Honduran President To Begin Second Term After Controversial Election
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
To Honduras, where President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been sworn in today for a second term amid protests. Thousands of demonstrators have clashed with soldiers and police to protest that inauguration. There has been ongoing unrest in Honduras since the November election, which was marred by allegations of election vote fraud. The U.S. has recognized the Hernandez victory despite those concerns. We're joined now by Carlos Dada of the Latin American digital news site El Faro.
Carlos, thanks for being with us.
CARLOS DADA: Hi, Scott. Thanks for having me.
SIMON: And you are in Tegucigalpa, the capital. And I understand you've been out, and you've you've seen the demonstrations on the street up close, haven't you?
DADA: Oh, yes. You can see them from almost anywhere in the city. And there is a cloud of tear gas over the whole city. I think there's no way to escape the pungent odor. They've been throwing tear gas - I mean the security forces - since yesterday night. So the air is pretty much full of it.
SIMON: The protests began because of the election results. And help us understand exactly what happened. Early vote totals initially showed Mr. Hernandez's opponent, Salvador Nasralla, ahead in the polls. But then the government announced there'd been a glitch in the count, right?
DADA: That's correct. That's where the accusation of overwhelming fraud comes from because electoral tribunal is controlled by the president. And when the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was ahead on the vote with 57 percent of the recount, the system went down. And when it came back up, the president was ahead again.
SIMON: And so a lot of people distrust those results?
DADA: A lot of people - and that includes most of the international community. There was no chief of state represented today in the swearing-in ceremony, which - I think there's been a long time since the last time a Central American president was sworn in without the presence even of his colleagues from the region.
SIMON: Now, we should remind ourselves about the coup that occurred in 2009 because that happened when the president then of Honduras declared that he was going to run for a second term. And then that was ruled illegal. Let me get you to pick up the narrative there.
DADA: I actually think, Scott, that this is a consequence of that coup d'etat. The political crisis never actually disappeared. And there's a lot of similarities between this crisis and that one back from 2009 for example. They both began with the ambition of power of two presidents that want to get re-elected against the constitution - back then, Manuel Zelaya; now Mr. Hernandez - but also the determination of the army to exercise repression against the protesters and, of course, intervention of the United States to determine the outcome and the useless complaints by the Organization of American States about violations of the democratic rule back in 2009 because of a coup d'etat, now because of claims of an electoral fraud.
SIMON: And I guess we should understand the United States and Honduras have a mutually successful relationship on some issues, don't they?
DADA: Yeah, especially on the fight against drug trafficking. Honduras is a bridge. Most of the cocaine that goes to the United States travels through Honduras. So the United States - the main point of the agenda with Honduras is the fight against drug traffickers. And this government has been able to extradite some of the lords of the drug traffickers. Also, I have to say, Scott, that in the hearings in a New York courthouse, a lot of Honduran officers - security officers and members of Mr. Hernandez's government - have been mentioned as complicit with the drug trafficking.
SIMON: Carlos Dada is the director of the news site El Faro, speaking with us from Tegucigalpa. Thanks so much for being with us.
DADA: Thanks for having me, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.