Hundreds of demonstrators blocked streets in the Honduras capital Tuesday in support of the leftist presidential candidate, who is claiming victory though authorities say the conservative won.
“We are fed up with these politicians who are thieves. They have stolen the election! We are going to keep this up out here,” pledged Jose Luis, a computer student at national University, amid chants of “Xiomara — President.”
He was among some 400 student-aged supporters of leftist Xiomara Castro, who has claimed victory in Sunday’s presidential race though electoral officials say conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez beat her 34 to 29 percent, with 67 percent of polling stations tallied.
“We get a (post-secondary) degree, we come out and still cannot find a job,” grumbled the demonstrator, who said Castro’s Libre party “makes it its business to be concerned with the poor.”
Local government institutions are so weak and the police so corrupt that Honduras is on the brink of becoming a failed state.
Gangs run whole neighborhoods, extorting businesses as large as factories and as small as tortilla stands, while drug cartels use Honduras as a transfer point for shipping illegal drugs, especially cocaine, from South America to the United States.
Hernandez is a law-and-order conservative who has promised a militarized program to improve public safety in the world’s deadliest nation, also among the poorest in Latin America.
The clash between Hernandez, of the National Party, and Castro of the Libre party, brought new uncertainty to a deeply troubled country, also reeling from the wounds of the coup just four years ago.
Castro’s husband, the deposed former president Manuel Zelaya, told reporters earlier that her camp does not accept the results after claiming that the election was stolen.
She has not been seen in public since claiming victory. Speaking on her behalf, Zelaya claimed “serious inconsistencies” in one-in-five polling stations.
The ex-president, who was ousted in a military-backed coup, has said his wife’s campaign does not accept results from corrupt institutions.
“We will defend our triumph,” Zelaya told supporters.
But Hernandez, who is also speaker of the legislature, said the people had spoken at the ballot box.
He named a transition team to succeed President Porfirio Lobo, urging Castro to join him in a “great national pact” against violence and poverty.
The governments of Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica congratulated Hernandez. Nicaragua’s leftist President Daniel Ortega also recognized Hernandez as the winner.
European Union and Organization of American States observers called Sunday’s voting process transparent and non-problematic.
Lobo, who will hand over the presidency on January 27, called on Hondurans to avoid confrontation and congratulated Hernandez for his “very deserved electoral victory,” calling him the “president-elect.”
The election’s winner will inherit a country of 8.5 million people with 71 percent of the population living in poverty and a soaring homicide rate of 20 murders per day.
Hernandez believes that he can create more than 100,000 jobs by supporting Hong Kong-style “model cities” in Honduras.
Conservative parties and military dictators have exchanged the presidency in the Central American nation since 1902.
Castro, who proposes “Honduran-style democratic socialism,” wants to rewrite the constitution and “re-found” the country — a move similar to the one that led to the coup that ousted her husband in 2009.
Zelaya was elected Honduran president as a PL candidate in 2005.
But when he showed signs of moving to the political left and tried to reform the constitution, the military abruptly deposed him with support from Congress and the Supreme Court in 2009.
The military ousted the democratically-elected president with no vocal or active opposition from the United States — a fact that deeply undermined US credibility across all of Latin America ever since.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]