KRVS

Protesters In Honduras Defiant After Disputed Presidential Election

Dec 5, 2017
Originally published on December 5, 2017 8:12 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We turn now to the Central American nation of Honduras, which has been rocked by protests since a disputed presidential election there more than a week ago. Electoral officials say they finally finished counting the votes. And they say the U.S.-backed incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has a slim lead.

Supporters of his opponent would beg to differ. His opponent's a popular TV personality. And his opponents are challenging the vote as fraudulent. A curfew has been imposed to try to curtail violence on the streets, but some police are refusing to enforce it. Well, to catch us up on all of this, we go now to NPR's Carrie Kahn. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.

KELLY: Sounds like quite a moment underway in Honduras - people out in the streets, police not enforcing this curfew. What's going on?

KAHN: Definitely, it is a volatile moment. As you said, the police units are not enforcing the curfew, including a U.S.-trained counternarcotics unit that read this statement decrying the curfew, the position they say they've been put in to suppress this political turmoil and to suppress the people's movement. They said they're tired, and they do not want to be in this position anymore. Let's hear a little bit from last night. These are jubilant supporters of Salvador Nasralla in the streets. And he was out there with them in a sporty, tan suit. And he was dancing with them in defiance of the curfew.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

KAHN: They're all chanting that the dictator will fall. Nasralla then went on an interview on national television. He also urged the army to join the police and defy the government's crackdown. There's been reports that as many as 11 people may have been killed since the election on November 26. Three journalists posted last night that they were being deported. And hundreds of people - protesters - have been arrested.

KELLY: Well, let me circle back to the actual vote count. I mean, the vote is over. We said it looks like Hernandez has won by a slim percentage - less than 2 percent. But why has he not just been declared the winner?

KAHN: That's a good question. The results have been - and the count has been very murky. And there's been great accusations of fraud. At one point, Nasralla was in the lead by five percentage points. But then the electoral officials slowed down the count and actually turned off results and said there was a computer glitch. When the computers came back on many hours later, Hernandez was gaining in the votes until the final count that we received yesterday, where he was ahead.

International observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union are urging more transparency in the process. The electoral officials did a limited vote recount, but that's not enough for the opposition. They want a wider recount - looking at 5,000 polling places that came in after that computer glitch. And observers seemed to back that idea.

KELLY: And so what happens now? Will there be a recount? Will there be a new election? What may happen?

KAHN: The opposition has until tomorrow to lodge any last complaints and their recount petitions. It's unclear whether the electoral officials are game for such a wide recount, although they've hinted maybe they are. And they actually have until December 26 to declare a winner. So this can drag out for many more weeks.

KELLY: Carrie, before I let you go, we mentioned Hernandez, the incumbent - that he's backed by the U.S. Why does the U.S. hope that, ultimately, he will prevail in this?

KAHN: He is a close ally of the U.S. and has been a partner in fighting drug trafficking in the region. But at home, he's been dogged by a corruption scandal and Honduras' high murder rate. It has gone down a bit of late, but not enough to shore up an overwhelming support for him. And we've seen that in the election.

KELLY: That's Carrie Kahn in Mexico, updating us on the situation in Honduras. Thanks, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.