A Week Before “Elections” in Honduras, Candidate Resignations, More Censorship and Repression
Independent Presidential Candidate and Liberal Party Vice Presidential Candidate Among Those Who Withdrew from the Ballot
By Tamar Sharabi
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
November 22, 2009
TEGICUGALPA, HONDURAS, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2009: Nine days before the Honduran elections are scheduled to take place, Channel 36, Cholusat Sur, has been taken off the air once again. A parallel signal has been transmitting over the station. Initially airing pornography, now the same movie has been on repeat for the second day in a row. This new attack on the press comes the morning after Micheletti announced that he would be leaving the Presidency ‘provisionally’ from November 25 until December 2 for the country “to concentrate on the electoral process and not on the political crisis.”
Micheletti’s announcement has been “welcomed” by the US State Department which currently along with Panama and Colombia are the only countries recognizing the elections. Micheletti added that he would return if there were threats to security. Officially the armed forces have been turned over to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) 30 days prior to the elections. The National Front Against the Coup D’état in an announcement called the “absence” of Micheletti’s “dictatorship…only a maneuver to hide the totalitarian role of the de facto regime and the armed forces that have been applied to an illegitimate, illegal and fraudulent electoral process.”
Honduras Political Process
For some background on Honduran politics, there are 18 regional departments in the country where each is represented in Congress in accordance with its population. There are a total of 128 Congresspeople (Diputados), 23 of which are from Francisco Morazan (F.M.) where the capital Tegucigalpa is located, and 20 from Cortes, home to the largest industrial city, San Pedro Sula. There are five registered political parties with the following members in the National Congress: Liberal (62), National (55), Democratic Union (5), Christian Democracy (4), and the Innovation and Unity Party (2).
Each party nominates the maximum number of Congressional representatives for their department’s election. Therefore going to the polls in Tegucigalpa, one may choose 23 candidates among 115 faces and sometimes more if including independent candidates. Ballots have a photograph of each candidate that runs for these elected positions. Citizens vote on three ballots for the presidency, diputados and mayors. (The day Zelaya was ousted the population was supposed to vote on creation of ‘the cuarta urna’ meaning the fourth ballot box.)
Generally, the electoral process is overseen by the TSE, which according to the Electoral Law (Decree 44-2004) is an autonomous and independent organization. Their argument to validate the elections lies in that the convocation for the general elections was made on the May 29, 2009, almost one month before the coup took place. Interestingly, two of the three presiding judges were illegally appointed while Micheletti was then President of Congress. Enrique Ortez Sequeira, formerly a member of the City Council of Tegucigalpa (L) and David Matamoros Batzon (N), formerly a member of Congress are both constitutionally not allowed to preside over the process given their posts as elected officials when they were appointed.
Since August 11, the National Front Against the Coup D’état has communicated that without the restitution of President Manuel Zelaya they would boycott the elections. Despite all the international organizations that will not recognize the elections including the European Union, the Rio Group, the UN, UnaSur and the OEA, the TSE and the de facto government insist elections will be free, transparent and take place as scheduled. However, on Nov 8 El Heraldo published an article saying that “calls against the election process on November 29 will not go unpunished.”
Padre Andres Tamayo, an El Salvadorian priest naturalized as a Honduran citizen, is among those with charges against him in the District Attorney’s office for openly calling to boycott the elections. He has won the prestigious Goldman environmental prize in 2005 for protecting the forests in Olancho and has been living in Honduras for the last 26 years. After spending 56 days in the Brazilian Embassy and needing to return to El Salvador for personal reasons, his naturalization status was revoked and he was escorted out of the country.
Another interesting charge includes Andres Pavon, the President of CODEH, (Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Honduras), who is charged with “defamation of Romeo Vasquez Velasquez,” the general of the armed forces. After publically expressing concern that a massacre was planned for Election Day and that Hondurans should stay at home to avoid hostility, he has also been charged for “impeding the elections.”
Candidates Withdraw from Ballot
While the official campaign season began August 31, many candidates have been more concerned with solving the political crisis than focusing on campaigning. As part of the resistance front, they argue that elections will legitimize the coup and that the country does not meet the conditions for free and fair elections. Carlos H. Reyes is the first ever independent candidate to run for President in Honduras. He withdrew officially on November 8 after citing that “The observers contracted by the Supreme Tribunal Electoral are not a guarantee for the security and transparency of the electoral process because they are the same organizations that have justified the coup d’etat.”
Maria Margarita Zelaya Rivas, the “designado” or Vice Presidential candidate for the majority party in Congress, the Liberal party, (and cousin of President Zelaya) also withdrew her candidacy stating “my resignation speaks for… those that cannot express their thoughts for fear that the de facto government will take reprisals against them.”
The Democratic Unification Party (UD), which has been the only party to officially denounce the coup, decided in an assembly on Nov 21 to participate in the electoral process after initially denouncing them. If they would have pulled out of the elections, the Electoral Law (Article 96) states that they would no longer be recognized as an official party. The Secretary of the Board of Directors of UD, Martin Pineda defended the party’s decision to remain in the elections explaining “one scene is on the streets but it is also important institutionally… and it is a place that we should not abandon.” Many members of the resistance movement are calling them traitors for changing their position.
On Friday November 20, 146 days since the coup, people awaited the arrival of approximately 30 electoral candidates to officially resign their candidacy. According to Rafael Barahona, a member of Zelaya’s party in resistance, many candidates have strategically waited until the last week to resign so that their respective parties have less time to name a new candidate. This will be a challenge for the TSE who by law must accept resignations until Election Day but will also unlikely have time to change the ballots.
In an article in La Tribuna, Secretary of the TSE, David Matamoros stated that only 0.1% of the candidates have resigned officially and that there were “serious problems” with removing the photographs of all the candidates that will withdraw. The article also claims that “Judge Enrique Ortez Sequeira, had informed prosecutors of the actions of the protesters, who retreated when they were tired of shouting.” Unsurprisingly, they would like to inform their readership that there will be consequences againt people who protest against the elections. However, the participants did not retire from the protest because they were tired. In fact, at 2 p.m. uniformed police and also members of the Special Command “Çobra” unit (COECO, in its Spanish initials) intimidated the people to leave. Though threatening the protesters with their clubs and cans of tear gas neither was ultimately used because the resistance movement peacefully evacuated the area.
Below is an unofficial list of candidates (the TSE would not provide an official one) that have withdrawn their candidacies.
Carlos H Reyes, Presidential Candidate (Indep)
Maria Margarita Zelaya Rivas, ‘Designada Presidencial’ (Equivalent to Vice President), (L)
Diputados, equivalent to Congresspersons
Leonardo Mejía Bonilla, Cortes (L)
Ricardo Gamero Cortes, Cortes, (L)
Edis Antonio Moncada Eguigure, Suplente F.M. (L)
Jorge Antonio Yánes Fernandez, Olancho (UD)
Marco Tulio Fúnez, F.M. (UD)
Lino Enamorado Izaguirre, F.M. (UD)
María Carmela López, Yoro (UD)
Andres Martinez, F.M. (UD)
José María Martínez, Yoro (UD)
Ana Rosa Vda. de Mejía, Cortes, (L)
Rafael Edgardo Barahona Osorio, F.M. (L)
Marlene Paz, Cortes, (UD)
Carlos Ponce, Paraiso (PINU)
José Isidro Ponce, Olancho (UD)
José Edgardo Castro Rodríguez, Cortes, (L)
Elvia Argentina Valle Villalta, Diputada, Copan (L)
German Zepeda, Cortes (UD)
Juventino Bonillo, Saba, Colon (Indep)
Faustino Martínez, San Pedro Sula, Cortes (Indep)
Leonardo Martinez, Yoro (UD)
Rufino Vásquez Meza, San José, La Paz (UD)
Nelson Geovany Núñez, Lima, Cortes, (UD)
Harvin Pineda, San Pedro Sula, Cortes (Indep)
Donato Quiroz, San Antonio, Cortes (L)
Rodolfo Padilla Sunseri, San Pedro Sula, (L) (Actual Mayor that was also overthrown on the 28th of June and has been in exile in Nicaragua)
Miguel Angel Chavarría, San Antonio, Cortes (UD)
Juan Miguel (Lito) López Erazo, San Pedro Sula, Cortes (L)
María Gloria García, Lima, Cortes (UD)
Patricia Ivett Pineda, San Pedro Sula, Cortes (Indep)
(These positions are not popularly elected; they come in ‘package deals’ with the Mayors)
Regidor, equivalent to serving on City Council:
Nora Yesenia Córdova, Cortes, (Indep)
Gloria Marina Guzmán Cruz, Lima, Cortes
Mario Medrano, San Manuel, Cortes (N)
Orfilia de Mejía, San Pedro Sula, (L)
Wendy Munguía, Lima, Cortes (UD)
Regina Villamil Munoz, San Pedro Sula (Indep)
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
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