TEGUCIGALPA – Honduran police seized explosive material on Saturday after three new bomb attacks were carried out on the eve of controversial general elections, including one against Radio America, one of the country’s leading radio stations.
No one was injured in any of the blasts.
Hondurans are heading to the polls Sunday to elect a president in general elections that have been rejected by most of the international community in the wake of the June 28 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.
The Honduras government headed by Roberto Micheletti went ahead with the elections as scheduled despite criticism from Zelaya supporters and the international community.
The polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and are scheduled to close at 4:00 p.m., but the voting can be extended for an hour at the discretion of elections officials, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said.
Preliminary results are expected to be released around 6:00 p.m., elections officials told Efe.
Micheletti voted in his hometown of El Progreso, a city in northern Honduras, and told reporters he was casting his ballot "for Honduras, for democracy."
"I have faith in God that nothing is going to happen," Micheletti said.
A total of 4.6 million Hondurans, including 1 million people living abroad, are eligible to vote in Sunday's election for president, three vice presidents, 128 members of Congress and 298 local officials.
In the presidential balloting, opposition National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo is the frontrunner in the polls.
"The process is going normally, the people are exercising their right to vote. Remember that this election marks, without a doubt, a step toward a national unity government. At the national level, all the reports are normal," Lobo said.
Ruling Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos is trailing Lobo in the polls because the party split over the coup against Zelaya, who belongs to the party.
Micheletti is also a member of the Liberal Party.
Coup opponents, backed by most of the international community, say a free and fair vote is impossible given the repression imposed by Micheletti's "interim" regime, which has killed at least a dozen people, imprisoned hundreds and repeatedly shut down independent media.
Five human rights organizations with representatives in Honduras denounced the existence of a "climate of terror" ahead of Sunday's elections in the Central American country.
Soldiers on the street "detain members of the resistance for no reason," assaulting them in some instances, the groups said in a statement released Thursday.
While most Organization of American States members have said they would not recognize the Honduran elections, Washington is backing the process and personnel from the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, both funded by the U.S. Congress, are in Honduras to observe the balloting.
Elections officials also invited about 250 foreigners, including business leaders, politicians and former officials to serve as observers.
Zelaya, who has been holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa since slippi
ng back into the country on Sept. 21, denied Saturday that he was seeking asylum abroad.
"It's not true that I am seeking political asylum," Zelaya told Efe by telephone from the Brazilian Embassy.
Patricia Licona, who served as Zelaya's deputy foreign minister, told Efe Sunday that the deposed president's administration was expecting leaders attending this week's Ibero-American Summit to issue a statement about the coup and the elections.
"It's logical that in the Ibero-American area a statement will be made because there was a coup and there have been violations of human rights," Licona said.Subversive Bombings.
Police seized a stick of dynamite, several meters of detonating cord and a bomb-making manual from an apartment in the Tiloarque district of Tegucigalpa, National Police spokesman Rene Maradiaga said.
Also seized were a vehicle and a motorcycle supposedly used in recent attacks, as well as clothing and a flag that indicated the people planning the attacks had leftist sympathies, Maradiaga told reporters.
Police spokesman Orlin Cerrato said that no one was arrested in the operation.
Maradiaga said the vehicle and motorcycle were apparently used in attacks on an electrical substation, a TV news building and Radio America and HRN radio stations.
Police raided the apartment on Saturday, hours after three new attacks were carried out with explosives: one against Tegucigalpa’s Radio America, another on a street in a commercial zone of the northern city of San Pedro Sula and yet another at a polling station in the western town of Lempira.
Cerrato said two unknown assailants launched a fragmentation grenade at a Radio America building and two other stations of the Audio Video chain at around 10:45 p.m. Friday night local time (0445 GMT Saturday).
The explosion did not result in any injuries, but did damage a window, he added.
Journalist Luis Edgardo Vallejo, coordinator of Radio America’s El Minuto news program, denounced Friday night’s attack and said it is the fifth time the station has been targeted since President Mel Zelaya’s ouster on June 28.
Cerrato said the attacks in San Pedro Sula and Lepaera, which also caused minor damage but no injuries, occurred Saturday morning.
Police also arrested two Hondurans who had dozens of padlocks and iron chains in their possession, which they supposedly were planning to use to close polling stations during Sunday’s election.
A dozen attacks with low-intensity explosives have been carried out in Tegucigalpa and other places since last week, but only one person has been injured, a passenger on a bus of a company owned by current Honduras President Roberto Micheletti.Zelaya Complains.
On Thursday, Zelaya filed a protest with the OAS about “contradictions” in Washington’s position on the coup and the elections.
“I raise with you, in your character of OAS secretary-general, the formal complaints of my government and the Honduran people about ... the manifest ambiguity and contradiction of the government of the United States of America,” Zelaya said in a letter to Jose Miguel Insulza.
He said that the United States and other, unnamed countries are “using ambiguous and imprecise positions.”
“On one hand, they recognize my government; nevertheless, on the other hand, they ignore our positions and the OAS and U.N. resolutions (demanding Zelaya’s reinstatement) and heed the instructions of the de facto regime (in Tegucigalpa),” the letter said.
Zelaya went on to recount how soldiers stormed his residence “with guns blazing,” dragged him out and put him on a plane to Costa Rica, while a plurality of Congress fabricated a “resignation” and the Honduran Supreme Court ordered his arrest on trumped-up charges.
“This has been condemned and characterized by every country in the world as a violent and unexpected rupture of the democratic order, a military coup d’etat,” the missive to Insulza said.
Zelaya last month accepted a U.S.-brokered deal to end a months-long stand-off.
Under the terms of the agreement, a unity government was to be formed and the Honduran Congress was to vote whether or not to reinstate Zelaya.
But Zelaya refused to propose candidates to the national unity government until a Congressional vote and pronounced the pact dead earlier this month after Micheletti formed a “national unity” government at the deadline agreed to in the timetable set out in the accord.
Congress is expected to conduct the vote on Wednesday, following the elections.
U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon said that Washington would recognize the election winner regardless of whether Zelaya was reinstated. Panama has also announced that they will support the outcome as well.
Even Nobel laureate and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who had brokered the accord between the two sides, also announced that he was supporting the vote. "Why do we want to make Honduras into the Burma of Central America? Why do we want a second Hurricane Mitch?" he told CNN en Espanol.
In the eyes of Constituional scholars and most Hondurans, Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup. The soldiers who escorted Zelaya from the presidential palace were enforcing a Supreme Court order after Zelaya refused to comply with their earlier order banning his planned referendum on revising the constitution to allow for unlimited presidential terms. The Constitution calls for immediate disempowerment of any official who does so.
Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution says “Any citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch cannot be President or Vice-President again. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, as well as those who support such violation directly or indirectly, must immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”
In August, the U.S. Congress Law Library issued a report that calls the disempowerment of Zelaya, with the exception of the removal of Zelaya from the country, constitutional under Honduran law.
According to report author Norma Gutiérrez, the Honduran Congress has the power to "disapprove of the conduct of the president".
The Congress "implicitly exercised its power of constitutional interpretation in the case of Zelaya when it decided that its power to 'disapprove' the president's actions encompassed the power to remove him", the report says.
The Honduran establishment says that Zelaya, a former rancher who moved to the left once in office, had been taken under the wing of Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez, who is reviled by conservatives across Latin America.