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In Honduras, Protests Erupt In Wake Of Presidential Election Results


Honduras declared a winner in its contested presidential election yesterday three weeks after the actual vote. International observers say it's impossible to know who really won. Organization of American States monitors say there were deliberate human intrusions into the computer system as well as several other irregularities. There are calls for a redo of the election, and on the streets, police have been battling protesters today. NPR's Carrie Kahn has been following all of this and joins us now. Hi, Carrie.


SUAREZ: Carrie, what has happened in Honduras overnight and since the Electoral Tribunal declared the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, the official winner?

KAHN: Well, as you said, supporters of the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla have been back on the streets. There were some protests last night, and today they're blocking major roads, burning tires in the capital and other cities throughout the country. There's scenes on national TV - show the military and national police lobbing tear gas at protesters. So far, no reports of casualties, but violent protests broke out following the November 26 elections. And human rights groups say at least 22 people were killed during those protests.

SUAREZ: Is there an official version of events as to why it took the electoral authorities so long to declare a winner?

KAHN: Yeah. It took three weeks exactly. There were allegations of fraud from the outset, especially after a computer glitch shut down the tally results. And the computer shut down just when 60 percent of the vote was in. And it showed Nasralla, the challenger, ahead by 5 percentage points. And the computer then went down for about 36 hours, and when it came back up, the incumbent president, Hernandez, was ahead with a small lead - less than 2 percentage points. And we're talking about 50,000 votes.

International observers pushed for two partial recounts, the biggest being the votes that came into the election headquarters after that computer glitch. And those had to be done. And then there were all these challenges they had to run through, so that was part of the delay. And in the end, they declared that nothing had changed the outcome. And last night, they said Hernandez was the winner.

SUAREZ: The Organization of American States observer team in Honduras says the whole process was flawed. I mentioned one of their allegations earlier, but they issued a pretty long list of irregularities, and it looks pretty damning. What does the OAS say happened in Honduras?

KAHN: Yeah, it was incredible. They gave this long - and it was very technical - list of flaws and irregularities they said happened in the elections. Some of the things that just stuck out to me was they said there was deliberate human intrusion in the vote counting system - that was incredible - and intentional elimination of digital traces in that system, open ballot boxes.

And they had a professor do an independent analysis of the results, and he concluded that there was an extreme statistical improbability that those late election returns, the one after the computer glitch, could have swung so heavily toward the president who in the end was declared the winner. This is - it's a stunning rebuke of Honduran officials. The secretary general of the OAS was very clear. He said in a statement, there is no confidence of who was the winner, and the only way out is for there to be new elections.

SUAREZ: And how likely is that? Can the Organization of American States force a do-over? Do they have that kind of clout?

KAHN: It's really hard to say. You know, holding new elections will be tough. It really couldn't happen without the president, Hernandez, the declared winner in the race, submitting to new elections under the control of the OAS or another international body. It's just going to be really tough to do. And the opponent, Nasralla, says he will accept nothing else but new elections held by an international body. So you know, it's a tough road ahead for a resolution in Honduras now. But they're under incredible international pressure after that report, so we'll just have to see what happens.

SUAREZ: NPR's Carrie Kahn, thanks a lot.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.
Ray Suarez