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  December 21, 2017

Will Honduras Get New Presidential Elections?


Amid ongoing protests against President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras, he will be sworn in this week for a second term in office. Luther Castillio returns home to fight the stolen election supported by Danny Glover and Sacramento City Councilman Allen Warren.

Electoral observers from the OAS are calling for new elections, but they still won't use the word "fraud." Gerardo Torres, international coordinator of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship, and Luther Castillo, former Vice Minister in the Department of Health, discuss next steps

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SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. At least 22 Hondurans have been killed in protests against the country's presidential elections three weeks ago. Last Sunday Honduras Electoral Tribunal proclaimed that the Conservative incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernández, won the election with a 1.5% margin ahead of the center left candidate Salvador Nasralla. Electoral observers from the OAS and the opposition however are now saying that there should be new elections because both the vote and the recount were unreliable. To discuss the aftermath of the Honduran presidential election we are today joined in our studio in Baltimore with two guests. Gerardo Torres, he is the international coordinator of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Also joining us is Dr. Luther Castillo. He's a Garifuna physician and former vice minister in the Department of Health under the former President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya. I thank you both for joining us today.

GERARDO TORRES: Thank you.

LUTHER CASTILLO: Thank you very much for having for having us.

SHARMINI PERIES: Gerardo, let me start with you. Most people associated with the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship believes that this election was stolen from the people. Why?

GERARDO TORRES: Well we had a process that began normally. In Honduras we used to have ballots closed about 4 p.m and then we have result by 7 p.m. When the ballots closed at 4, but at 7, 9, 10 p.m. we didn't have results, we knew that something was wrong. At 1:00 in the morning of Monday the tribunal was forced to say that Nasralla, who was our candidate, was winning by five points with more than half of the precincts and ballots counted. Then we start celebrating, of course, because we knew that that was a tendency that would unlikely change. And it could change just by some one or two points. That had been the tradition of our elections.

The thing is that the next morning by 3 a.m. the system had fallen and they had shut it down. And there were 10 hours without the system being uploaded. When it came back we saw that the tendency started changing against even mathematical logic.

Nasralla, who was our candidate, started losing votes and President Hernandez started gaining votes. In some of the precincts with 120% higher than the historical participation rate. And by Wednesday, Hernandez had tied with Nasralla and was ahead of him in one point.

So that's when the process stopped. People went to the tribunal center with President Zelaya, who's the coordinator of the resistance, and of the Alliance Against the Opposition. In that day demonstrations and barricades and protests in Honduras started. And since day that until now we have started seeing all the things that they did in those 48 hours to try and change the results that we had, the elections. And we have seen proof of fraud in every part of the electoral process. And that's why the OAS, that has always been the friend of the regime in Honduras, is not willing to call it fraud.

SHARMINI PERIES: Gerardo, the international delegations that were in Honduras that were election observers, tell us how many there were, from what parts of the world, and also what they are now saying about the elections.

GERARDO TORRES: Well we had the official ones that were invited by the Electoral Tribunal that were supposedly to be in Honduras for three days, five tops, and have been in the country for a month because they knew that if they went out of Honduras, that would end up in a bloodshed. Even bigger than what it is now. We have more than 55 people killed. [inaudible 00:04:33] official numbers, but we know that they have been murdered all around Honduras. So those people stayed. And we intended to have international observers. We had a list of 215 international observers, but the Electoral Tribunal only gave us 35. And those 35 were also part of those delegations.

And what they say from the first moment is that even before the elections they called the tribunal and said, "You know, there are some things that are not transparent in this process. There are not representation of all the political parties in all the ballots or the electoral places. And we are not confident in your transmission system." We knew all this and we decided to participate because we knew that the gap, the difference between them and us, was going to be so big that not even their fraud that we knew that existed would be enough. And that's why they shut down the system because they didn't even believe that we could overcome that fraud. And when they saw that even without everything they had prepared, we were winning by five points, then they couldn't be more calm, and they did a lot of mistakes there. Because of the people are on the streets we have learned what they did and we have proven what they did. And that's why they're against the wall, because the whole world's starting to know what they did in our elections.

SHARMINI PERIES: Dr. Castillo let me turn to you here and ask you about that moment when candidate Nasralla was declared the winner of this election. What happened, and then tell us what followed.

LUTHER CASTILLO: What's happened, November 26 usually in Honduras every four years of the election we close the ballot at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Then at 7 p.m. we have the first report of tendency of the election. Something happened this year that it was at 7 and the tribunal was silent. And they say, they come and say that maybe at 9. Then at 9 p.m. come and we were expecting, the people was waiting for the first report and nothing happened. At 11, 12, 1, until 2 a.m. the next day.

And after that we find out that it was a huge big discussion between four members of the tribunal because two of them was against to come and say the first report because their candidate was losing the election, the current president was losing the election. Then one of the members say, "If you don't go out to say the first report I will go by myself." Then that was the reason that the president of tribunal come at 2 a.m. and he was forced to say the reality that with 57% of the ballot the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship was winning for more than five points.

And this is something that is typical, but after that time just they shut down the system. And the system was shut down. And we were asking what was happening. And the reason the president of tribunal was saying is that the hard drive got overloaded and that's what's happening, the system go and [inaudible 00:08:27]. But before that Hondurans spent millions and millions of dollar to make sure that this election's going to be clear and transparent. And changes and hires one of the most biggest companies to provide the better service than all the millions that we spent. It was spent from our taxes to have a transparent election. And in few hours, and they came even two hours before closing the ballots saying that we have a great system. Now we contract the best company. Then we're gonna have even the first report earlier than the other years.

But something abnormal was happening. And today when we're asking what had happened, we want to make sure what really happened. Show us the system, because now it's some part of the electronic system because they can scan it. We can make sure if they shut down the system manually or something happens. If they introduce inside the system a new ballot who was not inside and they deny to facilitate even with the presence of international witness to make sure what was happening, even we are saying, "No, we can bring international technicians, a special people who can make sure what was happening when they shut down the system," and make all this tendency who was [inaudible 00:09:58] tendency was not likely to be a reversible tendency because ... And we want to do that, we wanted to do that, we are demanding to do that, and they still refuse to do it.

SHARMINI PERIES: Gerardo you said something very important, that the OAS is refusing to call this a fraudulent election but they're willing to actually call for a reelection at this point. In fact the head of the OAS actually stated that just recently. Now give us a sense of why you think the international observers that were present during the election has not come out with a report, none of them has. Not the EU delegation, not the OAS, none of the major delegations observing the elections have come out with a report. Yet they've been there for a month. Why?

GERARDO TORRES: Well I believe that the OAS is a very hypercritical institution. And Honduras has always proved them the hypercritical they are. During our elections they have seen all the proof of fraud. And as Dr. Castillo is saying, we know that if in a legal situation we were going to win the elections, because if they count again the votes, if they check the system, if they do anything they want we can prove the fraud because it's very obvious. The thing with the OAS is that because Honduras is a such friend of the United States interest in the region and has such a good relationship with the United States embassy and has served the OAS to attack other countries like Venezuela and any purpose that the OAS wants, Honduras has always been very obedient what they say.

If this would be happening in another country, Venezuela, like the biggest case, or Nicaragua, or El Salvador, then they have already made a stronger action. And it's very, I don't know, interesting. They are seeing people being killed in Honduras. People that jump people. Yesterday they killed a little girl and little boys. And they tell that we are the violent ones because some people throw rocks and people are defending while the military are shooting gunfire to innocent people that are unarmed. And the OAS, "Just give us more time and more time and more time." And giving them time to prepare their fraud. But they couldn't.

And when the OAS was going to say that, let's have another election, what they did was that they called the president of tribunal that said, as Mr. Castillo said, that we were winning at the day of the election, now said that the tendency was reversed, and that Hernandez is the winning president. And they do it one day before the OAS has a meeting where our elected President Mr. Salvador Nasralla, who was the candidate of the Alliance, when they did that then they break the rule book. And that's why we called this, that this is a new coup, a new coup [inaudible 00:13:08] Honduras that is happening to stop, again, the people to have power in their hands.

But we know, because we know the strength that we have, that if we do another election we are easily going to win it. So if they count the votes, we're going to win. If they do another election, we're going to win. And they know that. That's why they have the military killing people on the streets, and that's why we point out the State Department of the United States and we point out the OAS and the European Union that their silence is responsible for so many people being killed right now in Honduras.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. Dr. Castillo, you, and both of you actually are on your way to meet with the OAS in Washington DC today, and you are bringing forward a message from the people, from particularly the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship. What is it you're hoping that the OAS does on your behalf?

LUTHER CASTILLO: As part of the people's movement, as part of the coalition of grassroots movement, we are expecting nothing from the OAS. And we know that only people can save the people, only our people in the street can fight for themselves. There is something interesting this movement that the OAS and the world have to know. This is more bigger than the opposition, this is more bigger than the Alliance. This is the people's movement. They are the young people in the streets. The biggest difference between this and 2009, it was because the teachers' movement, maybe the unions was taking the street, was going to the street and protest. Today there are young people in the street. They have been killing in less than 15 days more than 30 of our young people, 23, 24, 18, 14. Yesterday night at 10 p.m they just killed a 12-year-old girl. Yesterday night, like at 8, they kill my friend's, I have a friend who is a doctor who was protesting peacefully, and his brother, they kill his brother, 24 years old.

But those young people they're still there. They are not afraid because they don't have no hope. That's the only light which shines that they have ever see, and they are willing to lay down their life in the altar of sacrifice to fight for their country. And the OAS knows that alliance win the election. They really know that. They don't want to explain it in their report, but they know that because there was a third party participating in this process. Alliance Against Dictatorship, National Party, and the Liberal Party. And the transmission of the report was immediately at the same time transmitted to the tribunal, transmitted to the OAS, transmitted to the National Party, to the Alliance Party, and the Liberal Party. And the candidate of the Liberal Party come 83% of the ballot. 83%. And the Alliance is winning for more than 12 points. And he gave to the OAS the digital report of the 100% of the ballot and counting the 83% of the ballot. They already know that.

And on the other side in the OAS report they say clearly that they found the ballot opened, without even report inside it, without vote even inside it. They found the violation in the boxes of the ballot. That's why today we are not demanding just to count the vote, no. We are demanding to count each vote and compare the sign of the vote with a book, because when you go and vote, the people representative of the party who are in the table, they have to sign each of them, sign your vote. That's mean that we can take your vote and see if they sign it each in this book and make sure who is the real book. Because we have videos even intercepting the military convoys who are coming with the vote and changing the ballot. And we know why this is happening here. And OAS know it.

We are expecting the OAS to tell the truth to the world, because they witness what will happen and the corruption over there. They're telling in the report that they found this violation, they found this open. They don't trust the system of transmission. They have to tell the truth what was happening over there. They have to say that the Liberal Party give them 83% of the ballot with the tendency with 10% of Alliance winning the election then. And that's what we expect now that they can tell the truth to the world. And the last thing that they can do maybe to save some piece of credibility that OAS still have today in our region is to say the truth that the Alliance win the election 26th of November in Honduras.

SHARMINI PERIES: The opposition candidate Gerardo, Nasralla, is not really a very progressive candidate when we look at other progressive governments that have occupied Latin America. And even in the Honduras context we have Manuel Zelaya who led the country with far more progressive leadership than Nasralla does. Now Nasralla's platform is a largely anti-corruption platform. And I imagine that has a lot of popularity. But in terms of other policies he's not the most progressive candidate, yet you put your support behind him. Why?

GERARDO TORRES: Well we created this platform because we know that the main goal right now in Honduras is to stop the regime that was created since the 2009 coup d'état. Nasralla has his goal really clear. He wants to have an anti-corruption government, and he was part of a really interesting movement that was against all the fraudulence and the corruption in the National Party's government. But he is part of the Alliance that is coordinated by President Zelaya.

For example, our government proposal, our plan of government was created by young people from 20 to 35 years. And this had the support of President Zelaya and had the support of Salvador Nasralla. We believe in the refounding process. And the good thing about the Liberal Party and of the resistance is that it showed us how to discuss, even though we don't have the same ideas, even though we are not completely coordinated in what we feel. But we have main goals in which we work to them. And the Liberal Party is like the main political structure of the Alliance, but the Alliance is made of much more than just political parties. We are two political parties but we have social movements and we have the Indignados movement, the outrage that came out in Central America in 2015 against corruption. And we have people that have no interest, have never been interested in politics but now are part just to stop what's going on in Honduras that is a militarization process, a really violent country, a very corrupt government.

And people don't have opportunities in Honduras. We have thousands of people coming to the United States illegally and putting their life in danger because it's less danger to cross Mexico and cross it without money or by train than to stay in Honduras. So that's the Alliance of Opposition.

We know that we probably are not going to be [inaudible 00:21:27] with Nasralla in everything that he does as a president. We are going to respect him as a president, but we are going to build from that point. That will be our new starting point.

They stopped a really good process that President Zelaya had in 2009, they violently stopped it. And now it's our time to stop the dictatorship and to start again in the process for building democracy, of building confidence in our government, and of building new ways of development in Honduras. Therefore the last eight years has only served for less than the 1% of the population that is the main head of the National Party. They give away some money for people to survive, and that's how they get some votes. But they depend on the military forces. There are less than 30% of the people that are with Hernandez, even counting the people that receive money to vote for Hernandez. 70% of the people in Honduras want a change. And that's why the OAS has no another option but to say what is going on.

At the beginning the OAS was giving us a proposal. It's, "Don't fight more, let's do another election." What the government did was they increased pressure. So now we're demanding what we have always been demanding. And we want that elections, we want that elections to be registered as we wanted, and we want people that are killing other Hondurans to be accountable and to be put in jail. And we're not going to stop. As I said, this has stopped being an electoral problem. This is a political problem, this is a new coup, but now as Mr. Castillo said we are not the same people that we were in 2009. We have lived eight years under a dictatorship, and we are willing and ready to end it.

SHARMINI PERIES: Dr. Castillo you indicated that there was a lot of social movements organizing in Honduras, particularly in light of what has just happened in terms of the election being stolen from them. How do you think the social movements will be reacting to a new election, and if that comes about, will there be greater mobilization to get more people out and not have such a small margin of victory for either party?

LUTHER CASTILLO: What I am sure today is that we're going to fight. And we are fighting and we're ready to continue doing it. As a social movement we are not even thinking about new election. We are thinking about the fight for our rights. Even our people who has been killed in the street. Until now give us more energy, more commitment to continue fighting for their dreams. They died because they want a new country. They wanted a new country for their brothers and sisters. They want a new country for their kids in the future. They're tired of what is happening with the deep corruption. What's happening in the country is like a chronic disease.

And we are ready, we are mobilized more than ever in the country. In the history of the country we are mobilized more than ever. We took the street in more than 158 points in the last weeks. And fighting with our hands, with our bodies, without nothing, with our consciousness, with our heart to build a new country against the tear gas, against the ballot of the dictatorship, against all this. With the blood of our people in the street. They kill one, we take them, we take them home, [inaudible 00:25:27], "Go in peace," we continue fighting. We continue fighting for them. And we're fighting for the military too, because they are poor. There are 20,000 of them with chronic disease because of bad condition in the system. They places where they sleep right there where they work, they don't even have mattress. They don't have water where they sleep. Their children don't go to school. They don't eat well. They don't have eating right for the healthcare. Then we're fighting for us and we're fighting for them.

Then this is the courage of the new generation. And the other hope is that we have a great network of young professionals who want to renew the blood of the politician in our country. We need a new blood in the politics. We need people who are clear to fight for the poorest of the poor. That's what is really happening now. And we have this deep sense of belonging and commitment with the society who give of their life. Then we are clear that we're moving forward, and nothing can detain that movement today. There is no sufficient ballot with the military and the government to control this movement who is going [inaudible 00:26:46] today in our country. And we want them to know that we will fight by any means necessary for the hope of our people.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you Dr. Castillo. Gerardo, with this kind of young leadership in Honduras I'm sure that it has a promising future. Thank you so much for joining us today.

GERARDO TORRES: Thank you for the invitation.

LUTHER CASTILLO: Thank you for be the voice of voiceless.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.



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