Honduran electoral fraud sparks protests in 'world’s deadliest country for environmentalists'

| 13th December 2017
Berta Cáceres

Hernandez’s government has been accused of indirect involvement with the murder of Berta Cáceres

A fraudulent election triggered ongoing mass protest in Honduras two weeks ago with 14 people killed - and the victor is still yet to be announced. The civilian backlash continues amid the uncertainty, with people rallying against a system of mass impunity and inequality. KATIE HODGETTS reports.

They promote a political project considered 'modern' that loots and plunders developing countries to benefit the developed countrie

On Sunday 26th November, opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was on course for a Honduran victory over incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez, by a lead of more than five percentage points.

However, the election system tally stopped unaccountably with 5000 voting stations to be counted, and several irregularities caused President Hernandez to steal victory by 1.6 percentage point.

Hondurans then took to the street in symbolic resistance to a fraudulent election, with protestors defying in little and in large, from riotous street mobilizations and burning tires, to making noise by banging pots and pans at night.

Political system

This anthem of discontent has been played repeatedly under Dictator Hernandez’s reign, which is one of the more patent symptoms of the elitist oligarchy that has become ever more repressive since the coup d’etat in 2009.

Protests have been prolific in both the political and environmental sphere, with their common ground being the desire for one thing: freedom. Many have lost their lives for the plight of both democracy and land-rights, and the story continued with this year’s fraudulent election.

Public protesting since last week has already claimed 14 lives, with excessive violence and torturing by the police. President Hernandez imposed an immediate public curfew, however as the situation worsened, the police refused to abide by the curfew or the public violence that it decreed.

Journalists attempting to cover the story are being detained and so peoples' voices are being repressed.

A young Honduran activist, who did not want to be named, said: “It’s not just about Juan Orlando Hernández, rather we’re talking about a whole political system that includes representatives of the National Party and the Liberal Party, who are the only parties who have been governing Honduras during the whole of the 20th and 21st century.

Ruling oligarchy

"They promote a political project considered 'modern' that loots and plunders developing countries to benefit the developed countries.”

Earlier this year, President Herdandez was publicly lambasted in Washington by a chorus of protesters chanting ‘asesino’ – Spanish for murderer - and carrying pictures of killed environmental activists.

Last year, the Hernandez’s government has been accused of indirect involvement with the murder of Berta Cáceres, an eminent environmental and indigenous rights activist who led her indigenous Lenca community against the construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam in Río Blanco, western Honduras.

A year after winning international acclaim and the Goldman Environmental Prize, she was fatally shot six times in her own home. Conclusive evidence proved the involvement of ‘Desa’ employees and executives.

They promote a political project considered 'modern' that loots and plunders developing countries to benefit the developed countrie

Desa, the company that was planning to construct the dam, is owned by members of Honduras’ ruling oligarchy. The Honduran military has now also been linked to this extrajudicial murder.

Stark reminder

The government had made the development of the sectors of mining, forestry, agribusiness and hydroelectric dams its priority, which means that Berta’s death has been one case of many.

Public resistance to mines, logging, damns or agriculture that has jeopardized corporate profit has resulted in murders by state forces, security guards or hired assassins.

Since 2010, more than 120 people have been murdered for defending their land against corporations, with 14 murdered in 2016 alone. A shocking 90 percent of killings and abuses against human rights defenders remain unresolved.

A total of 3,064 cases of criminalization have been recorded against human rights defenders in Honduras since 2010. It is not surprise then that this year Honduras was named by Global Witness as the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists.

These killings are a visual symptom of a system of impunity, where power is concentrated at the top; a stark reminder of the link between corporate influence and environmental and political oppression.

International community

The blooded ground is the consequence of a democratic system that has been distorted by the smoke of transnational corporate power, where profit in the hands of the few supersedes the environmental and political rights of the many.

It leaves Honduras submerged in a political context that has left Dismantle Corporate Power, Stop Impunity and the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty ‘deeply worried’.

The situation has been and continues to be serious: we hear from the ground that one of the daughters of the late Berta Cáceras has been taken into custody.

Friends of the Earth is calling for protection, promotion and enforcement of human rights, an end to the curfew, a guaranteed recount, and for the Honduran government to respect the right for peaceful protest.

This is a critical moment for the international community to reprimand the systemic staging of Honduras and its dictator President Hernandez. Corruption cannot win out over human lives.While Hernandez may seem deaf to their cries, we stand in solidarity with the songs echoing through the Honduran streets: “The people, united, will never be defeated.”

This Author

Katie Hodgetts works in the economic justice team at Friends of the Earth Europe and tweets at @katiehodgettssx.

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