New UN mission for Honduras as post-electoral violence continues

February 8, 2018

Latin News

On 5 February, Honduras’s President Juan Orlando Hernández said that the arrival of an exploratory mission from the United Nations (UN) would provide the basis for a way out to the country's current political crisis.

Significance: The UN mission is tasked with finding a way out of the crisis which has ensued since the November 2017 general election. This produced a contentious victory for President Hernández (who took office on 27 January) amid claims of widespread fraud by his opponent Salvador Nasralla of the Alianza de Oposición contra la Dictadura (Alianza Opositora) opposition coalition who refuses to recognise the result. The arrival of the UN mission comes as Hernández has sought international mediation, this time from the Organization of American States (OAS), in response to another political crisis – that sparked by complaints by the OAS-sponsored Mission for Support against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Maccih) regarding legislative changes passed last month. Maccih warns the changes – which Maccih’s head, Juan Jiménez Mayor described as “an impunity pact” - will block corruption investigations into over 60 legislators and public officials, including congress president Mauricio Oliva, of the ruling Partido Nacional (PN).

A presidential press release notes that the UN mission, which is due to arrive in the country this week, will hold talks with Hernández, Nasralla, and Luis Zelaya, the presidential candidate of the traditional opposition Partido Liberal (PL). Zelaya, who came third in the presidential vote, has supported Nasralla’s claims.

This process of UN-mediated negotiation is backed by the Ciudadana por Honduras (PCH), a grouping of NGOs, social movements, churches, academic institutions, and business lobbies, comprising over 200 representatives, which was set up on 16 January to promote national dialogue.

Nasralla has said that he is open to dialogue although has criticised the OAS and the UN for seeking to delay efforts to find a solution. He called fresh protests to begin on 3 February against Hernández’s election.

Yesterday at least one man died at a protest staged by Alianza Opositora in Choloma municipality, Cortés department, after the military police reportedly fired live rounds as part of efforts to break up a demonstration. The protest reportedly lasted some four hours on the road between Choloma and San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city.

In its third report on the electoral violence, released on 15 January, the local human rights commission (Conadeh) said that at least 31 people had died in at least 71 protests which had taken place at a national level against President Hernández’s re-election (although on 6 January Nasralla put the death toll since the election at 38).

The violence – and in particular the role of the security forces in containing these - continues to attract international concern. Last month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the security forces to use “only necessary and proportionate force, in line with international law, in policing demonstrations”. Most recently, on 4 February Heide Fulton, the US chargé d’affaires in Tegucigalpa, tweeted that “to start, the gov’t must swiftly and thoroughly investigate actions taken by the security forces post-election and take steps to ensure that these senseless acts which resulted in unnecessary deaths are never repeated”.

As regards the other political crisis, last month Luis Almagro, the OAS Secretary General, designated Guatemala’s former president Álvaro Colom (2008-2012) as the OAS representative to lead a dialogue between Honduras and the OAS. This is in response to Hernández’s calls for dialogue following the complaints raised by Maccih with regard to the legislative changes approved on 18 January which Fulton also slammed as a major setback in anti-impunity efforts. Colom is due to arrive in the country on 12 February to begin talks which could also cover proposals for electoral reform following the electoral controversy.

The legislative changes passed on 18 January have attracted concern from other sectors. On 2 February both the attorney general’s office and Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa (ASJ), the local branch of Transparency International (TI), filed appeals against the changes on the grounds they were unconstitutional and in breach of various provisions of the constitution relating to public administration and civil responsibility.

Looking Ahead: The pressure on the PN government to address these corruption concerns is set to intensify after Spanish daily, El País, published an interview yesterday with Jiménez Mayor in which he said that as many as 140 politicians could be involved in the criminal network.

Contributor Biography

Latin American Newsletters (LatinNews) was founded in London in 1967 to provide expert political, economic, and security analysis on Latin America and the Caribbean. For nearly 50 years, it has been acknowledged as the foremost authority on the region.

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