Hondurans are scheduled to go to the polls next week to elect a new President, thus hypothetically bringing an end to the country’s protracted political crisis. However, tensions are high as controversy continues over the legitimacy of the elections set to occur on November 29th. Ousted President Zelaya continues to make incendiary speeches from the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, where he has been holed up for almost two months. He is calling on his supporters to boycott the elections unless he is restored to power before they occur.
Meanwhile, interim leader Micheletti recently announced that he would take a leave of absence from November 25 to December 2, in order to “allow Hondurans to concentrate on the electoral process and not on the political crisis.” The announcement was greeted with unsurprising cynicism by Zelaya, who characterized it as a “crude maneuver that implicitly recognizes that Micheletti’s presence in office stains the electoral process.”
Both Brazil and Argentina have refused to acknowledge the elections if Zelaya is not reinstated beforehand, while the U.S. has said they will recognize the results if the election is free and fair. The U.S. State Department has announced they will fund election observers from the NDI and IRI.
Many within Honduras are answering Zelaya’s call to boycott the upcoming vote. Over 40 candidates, including former presidential hopeful Carols H. Reyes, have withdrawn from the election in order to “raise the voices of the resistance members that have been beaten, assassinated and repressed.”
Indications continue to emerge that the Micheletti government has not set the stage for legitimate elections. The issue of media freedom has come up time and time again as Zelaya supporters accuse the interim government of censorship. Micheletti’s spokesmen deny the accusations, maintaining that restrictions on the media were lifted last month. Nevertheless, “the coup regime is broadcasting dire warnings about “terrorist” attempts to stop the elections, and even the possibility of Nicaraguan and Venezuelan attacks.”
In an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asserted that fair elections will be impossible because of the interim government’s coercive tactics.
“The current environment in Honduras, including an illegitimate government in power, makes free, fair and open elections impossible. The violent and coercive repression of political opposition to the de-facto coup regime, including trade unionists, has continued. National and international human rights organizations report ongoing human rights violations committed by state security forces, including killings, severe beatings, sexual violence, the imprisonment and torture of activists, as well as the arrest and detention of President Zelaya’s supporters.”
Unfortunately, as the election draws closer, it seems less and less likely that the results will restore unity to the politically divided country. And on the international stage, the elections have the potential to divide the hemisphere if some Latin American nations refuse to acknowledge the results. It may rest with the United States – Honduras’ primary trading partner – to ensure that the vote is conducted in a democratic manner.
By Mary Tharin