we directly observed, the control of the TSE by the ruling parties provided opportunity for significant manipulation of the results and fraud after the polls closed and information was transmitted to the TSE.
• The Honduras Solidarity Network’s preliminary report, based on their observation of at least 100 voting tables (MER) in the north of the country, says that they witnessed “a grand number of Hondurans going to the polls and participating in good faith in the electoral process” and the good work of many electoral workers. They state that while
[i]t was reassuring to witness the level of commitment to the election as an expression of the popular will,… 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.
The report concludes:
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.
• Peter Hart at FAIR refers to the National Lawyers Guild’s preliminary report in his piece about slanted, inaccurate coverage at the Washington Post.

• The Real News Network covered allegations of harassment, intimidation, and fraud.

They interview Ana Lucia Perez of the Women’s Human Rights Observatory:
We have the assassination of two members of the Libre Party in the Francisco Morazan Department on the night of Saturday November 23rd…we have also seen the intimidation of international observers from El Salvador who were staying at a hotel in Tegucigalpa where they were approached by armed immigration officials and were demanded to show their papers and interrogated as to why they were in the country in a violent and intimidating manner, we have also received complaints of forms of voter extortion in certain election centers where the National Party offered voters discount cards for local supermarkets in exchange for their vote…

…We also witnessed irregularities at voting centers where certain voter lists turned up missing, or where people would be listed as deceased although they were living, or where the deceased were presented as living eligible voters, some people arrived to vote and were told that they had already voted, someone else had used their identity to vote…we also saw in some areas the military did not let the public view the vote count in spite of the fact that the electoral law states that all people may attend the vote count.
Vía Campesina’s observation report listed irregularities observed. They continue:
At this point we also want to highlight to the irresponsible attitude of major traditional media in publishing data, surveys and other biased comments, both during the campaign and a few hours after the closure of the election polls, and even worse, that without having reliable and definitive data on the total count of the vote.

As delegation of observers of the elections, we want to show our concern about the insufficient attention of the public institutions (Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE), the Public Ministry, the National Police) as well as the funding of the political parties and the use of public resources for campaign purposes before the elections.

Our conclusion is that the electoral process has not been transparent enough. On the contrary we consider the elections an ‘institutional fraud’, which position the country in a very worrying situation.

We are also surprised about the attitude of the European Union and the OAS that despite the many irregularities identified, were quick to support both the (preliminary) results and the process, which according to their Delegation of Observation has passed ‘normally’.
It’s astonishing that anyone would expect that the National Party wouldn’t resort to widespread intimidation and fraud. After a coup, rampant human rights abuses, attempts to silence media, threats to and murders of journalists, threats to and murders of activists, threats to and murders of candidates, a history of lies and propaganda,…why would we expect that the National Party, the military, and the oligarchy would hold such free, fair, and transparent elections that their results could be uncritically accepted? What’s transparent is the self-interested dishonesty of those who rushed to declare the announced results credible prior to any investigation or recount.

Meanwhile, Honduras Culture and Politics reports on the “new political landscape” created by the announced results of the congressional elections.

* As opposed to US ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske, US government representatives more generally, and the corporate English-language media. These are not to be trusted on any matters related to Latin America and the Caribbean, as they have a shameful documented history of spin and outright lying.

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