Local, World

Honduras presidential race ignites chaos

Honduras is facing political and social turmoil during a tense and complicated presidential election in which the final result of the election has yet to be released.

To quell the violent protest brought on by the angered citizens, a ten day curfew was imposed on Friday, Dec. 1, which lasted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. People who broke the curfew were arrested.

The election has caused controversy from the beginning when the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party startled the country by announcing a second term for presidency, which is against the Honduran constitution.

Wielding the power of the nationalist party, Hernández defended his re-election in the aftermath of the 2015 court case which called for absolute compliance of the Supreme Electoral Comission, also know as the TSE under the current governing National Party.

Initially, the polls read center-left-wing alliance presidential candidate, Salvador Nasralla as the winner of the election. However, the TSE never announced a winner and grew silent for days.

As the days passed, polarized tension spread across the country, resulting in outbreaks of violence between unsatisfied citizens and military forces, at least four deaths, and numerous injuries.

In the ensuing unrest and turmoil, Nasralla openly accused Hernández of staging a coup, manipulating the ballots and calling for a curfew in order to put an end to protesting.

Claudia Alvarado, senior international business major at John Brown University and Honduran native, believes that the National party has control over the media and the TSE. To Alvarado, this provides an explanation for why the TSE hasn’t announced Nasralla as the winner because she believes the votes have been manipulated under Hernández’s order.

According to Alvarado, the new president’s name is typically released on the same night of the election. Alvarado believes that the long delay has made the TSE lose their credibility in the eyes of the Honduran people.

“We all know there is no transparency or trust in Honduran institutions anymore,” Alvarado said.

“It doesn’t make sense they would spend [many] days counting the votes unless they were tampering with the votes,” Alvarado said.

In Alvarado’s hometown of La Ceiba—located on the north coast— supermarkets, gas stations and banks recently closed down and all workers were sent home, including Alvarado’s mother, who worked in a cheese store.

“My mom is concerned because she needs to pay bills and she is not working,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado feared for her mother’s safety as protestors sprayed bullets in the air during a demonstration. She made her mother call her when she got home from work to ensure her safety.

After her graduation in December, Alvarado plans on moving to the capital, Tegucigalpa, but fears that her plans must change as Tegucigalpa is the heart of the country’s violent.

Two JBU alumni living in Honduras spoke on the rising tensions in their home country. For the sake of their safety, they have asked to remain anonymous and have been given fake names to protect their identities.

Larissa Guzman, residing in Tegucigalpa, said she feels that her country is now in a gigantic battlefield of angry protestors, ransacked businesses and burning tires.

“Politicians are blaming each other, and they don’t do anything about it,” Guzman said. “There’s people dying [and] I really want this to stop. I’m even losing friends because of this. People are fighting too much.”

At one point during the week, Guzman had to evacuate her home.

“Right by where I live, there [were] people burning tires and trying to destroy businesses,” Guzman said. “I saw with my own eyes people throwing balls with fire right to my window. They were trying to get into the building, and we all started praying and the police helped us get out of it.”

Giselle Rios, another JBU alumni from La Ceiba, says the violence has spread all over the country, specifically the conquering of the main highway which stretches across the entire country.

“This highway was taken so everything was stopped. On Thursday, protesters took over the main entrances of the city. They started burning car tires, cutting down trees and burning them,” Rios said.

Like Alvarado, Rios is convinced that Hernández has committed fraud, which is the cause of the violence in Honduras.

Rios said that if Hernández stays in power, the chaos and tension will never end.

“If he violated the constitution, then he’s probably capable of doing more than that over the will of the people,” Rios said.

On Dec. 2, during the hours of the curfew, people began making a boisterous clatter with pans and ladles to continue the protest from their home. According to Rios, the pan and ladle protest grew so large in number that people ventured out during the curfew to continue protesting.

“It actually made us feel less stress and at least laugh a little,” Rios said. “The message was send through social media trying to reach all the country for us to be heard, even under curfew.”

On Dec. 4, the National Police Department and the US-funded Cobra police force in Honduras refused to obey orders from Hernández. The National party went on strike, joining the Honduran people’s protesting.

For Alvarado, this is a hopeful sign for Honduran people and a bad sign for Hernández.

“This is not good for Juan Orlando Hernandez. It means he is losing power over [the people],” Alvarado said.