TEGUCIGALPA – The Honduran Security Secretariat warned on Thursday that the police will “peacefully” break up groups blocking traffic in protests claiming alleged “fraud” in the national elections last weekend.
The National Police “will proceed to peacefully dislodge” demonstrators from protest sites to “reestablish the constitutional right to the free circulation” of pedestrians and vehicles, the Security Secretariat said in a statement.
In the past few hours, supporters of the Opposition Alliance against the Dictatorship have taken to the streets to protest what they are calling “fraud” designed to steal victory from their presidential candidate, Salvador Nasralla.
Both Nasralla and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was running for re-election, proclaimed themselves to have won Sunday’s balloting shortly after the polls closed and before the first official results were released by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), which initially said that the opposition candidate was ahead but later – as more votes were counted – announced that Hernandez has pulled ahead.
Several people were hurt on Thursday when Honduran police sought to disperse activists trying to reach a warehouse holding ballots from last weekend’s presidential election amid claims by the opposition candidate that authorities are manipulating the count to favor the right-wing incumbent.
The pre-dawn confrontation came outside the Institute for Professional Training on the east side of Tegucigalpa.
Police used tear gas against the protesters, who burned tires and hurled sticks and stones at members of the security forces.
Waving Honduran flags and banners of the center-left opposition coalition, the demonstrators moved away from the building, but did not disperse.
The protest followed an announcement from opposition standard-bearer Nasralla that he was withdrawing from an agreement he had signed hours earlier with representatives of the Organization of American States pledging to accept the results of Sunday’s balloting.
Nasralla repudiated the pact, which was also signed by Hernandez, after the TSE electoral court said late Wednesday that the tabulation process had been interrupted due to technical problems.
Both candidates claimed victory within hours after the polls closed.
Preliminary results released Monday showed Nasralla leading the incumbent by 45 percent to 40 percent with more than half the ballots counted.
By Wednesday evening, however, the TSE showed Hernandez ahead by a razor-thin margin of 42.21 percent to 42.11 percent, based on returns from 83 percent of polling stations.
With the TSE due to present final results on Thursday, Nasralla said that he will accept the outcome only if every single ballot is accounted for.
As of 7 am Thursday, the running tally on the TSE Web site had Hernandez leading Nasralla by 42.48 percent to 41.70 percent, with just over 11 percent of precincts left to be counted.
Hernandez’s re-election bid has been controversial from the start, as the Honduran Constitution limits the president to one term.
His candidacy was permitted on the basis of a May 2015 ruling by five Supreme Court judges who owed their appointments to Hernandez.
In 2009, the Honduran military ousted left-leaning President Mel Zelaya based on accusations that his call for a non-binding referendum on constitutional reform was a gambit aimed at allowing him to seek re-election.