The Struggle Against Honduras’ Stolen Election

Last year’s disputed elections in Honduras continue to present a struggle for grassroots activists in the country, who face harsh police and military crackdowns in response to protests, reports Dennis J. Bernstein in the following interview.

By Dennis J. Bernstein

The latest tragedy of misguided U.S. foreign policy in Central America is the tacit support for another stolen presidential election in Honduras. The new right-wing renegade government there is inflicting terrible violence upon people who refuse to accept the election results from Last November’s election between extreme right-wing parliamentary dictator, Juan Orlando Hernandez, the current president, and progressive reformer, Salvador Nasralla.

A map of Honduras.

To get a clearer picture as to what is happening on the ground in Honduras–which includes dozens of murders of street activists–I spoke to Sandra Cuffe. Based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Cuffe has resided for many years in Central America and writes for several online publications.

Cuffe also expressed deep concern for the safety of Edwin Espinal, a noted activist and ally to many movements in Honduras, including COPINH. COPINH is the group founded by the late Berta Caceres, who it is believed was assassinated by right-wing forces affiliated with the Honduran government. Espinal has now been arrested and is being held under difficult circumstances at a Honduran military base.

“The current government has arrested, beaten Espinal many times,” said one friend and co-worker of Espinal. “His body has been beaten and broken repeatedly. Now he is a political prisoner, held in leg chains, for having exercised his right to free speech and free assembly”.

I spoke to Cuffe on January 24 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

Dennis Bernstein: Could you remind people what happened in terms of recent elections in Honduras, and give us a sense of the atmospheric pressure right now?

Sandra Cuffe: Last November 26 there were general elections in Honduras.  It was a fiercely contested election between Juan Orlando Hernandez, the current president, and Salvador Nasralla, who was the candidate for the oppositional alliance against the dictatorship.

According to the Honduran constitution, re-election for the office of president is not allowed but the right wing has been concentrating power to the point where the executive branch controls basically all branches of government and a supreme court ruling allowed for the president’s re-election.

On the other side, the Libre Party grew out of resistance to the 2009 coup d’etat that was supported by the United States.  For these elections, it formed an alliance with a smaller party, as well as with Salvador Nasralla.

After more than half the votes had been counted, preliminary results had Nasralla in the lead by five points, which was considered irreversible.  The computer system then mysteriously crashed and when it came back online that lead began to rapidly disappear.

That was the earliest indication that fraud was involved.  The official results took another few weeks to come out. The Organization of American States found serious irregularities in the voting and numerous indications of fraud.

Meanwhile, there were massive protests and all kinds of actions going on across the country. At least 35 people have been killed, with the actual number being probably much higher. Most were killed when security forces opened fire on protests around the country. Hundreds have been wounded and well over a thousand have been detained. Many have been released but some are still being held as political prisoners. The inauguration is set for January 27 so we are now in the middle of a week of action leading up to that.

DB: Please say a little more about what is at stake here and why people are willing to put their lives on the line.

SC: What is at stake is democracy.  Since the 2009 coup, people have organized, formed political parties and alliances. A lot of people who hadn’t been politically active before are now starting to take action in an attempt to change what is going on.

The ruling National Party has been in power since 2010. They have concentrated power to an extreme degree. There has been a huge rise in militarization, including the creation of a military police which has been responsible for the majority of the deaths of protesters.

Salvador Nasralla in 2013. 

Even aside from this current crisis since the election, Honduras has long been one of the most violent countries in the world, one of the most dangerous for environmental defenders as well as for journalists. Healthcare and education are in shambles. Corruption is rampant. So really the future of the country is at stake.

But despite the repression, people are not backing down. There have been massive marches, especially last December in the capital, with tens of thousands of people in the streets. The opposition alliance has its strongest base in the northwest of the country, where resistance has always been strongest. Tire blockades have been used in a lot of places. There was at first some limited dialogue with police, but recently it has mainly been military forces showing up, opening fire or using tear gas.

DB: What has the U.S. government said about the killing of protesters?  Do they continue to support the coup?

SC: For decades, Honduras has been a key ally of the U.S. in Central America. There is a huge military base there. It is home to the U.S. Southern Command Joint Task Force Bravo. In the 1980s it was the training ground and launching pad for counterinsurgency operations throughout Central America. The United States is in the background of everything that goes on politically in Honduras.

The U.S. and the OAS disagreed on whether to recognize the election results. Two days after the election and just before soldiers started opening fire on protesters, the U.S. State Department certified the election, which freed up military aid to the Honduran government.

DB: The important activist Edwin Espinal is now in custody.  What is going on there now with his case?

SC: Edwin is a longtime activist in Honduras. He was extremely active in the movement in the streets after the coup. His wife was actually killed in the context of the protests. There have been around a thousand detentions. Most of those detained were released soon afterwards, but there are at least a couple dozen people still in jail. The charges are mainly related to property destruction.

In Edwin’s case, in response to tear gas attacks, protesters broke the windows of a Marriot Hotel next to the Presidential Palace. Several police stations have been burned down after police opened fire on protesters. Edwin was arrested last Friday and he faces three charges related to property destruction. He is under investigation for terrorism and criminal association. Edwin’s case has been placed in a special court system, with his hearings taking place on a military base. There is virtually no public access. This Monday he had his initial hearing.

DB: Has anyone been able to talk to him directly? And how do you think he will be treated while in custody?

SC: People were able to visit him after his arrest when he was being held in a police cell. They were able to see him very briefly going to and from hearings. However, he has lawyers from a prominent human rights organization so there has been some communication with the outside. Visits are very difficult to arrange. Reading materials are forbidden. In terms of safety, because there have been so many incidents of intimidation and threats by security forces against Edwin dating back to right after the coup, the government has implemented “protective measures” in his case under orders of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

DB: Has Edwin’s case received any support from members of the U.S. Congress?

SC: I don’t know the answer to that yet. There is a very active Honduran solidarity network in the US and Canada who have been very involved since the coup.

DB: In terms of U.S. policy toward Honduras, this is actually what we like to see, isn’t it? It is like one big free-trade zone with a few military bases thrown in. We can also expect a flood of more Hondurans and other Central Americans to the U.S.

SC: I know that when you talk to most young people, they no longer see a future for themselves here.They organized and went to the polls and the signs of clear victory were simply wiped out two days later. People are outraged and many of them will leave the country.

Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.

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31 comments for “The Struggle Against Honduras’ Stolen Election

  1. Andrew Nichols
    January 28, 2018 at 6:32 pm
  2. cmp
    January 27, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    ~ “…DB: In terms of U.S. policy toward Honduras, this is actually what we like to see, isn’t it? It is like one big free-trade zone with a few military bases thrown in. We can also expect a flood of more Hondurans and other Central Americans to the U.S. “~

    LBJ opened up Tijuana (..Maquilopolis – factory city) in 1965. .. By 1975, the BIG business monopolies and the benefactors of global sweat shops on steroids (..Sweat Cities..), they had the labor based North East on it’s knees, and renamed the “Rust Belt.”

    In 2006, forty one years after the creation of Tijuana, this film was made to see just what it is like to live & work in the well known birth place for the modern Sweat City, where there is still no running water, access to electricity, etc., for the working class.

    If interested go to you tube, and paste this title into the search bar:
    Maquilapolis 2006 Vicky Funari & Sergio de la Torre mp4

    As Joe has been saying, the film has a great “personal touch” having been made by the workers themselves.

    • Bob Van Noy
      January 27, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Thank you cmp. It really is about the disenfranchisement of the American worker. If we are lucky at all, the two parties will deconstruct and a truly representative party will form with the working class needs amply represented. World trade is not the issue, a motivated and educated American Worker can compete with any entity that it needs to, but a living wage is necessary…

  3. Joe L.
    January 27, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    And yet America is running around telling the world the sky is falling, or crying wolf, about supposed Russian interference in their election compared to a full blow coup in Honduras (amongst many others) – how ignorant and hypocritical. This is what should be brought up by the mainstream news to put the Russian “interference” in perspective and expose Washington’s own roll in other countries.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 27, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      What a documentary that would make.

      • Joe L.
        January 28, 2018 at 2:24 am

        Joe Tedesky… You need to watch “War on Democracy” by John Pilger – https://vimeo.com/16724719

    • Larco Marco
      January 28, 2018 at 5:25 am

      One problem, Joe L – the MSM have amplified the Russia phobia by several orders of magnitude.

      • Joe L.
        January 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm

        Larco Marco… it just amazes me how people today can be so duped especially with the internet but, of course, the government and media are trying to control that as well. It is not just Russia but I don’t understand at this point, after over 16 years of war, that people are too ignorant to the fact of recycling narratives to invade yet another country. The mainstream media constantly pushing “enemies” and “hatred” meanwhile almost totally ignoring Yemen, excusing Israeli bombing of Palestine and not fully exploring the US role in sewing chaos in the world. I mean, I watched a video on the Jimmy Dore channel on Youtube where he showed a clip from Democracy Now about Noam Chomsky talking about how North Korea tried to give up their nuclear weapons program “twice”, once to Obama and once to Trump, and from what I gather North Korea wanted the US to stop doing War Games on its’ border – how insane! Also, I remember Obama talking about red lines and saying that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people yet the mainstream media did not talk about the 2 kg of Sarin Gas found in possession of Al Nusra in Turkey or go into the absurdity of the claim considering that Assad had invited the UN into his country and were on the ground at the time, I believe. I also find it crazy how our western media take no responsibility for the refugee crisis in Europe and do not make the obvious cause and effect conclusion about 16 years of war and instead try to shift blame onto other countries. I just wonder if people are so hateful, or maybe so patriotic, that they are willing to believe the lie instead of the obvious truth?

  4. Joe Tedesky
    January 27, 2018 at 10:53 am

    Next time the discussion of a Mexican border wall should come up, please reference this article, and the many other articles written on this subject, which lends to an explanation to how U.S. involvement in these Central and South American countries is what has caused this massive exodus to our American borders. America doesn’t need any wall to protect itself, America needs a wall to keep itself in and away from instigating more death and destruction at the expense of other nations sovereignty.

    • Bob Van Noy
      January 27, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Exactly Joe:

      “SC: What is at stake is democracy.  Since the 2009 coup, people have organized, formed political parties and alliances. A lot of people who hadn’t been politically active before are now starting to take action in an attempt to change what is going on.”

      Nothing is new, here is an interview with E. Howard Hunt from the National Security Archives that shows how this is done.

      https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//coldwar/interviews/episode-18/hunt1.html

      • Bob Van Noy
        January 27, 2018 at 11:20 am

        Note especially Joe that Howard Hunt comments that he’s not working for United Fruit he’s working for the US. Similar to the statement that Smedley Butler would make about becoming a proxy for Corprate America.

        Who is Tmmy The Cork? He is (Possibly the most interesting man of our times)

        http://spartacus-educational.com/JFKcorcoran.htm

      • Joe Tedesky
        January 27, 2018 at 11:34 am

        Thanks Bob, that was riveting.

        Here is something for you,, or maybe you have seen this before, but regardless it’s worth a second read. This is Henry Wallace’s letter to Harry Truman in 1946. Twain was right, ‘History certainly does rhyme’, and reading Wallace’s letter is proof it does.

        http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6906/

        This letter that Henry Wallace wrote to Truman in 1946, is as pertinent to our world’s current events, as it was back then in 1946, 72 years ago.

        • Bob Van Noy
          January 27, 2018 at 11:49 am

          As always, many thanks Joe. I wasn’t aware of Henry Wallace until I watched Oliver Stone’s History Series and since that time he has become a heroic character for me. I wasn’t aware of this letter. It is totally enlightening. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference.

          Isn’t it interesting that in all of this time (our adult years) we have never been presented with a vote on Empire? A vote that I’m sure that America would reject out of hand…

          • Joe Tedesky
            January 27, 2018 at 12:15 pm

            I found that while looking for something on Wallace’s involvement with South America. I’m still looking, but maybe someone out there knows of his dealings with our Southern Hemisphere fellows.

        • Bob Van Noy
          January 27, 2018 at 11:51 am

          Also Joe one of my comments regarding Tommy The Cork is being moderated so please look for it later.

          • Joe Tedesky
            January 27, 2018 at 12:15 pm

            Will do.

  5. ToivoS
    January 26, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    This is so sad. When Obama first became president it was clear that the US state department supported the coup against Zelaya I remember clearly that Lani Davis, one of the Clinton’s advisers, then just a new lobbyist, was writing these articles claiming Zelaya was some kind of dictator and that it was important for the US to oppose his regime. It was then that Honduras had an opportunity to have a government that was led by a popularly elected president. But no. Obama and Hillary put an end to that experiment in democratic government. It is a little late to now complain that the latest election results were manipulated to give the latest, US approved dictator, the presidency. No way that Trump would support a real democratically elected president, especially after Obama and Hillary helped overthrow the last one.

    Ah, American Imperialism, it just does not go away.

    • geeyp
      January 27, 2018 at 5:01 am

      Isn’t it just awesome to get a position of power to ruin people’s lives, and then entitlement for highly paid speaker’s fees and live well ever after? “Let your conscience…” “….American Imperialism, it just does not go away”. So true. We will have to see if what is happening currently in Haiti is an issue in which President Trump gets involved.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 27, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Yes remember that, but also don’t forget to how Hillary opted to bar the Honduran children from entering the U.S. for refuge.

      • Lois Gagnon
        January 27, 2018 at 3:46 pm

        That’s right. Such a great feminist. Barf!

        • Joe Tedesky
          January 27, 2018 at 10:33 pm

          Outside of being a woman running for the U.S. presidency I fail to recall her great contributions to the Feminist Movement….am I uninformed?

          • Lois Gagnon
            January 28, 2018 at 5:32 pm

            I was being sarcastic. That’s why I wrote barf at the end of my comment.

          • Joe Tedesky
            January 28, 2018 at 11:49 pm

            Lois I know you were being sarcastic, I was seriously asking…what has Hillary ever done to advance the civil rights of women?

      • Larco Marco
        January 27, 2018 at 7:09 pm

        Yes, HillBillious threw out a variation of her RTP euphemism, when she said that sending these kids back to Honduras was to protect them from the perilous journey thro Mexico. She even indicated that the mothers were committing child endangerment.

        • Joe Tedesky
          January 27, 2018 at 9:51 pm

          Hillary should only be made to bare the suffering of these oh so many that she has affected. I never wish anyone ill, but in Hillary’s case I may make an exception. Hillary, and all the politicians who like to dish out what they will never experience, is age old as time itself, but so is the anger that topples governments from time to time, as well.

    • Annie
      January 27, 2018 at 12:21 pm

      Basically it has always been US policy to fund, and orchestrate coups across Latin America, but lets give Hillary Clinton most of the credit for the Honduran coup of 2009 when she was secretary of state. Operating in the same capacity she, along with Rice, and Powers were the primary movers in the overthrow of Gaddafi, and she even called for his death. She is extremely consistent in her militarism. What amazes me is that her loss in the 2016 election has generated a feminist movement. The very thought of this war hawk who also protected her husband’s sexual antics should inspire a women’s movement disgusts me.

      • Joe Tedesky
        January 27, 2018 at 1:57 pm

        Annie the sight of seeing so many women rally to Hillary’s ambitions, is another sad example of our MSM’s failure to deliver the news in an honest way. Joe

      • January 28, 2018 at 9:42 am

        recently came out that she refused to fire her “Faith Advisor” after he was accused of sexual harassment back in 2008, something he apparently a lengthy history of doing :https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/2008-clinton-burns-strider-faith-adviser-harassment

  6. Lois Gagnon
    January 26, 2018 at 10:12 pm

    I would only criticize the use of the word “misguided” in terms of US support for the coup. US policy is quite deliberate and the policy makers know damn well how the people of any given country will suffer under US backed regimes. They don’t care. Profit and control of resources and labor are the only things that matter to imperialists.

    This poisonous ideology needs to go the way of the dinosaur.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 27, 2018 at 10:55 am

      You are right, there should be no ‘mis’ attached to any word to describe America’s purposed instigation.

    • Piotr Berman
      January 28, 2018 at 11:25 am

      A “poisonous ideology” is a bad guide, so it is “misguided” in that sense. Dinosaurs were very powerful, but with relatively tiny brains. In stable conditions, they could be threatened only by other dinosaurs, but they needed to consume huge resources to survive and were wipe out after a catastrophe that drastically reduced those resource. One can see many analogies.

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