Hondurans stage mass rally to demand ouster of president
Tens of thousands of people in Honduras have staged a protest rally in the country’s second-largest city against the re-election of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez, whose victory is beset by vote fraud allegations.
Honduran protesters marched in the streets of San Pedro Sula on Saturday, calling for the 64-year-old opposition leader, Salvador Nasralla, to be recognized as the real winner of the November presidential race.
The supporters of Nasralla’s party, the Opposition Alliance against the Dictatorship, waved banners that read “Electoral Fraud Shall Not Stand,” “No more political killings,” and “Freedom for Political Prisoners.”
Demanding the resignation of the 49-year-old Hernandez, the protesters also chanted the slogan “JOH, out is where you are headed,” using Hernandez’s initials.
Opposition parties also called for a one-week national strike from January 20 and a boycott of Hernandez’s swearing-in ceremony as president, which is scheduled for January 27.
Nasralla has said the victory of the incumbent president has been imposed by the United States on the Honduran nation. Hernandez has had friendly ties with the US, which has backed his reelection.
“The people are not going to put up with this imposition, so that the dictator can stay on,” Nasralla said in the Saturday rally. “We’re not going to stop until we get the corrupt out of power.”
According to the official count, Hernandez won the November 26, 2017 election with 42.95 percent to Nasralla’s 41.42.
This is while the initial results had shown the opposition leader enjoying a significant lead over Hernandez with nearly 60 percent of the vote counted. The electoral tribunal then went mysteriously silent, giving no further public updates for about 36 hours, and when they resumed, Nasralla’s lead steadily eroded and ultimately reversed in favor of Hernandez.
That triggered strong speculations of fraud, and the final count was questioned by the main opposition parties in the Central American country and monitors with the Organization of American States (OAS).
However, European Union election observers said the vote recount showed no irregularities.
The opposition appealed to the OAS and the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), demanding the annulment of the results, but officials rejected the appeal due to a lack of evidence and dubbed the opposition’s demand “groundless.”
The violence that erupted in the wake of the election has killed more than 30 people and led to the apprehension of 800 others, human rights groups say.