Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez is proceeding with his inauguration, despite massive fraud allegations, protests, and a major new drug corruption scandal involving the head of Police. US, Canada, Mexico, and the OAS give him a green light to proceed
SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The conservative incumbent president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, will be inaugurated for a second four-year term on Saturday. The inauguration is taking place amidst protests, strikes and massive police repression. The reason for the turbulence is that Honduran opposition and social movements say that Hernandez, the current president, stole the election through fraud. Even the normally US line towing organization, Organization of American States, say that last November’s presidential election was highly suspicious and that a new election should have been called.
Meanwhile, also clouding the inauguration is an Associated Press report that the national police chief of Honduras, Jose David Aguilar Moran, was involved in a 20 million dollar drug trafficking operation. The AP story is based on a secret report from the Honduran police’s Internal Affairs Division. Joining me now to discuss all of this is Gerardo Torres Zelaya. Gerardo is head of International Relations for Libre Party of Honduras and the National Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Thank you so much for joining us.
GERARDO ZELAYA: Thank you for letting us be here on The Real News.
SHARMINI PERIES: Gerardo, Saturday is the inauguration of Hernandez. Tell us about what has been happening in Honduras for the past week leading up to this event in terms of protests, national strikes and police repression?
GERARDO ZELAYA: We called for a national strike all around Honduras since Sunday and we have been in several actions against this military regime that Hernandez is heading. After the elections, after the repression that we saw on December, we have seen the, it’s more evident and it’s more clear that we’re facing a military regime, a very violent one that has all the military forces in the streets attacking the people with strong repressions. We have had reports that in the last three nights in neighborhoods in Tegucigalpa and… members of the military and members of the police have entered several houses and have attacked people inside their houses.
We have a list of more than 88 people that are in jail and we had a number of 35 people killed in demonstrations until December. But now in this week of protest, of this general strike, we have had five new compañeros that have been killed. So, now we have 40 people killed. But the people in Honduras, we are demanding the respect for our decision in the elections of the past November 26th in which we voted and choosed Salvador Nasralla of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Salvador Nasralla was the candidate and he won that election but Hernandez was from the National Party and was trying to stay in power. He’s doing it by using military forces and with the support of the United States State Department that was the first one to say that they recognized Hernandez and then many other countries began to say the same. So, this is a military action against the people of Honduras. This is not an electoral problem or a democracy with a political problem. This is a new coup that is made by the Honduran military forces with the support of the United States State Department.
SHARMINI PERIES: Now, the Opposition Coalition known as the National Alliance Against the Dictatorship to which you belong has been trying to generate pressure to stop the inauguration from happening. Now though, the US, the European Union as well as the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Canada and Mexico have accepted the results. And of course, also, Secretary General of the O.S., Luis Almagro who had called for a new election not too long ago, seems to have accepted the results as well. What is the way forward now for the Opposition?
GERARDO ZELAYA: Well, we will continue with the pressure against this regime. This happened similarly to what happened in 2009 when they made a coup and they also killed many people. They took out President Zelaya and then they got power by the military. At the beginning, there was many countries that weren’t backing them up, and then they started doing it because there’s a lot of pressure from the US government and from the big corporate media to give that recognition to Hernandez.
Some things that have happened in this January is that even though many countries have declared that they accept and they recognize Hernandez as the winner, there is no president that will be part of the inauguration of Hernandez. And at this time we just are some hours from this inauguration. We still don’t know where it is going to be because it has historically been in the main soccer stadium of Tegucigalpa that’s called the Tiburcio Carías Andino. All the inaugurations have been there for the last 60 years. But this time because of the pressure, we’re going to be blocking the streets and we’re going to be blocking many roads and there’s going to be probably a lot of confrontations with the military and the police. We still don’t know if they’re going to do it in the national stadium.
We have known that they have another option, that is, doing it in the building of the Central Bank that has more protection and it’s a smaller building because the other thing that could happen if they do it in the stadium is that Hernandez could be called out by the people in the stadium as the dictator that he’s trying to be and as the criminal that he is for trying to force his way back into the presidential house. So, even though if he doesn’t do it in the stadium, he anyway will be named the president by the Honduran authorities that are controlled by him and by the military forces because he only needs to be pledged by a judge to be called the new president.
But we’re fighting to stop him to have this public event. We have already managed to stop any international delegations that were coming. We have done a lot of international pressure to show them that even though if they, at the first sign of recognizing Hernandez, what they were recognizing was a very violent regime that has cost the lives of many people. We have got there. What they did was that they called the international press and only give them a couple of days to be here in Honduras. They have to go out of the country by Wednesday, the majority of them that had all the special permission. And we’re going to make a lot of actions on the day of the inauguration on Saturday to stop this public event or to at least show our discontent.
And there’s a lot of things going on around the government of Honduras that are, as you said, the investigation of, once again, the relationship within the government and the police with the drug cartels is now shown. Now the OAS has a anti-corruption mission here in Honduras that has said that the new congress that came also from the elections of November 26th that were very…directions. This congress is now trying to make ways to stop the investigation of corruption and has said yesterday that OAS said that they have proof that 60 Congressmen and women of the National Party have, they have complete proof of their participation in corruption. So, you have accusations of corruption. You have accusations of participation in drug cartels and you also have the accusation of more than 40 people that have been killed by the military in less than two months of protest here in Honduras.
SHARMINI PERIES: And yet, these elections and the inauguration is being acknowledged or there’s about to enter proceeding from the United States and Canada and so forth as I said earlier. But what are these delegations, these countries saying to you in terms of what was the switch that made them acknowledge this current government? As I also said, the OAS itself has changed its position on it. What happened?
GERARDO ZELAYA: Well, I think that they don’t want to say it as it is but they let you know that it had to do with the pressure from the State Department of the United States. The State Department encouraged Mexico to acknowledge Hernandez and encouraged Argentina and Israel to vote like the first and Columbia. And then the United States did it by themself, and then many other countries followed their example. It wasn’t a coincidence that the day that the United States recognized Hernandez as the president of Honduras is just exactly the day after the Honduran government gave the vote for the United States, as did Guatemala and a few other foreign countries, to approve and support a decision to acknowledge the capital of Israel in Jerusalem.
So, it was like one day Honduras gave a vote for the United States and this petition in the United Nations and the next day, the United States gave the recommendation to Hernandez and started making, that other countries started recognizing him. We see in Honduras very clearly the hypocritical actions of the OAS and of many organizations, international organizations that knew or know what has been going on in Honduras, know that the National Party has made a really obvious fraud and has killed many people. But for example, the OAS mission, the anti-corruption mission of the OAS, they didn’t say nothing during the election, they didn’t say nothing during the repression and said that there were 60 Congressmen accused of corruption just a day after the new congress was pledged. So, they didn’t do it before. They didn’t support the people’s struggle. They did it once they know that this new congress could be hardly taken off as it could be before when we were in the streets or they were pledged as the new authorities. And we believe that this is what they’re going to do after the inauguration.
All the proof of corruption of the National Party and all of proof of participation in drug cartels are going to be put out in the light because I think that they didn’t like Hernandez. They don’t like him because they know he is corrupt and he has a relationship with crime and drugs but they didn’t want neither that the Alliance, the Opposition Alliance got to power because we are a socialist democratic party, the Libre Party and this is an alliance that is coordinated by its former president, Manuel Zelaya, who was the one that the United States backed a coup against him in 2009. And Salvador Nasralla, who was the presidential candidate, has said that he would stop the enormous benefits that only few families that are directly related to the United States’ interests in Honduras have in the country because this is the only way that we can get people out of extremely poorness and misery.
So, the United States, I believe they made a political decision. They knew that Nasralla won they knew that the democracy was, that the people in Honduras wanted a change, wanted to stop this regime that they started in the coup in 2009, nd we want a democratic government. But the United States they didn’t allow it. It’s the only way we can say it. The United States didn’t allow that the Honduran people could practice its democracy and could change this regime. And instead of allowing Zelaya to be part of the government or Nasralla to be the new president, or that a socialist democratic party be in the government of Honduras, instead, they supported a drug cartel leader as Hernandez, a criminal as National Party is many of the leaders are related to crime and assassinations. And also, they supported the action of the military forces that have been killing a lot of protestors in Honduras.
And you can see that they raised their voice for what’s going on in Iran and you see that they raised their voice for what’s going on in Venezuela. But in the case of Honduras, they stood silent and they support Hernandez. I believe that all the proof that they’re going to present, all the investigations, they’re going to start doing after the inauguration to control Hernandez and to try to put some balance and try to stop this problem that’s going on in Honduras that is really, everything going deeper. But without allowing the Alliance, the Libre Party to get even near the government because they don’t believe that we will be such obedient servants as they have in the National Party for their economic interests in the region.
SHARMINI PERIES: Gerardo, let’s get to that AP report that was based on a secret report of the Honduran Internal Affairs Department regarding police chief Jose David Aguilar Moran’s involvement in this 20 million dollar cocaine deal. What was the reaction out there to that report, and of course, to the fact that he is now heading the police division in Honduras, sworn in just a few days ago?
GERARDO ZELAYA: We have known that the United States has been doing investigations in Honduras on the participation of drug cartels inside the Honduran government for several years. We know that they started an investigation since 2010, 2011 because after that coup of 2009, the regime, the military regime had no control over what actions they were doing. And this happened all around the government of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, who was the president that came just after the coup to office.
In that time, Juan Orlando Hernandez was the president of the National Congress, and we know that a cartel, a drug cartel called Los Valle Valle and another cartel called Los Cachiros were the two main drug organizations that were controlling the drug pass in Honduras. We also know that during those years from 2010 to 2013, 80 percent of all the drugs that passed from South America to the United States passed through Honduras. So, it was like all the drug passing was concentrated in Honduras. It was before that, it was like everywhere. But after 2010, by 2012, 80 percent of the drugs that were passing from South America to the United States were passing through Honduras.
So, in 2014, the DEA had an action with the Honduran police and they captured the heads of the Valle Valle cartel that supposedly had connections with members of the National Party. And six months later, Los Cachiros, the family of Javier Maradiaga, put their self into custody in the United States embassy in Tegucigalpa. But they gave themself up because they said that they were afraid that the Hernandez government or the Hernandez military, close military members had a plan to kill them and kill all their family. So, they give themself up to the United States authorities and they are currently right now in New York.
When Los Valle Valle and Rivera Maradiaga, Los Cachiros have been in custody of the United States for five years, or four years. So, they have given a lot of information to the United States about what’s going on in the police, in the military and the Honduran government. We have had in the last three years, six members that were majors, that were lawmakers, that were part of the National Party, six members that are currently in prison and taken to the United States by orders of the United States.
So, we saw that this investigations were going really fast at the beginning of 2017 but then they stopped. And they stopped because of the political campaign of, like I was saying before, it was like the United States stopped giving away more of the information that they were gathering not to affect Hernandez in the electoral competition against the Opposition Alliance, against the Dictatorship but there’s a lot of investigations going on in Internal Affairs. We know that the president’s brother, Antonio Hernandez, Tony Hernandez has been accused of being the head of one of the main criminal organizations. And it’s really interesting that the person that Hernandez has just, just named as the new director of the police has these allegations of participation in drug cartels. The reason why he put this person at the head of the Honduran police was because in December when the repression started getting even stronger, members of the police decided not to be part of the military’s actions against the people and decided not to participate in repression. And the police were on strike for several days and decided not to participate in the repression.
So, what Hernandez did was that he changed the head of the police and put this new director, that he hasn’t been in office for more than two months. And he’s now been accused because of this investigation of the Associated Press. The thing is that if the Associated Press had this information, it means that the Honduran authorities have had this information for many months before. So, how can you explain that the president of the country puts someone that he knows has direct participation in drug cartels as the head of the police? And that’s many of the questions that we will going to be pressuring the National Party in the streets to get some answers or to get them out of power.
SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Gerardo. I thank you so much for joining us today and all the best tomorrow during these demonstrations. Stay safe.
GERARDO ZELAYA: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here and I hope you are very well over there.
SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.