Opposition parties in Honduras have attacked the failure of the US to denounce the controversial declaration of President Juan Orlando Hernández as winner of a widely disputed election.
International observers with the Organization of American States say the vote was so discredited that it was impossible to declare a valid result, and called for a re-run.
But the US State Department noted that an election court had ratified the result of the November 26 election and called on Hondurans to refrain from violent protests.
“The United States notes that Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal has declared incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernández the winner of the November 26 presidential elections,” the statement reads.
It calls on Hondurans who disagree with the decision to “raise any concerns” within five days according to Honduran electoral law, and called on people to “refrain from violence.” The US statement, tweeted by the US Ambassador to Honduras, urged political parties and leaders to “stress to their supporters the need to resolve their differences peacefully.”
Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal said Hernández won the election with 42.9% of the votes, edging his main challenger, Salvador Nasralla, who was declared second with 41.24%.
The opposition accuses Hernandez of stuffing the court with supporters who helped him change the constitution to allow him to seek a second term.
Hundreds of angry opposition supporters protested in the streets of the capital Tegucigalpa Monday following the announcement of the court’s decision.
Manuel Zelaya Rosales, “Alianza” opposition coordinator and a former President, condemned the US State Department response, saying it “validates the crime of electoral fraud.”
“Lets hold the military and police to account for the murders and the brutal use of violence against our brave people who defend the vote for Alianza and the victory of Salvador Nasralla.” It called for an immediate investigation into the murders of “at least 24 compatriots.”
The US has a large military base in Honduras, which has led to accusations that both the current and previous US administrations are turning a blind eye to political violence and corruption in the country.
The Organization of American States raised a string of concerns about the election.
“The tight margin between the ‘number’ of votes obtained for one or the other candidate, as well as irregularities, errors and systematic problems that have encircled this election do not at the moment permit the (observer) Mission to be certain as to who won the presidential election,” the OAS statement said.
The OAS, a regional non-partisan organization comprising 35 countries, in its statement on the elections, also referred to “deliberate human intrusions in the computer system, intentional elimination of digital traces,” and “pouches of votes open or lacking votes.”
The administration of Hernández has also been dogged by allegations of corruption and drug trafficking.
Re-election for a second term had long been against the law, but in 2009, Zelaya, then president, now coordinator of the opposition, was ousted in an army coup that took place ostensibly because he wanted to run again.