Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hernandez Declared Honduras' Unofficial President-Elect

After a second day of vote-counting, Honduran election officials announced that National Party presidential candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez’s 5-point lead over the LIBRE party’s Xiomara Castro is insurmountable. With roughly 68 percent of the ballots counted, Hernandez had 34 percent to Castro’s 29 percent.

Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) Spokeswoman Lourdes Rosales told reporters that the initial results amounted to an “irreversible trend.”  TSE President David Matamoros echoed this statement, saying that although the tribunal was “not declaring a winner or loser” of the election, “the results are not going to vary.” While the TSE has refrained from announcing the official winner, leading daily La Prensa has already crowned him Honduras’ “president elect,” and Reuters is reporting that Hernandez won Sunday’s election.

President Daniel Ortega of neighboring Nicaragua has publicly recognized Hernandez’s win as well. Press reports indicate that Hernandez was also congratulated by the heads of state of Panama, Guatemala, Colombia, Costa Rica. The United States has not yet recognized a winner, and in a statement released yesterday the U.S. State Department commended Honduras on its “generally transparent” election while urging the country to await the final, official results.

The AP’s Alberto Arce notes that that the TSE announcement came after an “unexplained, hours-long lull” in the release of vote counts.  Neither TSE representatives nor officials from either party commented on the delay.

During the interval, the LIBRE party held a press conference in which ousted ex-president Manuel Zelaya urged supporters to take to the streets to “defend” his wife’s self-proclaimed victory in Sunday’s vote. Arce noted that only about 100 Castro supporters rallied for her in Tegucigalpa, however. The NYT spoke with several LIBRE supporters yesterday afternoon, and offers a sample of their disappointed take on the initial results.

Meanwhile, according to the AFP, the likely winner called on Castro yesterday to recognize his victory and join him in a “national pact” against insecurity and poverty in the country.

News Briefs
  • As the Colombian government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas move on to the next round of talks, which involves drug trafficking, the FARC have made an interesting suggestion. On its website on Sunday, the rebel group published a proposal to work with local officials in Caqueta province to provide local coca growers with viable economic alternatives. The proposal, which dates back to the failed 1999-2002 peace talks with former President Andres Pastrana, would launch a pilot project aimed at reducing coca cultivation in the town of Cartagena del Chaira, “without using fumigations, violence or repression.”
  • The New York Times’ architecture critic Michael Kimmelman profiles efforts at economic development in Rio de Janeiro, noting that public spending on new theaters and port redevelopment has failed to bridge class divisions, and the poorest residents say their opinions are not being taken into account.
  • Following an incident in which two Dominicans were killed last week in the western town of Neiba, and a Haitian man was killed by a mob in retaliation, Haitians and locals of Haitian descent are fleeing the area. Migrant rights activists say that many were deported after turning to the police for refuge, while authorities claim they voluntarily asked for accompaniment to the border. Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community bloc is set to hold an emergency meeting in Trinidad today to issue an official response to the the Dominican Republic’s recent controversial court ruling on nationality.
  • São Paulo newspaper Estadão has obtained a copy of former Brazilian politician Jose Dirceu’s request to be permitted to work as a manager for the four-star Saint Peter hotel in Brasilia while serving his sentence for participating in the mensalão scandal.  
  • Former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has backpedaled on reports that he was open to serving as the next Secretary General of UNASUR, as other regional governments have suggested. In a press release, his Frente Guazu (FG) political party said Lugo would decline the position because it would require him to leave the country and would “have a negative impact” on the FG’s political profile. As noted last month, these are precisely the same reasons why Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes is likely to have supported Lugo’s UNASUR bid.
  • Officials in Mexico have raised the body count at nearly two dozen mass grave sites discovered last week along the border between Jalisco and Michoacan states to 48, Proceso reports. The AP notes that the area has witnessed the outbreak of a turf war between the Knights Templar and the New Generation cartels.
  • BBC Mundo looks at the scarcity of consumer goods in Venezuelan grocery stores, noting that the problem is worse in establishments regulated by the state. In a separate story, the news agency also questions whether Brazil has the capacity to address Venezuela’s shortages by ramping up its exports to its northern neighbor.
  • Uruguay's marijuna regulation bill has also received the endorsement of the Guatemalan government. In remarks to reporters in Paris yesterday, the foreign minister of the Central American country said the measure has the “complete support” of President Otto Perez Molina. He added that the government is totally convinced that regulating drugs is a way to “destroy the economic capacity” of drug trafficking organizations. This statement comes weeks after Perez's creation of an advisory commission to assess drug policy reform, which was a signal that the Guatemalan president is finally getting serious about enacting policy shifts in his own country. 

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