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Honduras, history always repeats itself

Salvador Nasralla
Foto: Xinhua español
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Hegel said that all great world-historic facts (and personages) occur twice.  Marx complemented this, adding that the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.


What has happened in Honduras confirms the thesis of the old philosophers, that history is always repeated twice: the Coup d’État against Mel Zelaya in 2009 as tragedy, and the electoral fraud of 2017 as farce.


On June 28 2009, masked military personnel captured President Zelaya in pyjamas and deported him illegally to Costa Rica, after a stop-off at a joint US-Honduran military base [1].  Zelaya was accused of attempting to carry out a plebiscite to consult the possible call for a Constituent Assembly, although his true crime was a swing from the postulates that had brought him to the government as a representative of the Liberal Party in 2006, when he promoted, in 2008, the entry of Honduras, first into PetroCaribe and then into ALBA, which enabled him that same year to raise the minimum wage by 60%.


The attack was not only against a progressive government, but also against the weakest link of ALBA, after a decade of ascent of leftist governments in the region. Moreover, Honduras occupies a key geopolitical position in Central America, for which it was used by the CIA in the 1980s as a platform to train the Nicaraguan contras; and then in 2009 it became a laboratory of the smart power defended by Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State: that is, the combination of hard power (classic style coup, use of the Armed Forces) with soft power (political impulse from Judicial Power together with media manipulation and a news blackout).


Eight years later, (Zelaya’s party) Libre participated in the elections in an Opposition Alliance together with the Party of Innovation and Unity (PINU) and the Anticorruption Party (PAC), that chose the leader of this latter party, the well-known television presenter Salvador Nasralla, as candidate for President.  His main contender was Juan Orlando Hernández (known as JOH), candidate of the National Party and President since 2013, who presented himself for reelection, despite the Honduran Constitution prohibiting this in its article 239 [2]. For doing much less, Mel Zelaya was the object of a Coup d’État.


On November 27, one day after the elections, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal made public a report of results where, with 57%  of the vote count, Nasralla and the Opposition Alliance had a lead of over 5 points over JOH. In most electoral systems in the world, an advantage of 5 points with over 50% of the count completed is considered an irreversible tendency. But not in Honduras where, after a more than suspect failure of the computing system, which failed to retransmit 5000 electoral acts, a new recount was offered in which JOH had 1.6 points over Nasralla. The fraud was consolidated on December 18, when the Supreme Electoral Tribunal delivered the final results, giving the victory to JOH with 42.95% against 41.5% for Nasralla. All this took place under a curfew decreed on December 1, which has left, up to now, over 30 people shot dead by the security forces.


The fraud was so flagrant that even the OAS, hardly suspect of sympathy with progressive governments, whose head of mission was the Bolivian Tuto Quiroga, ex-vicepresident of the dictator Banzer (even less suspect), was obliged to release a report [3], on December 17, backed up by a press release [4] of its General Secretary that pointed out: deliberate human intrusions in the computing system, intentional elimination of the digital trail, impossibility of knowing the number of cases in which the system was vulnerable, vote pouches delivered open or without electoral acts, extreme improbability of statistics with respect to levels of participation in the same department, recently printed voting papers and additional irregularities, added to the narrow difference of votes between the two candidates most voted, make it impossible to determine the winner with the necessary certitude.


A Coup d’État that was a tragedy for the Honduran and Latin American people, and an electoral coup that has been a farce for the whole international community. Let us learn from history, so that we may not come to repeat it.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)


[1] Honduras has an agreement with the United States since the 1950s according to which this latter country can freely use any Honduran military base or airport. In the military base of Palmerola alone, it is calculated that there are some 500 marines. 


[2] The citizen who has held the title of the Executive Power cannot be President or Vice-President of the Republic. Anyone who violates this disposition or proposes its reform, along with those who support him directly or indirectly, will immediately be ceased in the exercise of their respective office and will be disqualified for ten (10) years from the exercise of any public function.


[3] http://www.oas.org/fpdb/press/segundo-informe-preliminar-moe-honduras-18dic-nal.pdf


[4] http://www.oas.org/es/centro_noticias/comunicado_prensa.asp?sCodigo=C-092/17