Protest at Honduran consulate in Washington DC against electoral fraud and state repression
Facing near-freezing temperatures, a group of labor advocates, community organizers, peace activists and representatives of Honduran civil society gathered outside the Honduran Consulate in Washington, D.C. on Thursday to protest the US and Honduran governments’ response to the ongoing electoral crisis in Honduras.
Members of the AFL-CIO, CISPES, Witness for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, CODEPINK, the Latin America and Caribbean Action Network (LACAN), the Pro Honduras Network and other civil society organizations led protesters in chants of "Don’t steal elections!" and "Say no to military police," referencing the internationally-disputed outcome of the November 26th presidential election.
After having been completely silent in the hours following the election, Honduras’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE in Spanish) announced early the next morning that the left-leaning candidate, Salvador Nasralla of the Opposition Alliance, had a five point lead with 57% of the votes counted. The vote-tallying then stopped for about 30 hours, though during that time one member of the TSE told the press that the trend in favor of Nasralla was “irreversible.” Once the tallying started again, Nasralla’s lead began to shrink. Two days later, and following two “technical breakdowns”, the result favored the incumbent National Party candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández.
When Hondurans took to the streets to protest the irregularities, the government responded with riot police and a curfew. At least a dozen protestors have been killed and hundreds have been jailed, according to human rights groups.
“This isn’t just an electoral issue. It’s a labor rights issue and a human rights issue,” said Brian Finnegan, Global Worker Rights Coordinator for the AFL-CIO. Finnegan noted that two days after the election, the US government cleared the way for military aid to the Honduran government, certifying that it had improved its human rights environment over the last year. “We can’t let this go unaddressed,” Finnegan said.
“I felt like I couldn’t watch this anymore without taking a stand,” said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the grassroots peace and social justice organization CODEPINK. In a show of solidarity, Benjamin and the protestors banged on pots and buckets as they chanted. Hondurans have taken to banging their cookware late into the night in a form of protest known as a cacerolazo to show their defiance after the curfew limits them to their homes.
Also in attendance was Neery Carillo, sister of the slain Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres. A recent investigation by a group of independent experts recently showed that senior executives and at least one of the owners of a private energy firm with close connections to the Honduran government had planned Cáceres’ assassination. “It’s time for Juan Orlando Hernández to understand that he lost and that he needs to bring peace to the country,” said Neery.
The protesters tried to bring some holiday humor to the critical situation in Honduras. “Stealing elections is naughty” read one sign. At one point, the gathering broke into Christmas carols, with “Don't steal the election and we’ll give you good cheer" replacing the lyrics of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."