Honduras demonstrators threaten to block airports as thousands protest re-election of US-backed president

Honduras opposition threatens civil disobedience campaign with demonstrators planning to mount roadblocks on major motorways, ports and airports

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 January, 2018, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 January, 2018, 9:13pm

Tens of thousands of people marched Saturday against the re-election of US-backed President Juan Orlando Hernandez, demanding that his rival be recognised as the real winner of the November presidential race.

Supporters of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship rallied and marched in the streets of San Pedro Sula, the country’s second-largest city, calling for Salvador Nasralla, 64, to be named the winner and sworn in this month.

“The people are not going to put up with this imposition, so that the dictator can stay on,” Nasralla, a former TV host, said of conservative Hernandez outside the city’s colonial-era cathedral.

“We’re not going to stop until we get the corrupt out of power,” Nasralla stressed.

Marchers walked waving banners bearing slogans including “Electoral Fraud Shall Not Stand”, “No more political killings,” and “Freedom for Political Prisoners”, demanding that Hernandez, 49, step aside.

Many of them sang and chanted “JOH (Hernandez), OUT is where you are headed.”

Marchers also called for a national strike, including a boycott of Hernandez’s inauguration and road blocks around the impoverished Central American nation.

“We are headed to a national strike,” said opposition leader Manuel Zelaya, an elected leftist who back in 2009 was ousted himself from the presidency.

Without giving dates, Zelaya said civil disobedience would be the new strategy. Demonstrators plan to mount roadblocks on major avenues and motorways, and at ports and airports, “so that the will of the people is respected,” he said.

Zelaya said demonstrators rejected the idea that the vote be redone, a suggestion from the Secretary General Luis Almagro of the Organisation of American States (OAS).

“I don’t believe what the OAS says, but if it is to come watch Nasralla take office, that will do,” Zelaya said.

“I don’t believe the United States either. But if it’s coming to watch Salvador Nasralla take office, that will do too.”

The United States recognised Hernandez as the winner, and about 20 others followed suit – though many countries have not.

Washington is Honduras’ main aid donor and largest trading partner.

Electoral officials on Friday rejected the opposition’s appeal demanding the annulment of Hernandez’s re-election, which was lodged over voter fraud allegations in the bitterly-disputed poll.

The country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), in a statement, cited a lack of evidence and dubbed the opposition’s actions “groundless”.

Hernandez stood for re-election against Nasralla despite a constitutional ban on presidents serving more than one term.

Hernandez had implicit backing from the United States, which is pouring millions of dollars into Honduras and neighbouring Guatemala and El Salvador to improve security conditions there.

Those three countries, collectively known as Central America’s “Northern Triangle”, are the biggest source of undocumented migrants heading to the United States.

According to election officials, the final results showed the conservative Hernandez winning with 42.95 per cent of the vote, over Nasralla’s 41.42 per cent.

When Hernandez was declared the winner, a wave of protests gripped the country; more than 30 people were killed in police operations, and another 800 have been arrested, human rights groups say.