Sat, Dec 02, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Violence spreads as Honduras vote count interrupted

AP, TEGUCIGALPA

Supporters of Honduran opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla demonstrate in La Lima, Honduras, on Thursday.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Protesters and police on Thursday clashed violently as Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez emerged with a growing lead for re-election following a reported computer glitch that shut down vote-counting for several hours.

Challenger Salvador Nasralla has alleged fraud and said he would not respect the official results.

He has watched an initial five-point lead diminish as official results have trickled out.

On Thursday night, Hernandez was ahead by more than 45,000 votes with nearly 93 percent of Sunday’s votes processed. He had 42.9 percent of the vote to Nasralla’s 41.4 percent.

Opposition supporters protested throughout the day and into the night outside the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s facilities and on major boulevards, setting up roadblocks and lighting bonfires on the streets.

Hooded demonstrators threw rocks and pieces of wood at riot police carrying batons and shields, who responded forcefully with tear gas and water cannons as calls to maintain calm were increasingly unheeded.

Tribunal President David Matamoros said that officials had not finished counting, in part because overnight they had to evacuate after tear gas drifted into the building.

About 2,000 electoral reports from polling sites contained “inconsistencies,” including lacking signatures from members of the polling sites or not having seals, he said.

Those will most likely require a special count and it was unclear how many votes were at play in those cases, he added.

Organization of American States representatives called for transparency in the count.

Honduras’ influential Private Business Council urged the court to wait until all votes are counted before announcing the result.

Across the country, columns of smoke rose from tires set ablaze on the streets.

In Tegucigalpa, protesters and riot police faced off amid billowing clouds of gas. Officers with batons and tear gas closed two central boulevards and water cannons were deployed for crowd control.

At least four people were admitted to University School Hospital with injuries to the head and neck.

Red Cross workers also attended to people in the streets, including one young protester bleeding profusely from the head.

In the northern municipality of Santa Rita, police reported that two officers and a member of the military were injured by opposition protesters.

Many schools and universities in the capital announced that they would be closed through the weekend to keep students out of harm’s way.

The Association of Banking Institutions recommended that branches close on Thursday afternoon in anticipation of street clashes.

Nasralla on Twitter told his supporters to continue to protest peacefully and not be provoked into violence.

Liberal Party presidential candidate Luis Zelaya, who was running a distant third in the tally, called for his supporters to “defend democracy.”

Former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, whose Libre party was part of Nasralla’s coalition, called for international observers to organize a public count of ballots to alleviate concerns of manipulation.

“That is a practical and definitive solution to exit the crisis Hernandez has gotten us into,” said Zelaya, who was ousted from office in a coup orchestrated by Hernandez’s National Party in 2009.

He was accused of plotting to violate the constitution by seeking just the sort of re-election that Hernandez is trying for.

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