Honduras revisited – free and fair elections?

4 Dec

According to the Chief electoral observer for Liberal International (LI) in Honduras, Roger Albinyana, the presidential elections in Honduras were free and fair (and therefore should be recognised). His view was also seconded by LI President, Hans van Baalen, who urged the ‘international community and LI member parties to recognize the outcome of the elections and support President Elect Pepe Lobo who will be inaugurated at the end of January’.

Given that the various serious human rights violations had occurred during and after the coup, it is questionable how LI leaders came to that conclusion. By clamping down on activists and the Opposition, it is certainly logical to come to the conclusion that the elections cannot be fair nor free. I had previously blogged about the human rights violations based on reports from Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch. Just yesterday, AI has released another public statement, documenting ‘killings following excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests of demonstrators by police and military, indiscriminate and unnecessary use of tear gas, ill treatment of detainees in custody, violence against women, harassment of activists, journalists, lawyers and judges’.

It is therefore rich that LI, a group that spells out human rights, as a core component of liberalism has chosen to avoid mentioning anything about the human rights violations in their statement of support for the elections. Neither have they urged the authorities to hold those human rights abusers accountable.

In another independent news commentary from truthout, Lisa Sullivan of the Latin American coordinator of School of the Americas Watch, has this to say about the elections,

‘In each of the many corners of the country visited by the 70-plus international observers, we witnessed the fear, repression, intimidation, bribery and outright brutality of the government security forces. (Note: we were there to observe the electoral climate, not as electoral observers, since we consider the elections to be illegal. Likewise, the United Nations, Organization of American States and Carter Center and other bedrock electoral groups boycotted “the event” as many Hondurans called the day.)’

She elaborates on the illegality of the coup and how the elections are a farce,

‘So, now I wonder what the Honduran people will do to overcome the massive whitewash that just took place in their country. Not of walls, but of coups. The military coup led by School of the Americas graduates Generals Vasquez Velasquez and Prince Suazo first had a quick bath of whitewash by placing a “civilian” leader as the figurative head of government: President of Congress and business mogul Roberto Micheletti. The whitewash used at the moment was mixed ahead of time, and quite abundant. It was the excuse that Zelaya was preparing a vote to call for his re-election and had to be removed quickly. (Never mind that the consultative vote actually had nothing to do with a re-election. It was a consultative vote to ask Honduras whether they wanted to vote on convening a Constitutional Assembly.) I call this first whitewash the “transformation from military coup to civilian coup.”

And now, the second bath of whitewash was even more challenging, especially since the first whitewash proved to be kind of thin and exposed the words from below. Thus, it didn’t really convince many. As a matter of fact, it didn´t convince anyone except the United States government (or woops, maybe they actually helped to stir the first batch), Now, the challenge of the November 29 whitewash was to transform the civilian coup into a shining electoral display of freedom, fairness and grand participation so that all the world would say, “wow, that Honduran coup is gone. Now Honduras has a real and wonderful democracy, End of story.

The question that will continue begging us is this: would the international community accept the outcome of the elections? Would the new government investigate the human rights violations? Do groups such as Liberal International speak for liberals when they support an election that is clearly neither free nor fair?

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