Honduras demonstration US flag
© Reuters
Supporters of the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla burn the US flag as they take part in a march to protest against the results of Honduras' general elections in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
The recent support of both US government officials and American media pundits for protestors in Iran - or rather, the recent attack on the Iranian government - which goes as far as suggesting arming the Iranian opposition with the goal of regime change - contrasts sharply with their silence in the face of a blatantly stolen election in Honduras and mass demonstrations. Since the election, thirty people have been killed in police operations and 800 arrested.

On Saturday, some 80,000 people marched in San Padro Sula, the country's second largest city, against the reelection of US-backed president Juan Orlando Hernández and in support of opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla who was almost certainly the legitimate winner of the election. Demonstrators called for a national strike, threatened to boycott Hernández's inauguration and blocked roads and airports. The Honduran National Police and the elite military police - which are responsible for attacking peaceful protestors and collectively punishing them by using tear gas in their houses - have been the recipients of $114 million in US security support since 2009.


Magic Numbers


A day before the national election of November 26th, The Economist revealed the contents of a recording, apparently of a training session for members of Hernández's National Party, who were to be present at polling stations. The leader of the session advocates five vote-rigging "strategies" or "techniques", which include obtaining or buying poll-workers' credentials from smaller parties, allowing National Party voters to vote more than once, spoiling ballots of votes for opposition parties, filling-in left-over ballots, and damaging the bar-code on tally-sheets that record a majority for the opposition.

The president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), David Matamoros Batson, also happens to be the former Secretary General of the National Party. Unsurprisingly, the TSE played an essential role in calling the election for Hernández. While after the previous presidential election the TSE released preliminary results with 25% of the ballots counted and as early as 6 pm on election day, this time they waited until they had more than 57% counted at midnight, at which point they gave a 5% lead to the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. The TSE then decided to divert from normal procedure and refrained from releasing further results for 36 hours without offering any convincing explanation.

Eventually, Matamoros announced that they were waiting for 6,000 missing tallies from polling stations. Two hours later, however, he changed the figure to 7,500. Meanwhile, another electoral tribunal magistrate, Marcos Ramiro Lobo, told Reuters that the counted ballots were actually 70% and that Nasralla's 5% lead was regarded by the electoral body as "irreversible". However, when the TSE resumed posting results, Nasralla's advantage steadily declined. By the time 95% of ballots were counted, Hernández had miraculously reached 42.9%, ahead of Nasralla's now 41.4%, against all statistical probabilities.
Salvador Nasralla Honduras demonstration
© Getty Images
Salvador Nasralla addresses the crowd in San Pedro Sula during the protest against the reelection of Juan Orlando Hernández
Just two days after the election, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified that the Honduran government had been combating corruption and supporting human rights, clearing the way for further cash aid, and implicitly accepting the results in advance. Days later, and shortly after the Electoral Commission declared Hernández the winner, the US State Department issued a statement congratulating him, despite the well-known irregularities and ongoing chaos on the streets.

The support from the US government comes despite a letter to President Donald Trump written by twenty-seven US representatives denouncing Honduran security forces firing "live ammunition at civilians protesting electoral fraud," torturing people and illegally detaining more than 1,500, and harassing journalists. The Organization of American States took a similar stance:
The organization had commissioned Irfan Nooruddin, a professor at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, to analyze the disputed election results.

Nooruddin's seven-page analysis concluded: "I would reject the proposition that the National party won the election legitimately."

His conclusion coincided with reports on how Nasralla's early lead mysteriously disappeared.
OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro issued a statement in which he said it was impossible to determine a winner given that there was "deliberate human intrusion in the computer system; intentional elimination of digital traces; the impossibility of knowing how many times the system was breached; ballot cases open or without ballot tallies; extreme statistical improbability regarding participation levels." The OAS is thus asking for a repeat of the vote. Still, the TSE declared Hernández the winner on December 17.

Our Man in Honduras

The US military's jackboot has always been ready and willing to step on Honduras' neck. Between 1903 and 1925, US Marines were sent to the country seven times. These foreign interventions happened to coincide with popular uprisings protesting the corrupt government that regularly confiscated peasant lands and handed them to foreign companies. Later, throughout the Reagan years, Honduras was used as a base for the Nicaraguan CIA-trained 'Contras', whose purpose was to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua using terror tactics. The officers of the Honduran military were trained in the US and held de facto power over elected officials.

The situation only changed in 2006, when José Manuel Zelaya Rosales was elected president. Although he was a moderate conservative, his reforms on public education and direct aid to the poor enraged the right. He also attempted to transfer power away from the military and to the presidency by campaigning to change the Constitution to allow for a second term. As a result of his efforts, Rosales was kidnapped in his pijamas in 2009 and flown in a helicopter to Costa Rica after making a stop at US Palmerola Air Base. Instead of denouncing the coup d'etat, the US State Dept. colluded with the coup leaders and recognized the 'legitimacy' of the subsequent election, something most other Latin American countries refused to do. Forgetting that Zelaya was already the legitimate president of Honduras, the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoir:
"We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot."
This tacit admission of support for the coup was later deleted from the paperback version of Hillary's book Hard Choices. State Department cables released by Wikileaks confirm that the US had no intention of interceding in favor of democracy in Honduras - just as it has no intention of doing so now.

Juan Orlando Herández Honduras
© Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images
People take part in a rally supporting Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández in Tegucigalpa on Nov. 5.
It's more than a little ironic that the excuse for the coup of 2009 was Zelaya's proposed referendum to change the Constitution to allow for a president's reelection, while Hernández is about to rule the country for a second term via a rigged election. Judging by the support Hernández has received from both the Obama and Trump administrations, concerns about democracy and human rights are very far from American minds. An article by Daniel Runde in Foreign Policy illustrates the point:
The United States Has a Lot Riding on the Honduras Election

Central America isn't beyond repair, but there aren't a lot of good people we can work with right now.

Honduras has a presidential election this month. The pro-U.S. president, Juan Orlando Hernández, is seeking reelection and ahead in the polls. A Hernández win would be not only good for Honduras but also for the region and the United States. Washington has invested significant money in Central America to help turn the security and economic situation around. Moreover, with bad interlocutors in Guatemala and El Salvador, losing Hernández would be a real setback. [...]

Several high-profile human-rights cases have made it harder for the U.S. Congress to provide assistance to the region, however. The murder of the activist Berta Cáceres in Honduras is a tragedy and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.
Runde fails to mention that, one month before her death, Berta Cáceres - a human rights and environmental activist and outspoken critic of the Hernández government - stated that the elite police force TIGRES was a "hostile and aggressive presence" occupying her local rural community, where Cáceres organized protests against a planned hydroelectric dam. There have been allegations of the direct involvement of TIGRES in her murder.

There is also no mention of the possible involvement of Hernández, or at least his close associates, in drug-trafficking and corruption. Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga, the former leader of the Cachiros cartel, told a federal courtroom in New York that he met with the brother of Hernández to arrange contracts for a money laundering company. This was revealed in the context of the case of Favio Lobo, who attempted to smuggle cocaine from Honduras to the USA. Lobo is the son of former President Porfirio Lobo Sosa, a Hernández ally and the man who ruled the country after the 2009 coup.

Honduras cocaine drug dealers narcotraffic
© Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images
Authorities prepare to incinerate a load of cocaine seized from two Colombian nationals navigating along the Caribbean, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on July 11, 2017.
In a different trial, José Santos Peña, a Mexican drug-trafficker, revealed that he had met with the head of the TIGRES force and chief of security of the Hernández government, Julián Pacheco, to discuss the movement of cocaine through Colombia, Honduras and into the USA. It was Fabio Lobo who introduced them. Pacheco, a graduate of the US military School of the Americas, remains in his position of overseeing the same security forces that are tasked with repressing protesters in the streets.

Furthermore, a report from Global Witness, and another from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, uncovered damning evidence of systematic corruption in Hernández's National Party.

This has not stopped Hernández from traveling to Washington to meet both President Trump and Vice President Pence. He is close to White House chief of staff John Kelly, who considers him a "great guy" and a "good friend". Proof that he is well-disposed towards the US agenda in Central America is seen in the recent UN vote condemning Trump's decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem: Honduras voted against it.

The implicit dismissal of the genuine grievances of the people of Honduras in the silence and support of a crooked president and previous repressive and corrupt governments highlights the hypocrisy and double-standards of a global empire that is only interested in democracy and human rights when such talk suits its interventionist agenda, like in Iran for one example.