A special report from the hemisphere’s most controversial Inauguration
JESSE FREESTON: All three elections since the coup d’état in Honduras in 2009 have been marred by evidence of fraud employed to keep the ultra right National Party in power. During the most recent election of November 26th, the Opposition Alliance, formed to defeat the National Party, was ahead by 5% with 57% of the votes counted when the electoral tribunal computer system crashed. When counting resumed 24 hours later, the tendency reversed and the National Party led by President Juan Orlando Hernández, ended up winning by 1%.
The Economist Magazine published an analysis of the data, finding that such a reversal was mathematically impossible. Since then, Hondurans have been protesting for 58 straight days despite consistent attacks from police and military including cases of live bullets that have left at least 20 protestors dead including 60-year-old Anselmo Villarreal.
Within hours, artist Daniel Valladares made this painting based on the video of Anselmo Villarreal bleeding out in the street. Both video and painting have gone viral on Honduran’s social networks. The Hernández regime is being accused of using the current crisis to cover past crimes as well. Back in 2015, evidence came out that National Party members of Congress had stolen almost $300 million from the Social Security fund causing the public health care system to collapse with people dying waiting for beds.
Hondurans rose up over months of weekly torch marches, eventually forcing the installation of an international anti-corruption body, the MACCIH. That body was about to release evidence on 60 members of Congress when this Wednesday, the regime passed a law prohibiting the prosecution of both current and former members of Congress or public servants.
JUAN JIMÉNEZ MAYOR: (Spanish)
JESSE FREESTON: Over the same period, Honduras has seen the largest increase in military spending of any country in the Western hemisphere, more than doubling the budget since the coup despite not being involved in a single foreign conflict. And this week, for the first time since the 1980s, a civilian was brought to trial inside a military base. No press or human rights officials were allowed near the building where activist Edwin Espinal was facing dubious charges.
JARI DIXON: (Spanish)
JESSE FREESTON: The government of the US, Canada and Europe have tweeted their concerns about human rights in Honduras but have officially announced they will continue to work with the regime which includes sending tens of millions of dollars in military aid. While the governments of the West have taken no actions to improve the situation there have been other forms of international solidarity such as a delegation of African American artists, intellectuals and entrepreneurs that included Smithsonian Director of Cultural Studies, James Early and Dr. Danny Glover.
DANNY GLOVER: Because what we see here, we see on our country as well. And its own insidious ways the privatization of the public space. The handing over of the vast resources to multilevel multinational corporations. And who are the same victims? Women, children, the poor, those who are disenfranchised and marginalized, they’re the same as well.
JAMES EARLY: (Spanish)
JESSE FREESTON: On one day of action last week, the Honduran Movement blockaded more than 45 highways and boulevards nationwide.
SPEAKER: In Honduras, you don’t have a right to go to the hospital because there’s no medicine. If you go, there’s not a bed for you but you see, they have money to afford all this protection for the police.
JESSE FREESTON: As Juan Orlando Hernández prepared to celebrate his contested inauguration on Saturday, the opposition is calling for a massive mobilization to surround the national stadium. Meanwhile, a letter surfaced Wednesday from the director of a hospital in the capital calling on staff to release all patients healthy enough to be cared for in their homes in order to make room for, “whatever might happen given the current situation in our country.” Reporting from Tegucigalpa for The Real News, I’m Jesse Freeston.