Taiwan’s diplomatic ally Honduras was bracing itself for potential violence as more than 5 million people voted yesterday to replace Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, a controversial figure accused of drug trafficking in the US.
Leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro led opinion polls last month, but the ruling right-wing National Party (PN) — whose candidate is charismatic Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura — has had the benefit of better organization and greater resources to run its campaign.
Opposition fears of a rigged poll and reports of pre-election intimidation have led to high tensions.
“If the PN wins the election, even legitimately, there will be a worrying level of violence,” said political analyst Raul Pineda, a lawyer and former PN lawmaker.
Four years ago, Hernandez stood for and won an unconstitutional second successive term amid cries of fraud from the opposition and international observers.
That sparked a widespread month-long protest, with the subsequent government crackdown leaving more than 30 people dead.
“There is sufficient fuel ... for a new electoral crisis to break out,” said Eugenio Sosa, a sociology professor at the National Autonomous University of Honduras.
The concerns come for a country already ravaged by violent gangs, drug trafficking and hurricanes, in which 59 percent of the population of 10 million live in poverty.
Many are expecting the worst.
“A kind of paranoia has developed, people are preparing for war” by stocking up on food and water, Pineda said.
However, he said that pressure from Washington — which wants to reduce the triggers for Central American mass migration to the US — along with a large corps of international observers, should at least ensure a transparent vote.
Polls were to open at 7am and close at 5pm in a single round of voting.
The crucial moment when “violence could happen” would come three hours later when the National Electoral Council (CNE) is due to announce early results, Center for Democracy Studies executive director Gustavo Irias said.
“To avoid it will depend on the attitude taken by different political actors, election observers and the US embassy,” Irias said.
About 18,000 police and as many soldiers were to be on duty around the country.
The PN has been in power since Manuel Zelaya — Castro’s husband — was ousted in a 2009 coup supported by the military, business elites and the political right.
Corruption and drug-trafficking scandals have engulfed Hernandez and many of his inner circle in the past few years, including Asfura.
Asfura was last year accused of embezzling US$700,000 of public money and was also linked in the Pandora Papers to influence-peddling in Costa Rica.
The third major candidate of 13 in the presidential race, the Liberal Party’s Yani Rosenthal, spent three years in a US jail after admitting to laundering drug-trafficking money.
These scandals have played into former first lady Castro’s hands.
“People won’t vote for Xiomara, they will vote against Juan Orlando Hernandez and what he represents,” Pineda said.
Castro, of the Libre party, led some opinion polls last month by 12 to 17 percentage points.
She has said that if victorious, she would switch the Central American country’s diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing.
However, a close aide on Tuesday last week said that she had not made a final decision on the matter.
PAPERS, PLEASE: A digital certificate or a printout would return one of three results: green for ‘pass,’ red for ‘not passed’ or yellow for ‘to be determined,’ the CECC said Starting today, people can download a Digital COVID-19 Certificate, with the government now requiring people at night clubs, karaoke bars and other businesses in “eight major special establishment categories” to be fully vaccinated and present a vaccination certificate. The eight categories include dance venues, massage parlors, hostess bars and saunas. Customers and service personnel at the venues have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, as they can neither avoid contact with people nor strictly observe distancing guidelines, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said. As such, both groups are required to be fully vaccinated, meaning that they must have had at least a
ORDER OF 66 JETS: Delivering the F-16s faster and enabling Taiwan to develop its fleet into one of the biggest in Asia would be based on ‘risk assessment,’ one official said The US is looking for ways to accelerate delivery of Taiwan’s next generation of newly built F-16 jets, US officials said, bolstering the Taiwanese air force’s ability to respond to what Taipei and Washington see as increasing intimidation by the Chinese military. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that they have not yet come up with a solution on how to speed up delivery of Block 70 F-16s, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp and equipped with new capabilities. The aircraft are slated to be delivered by the end of 2026. Taipei has privately expressed its wish for a faster delivery
LAWMAKERS RALLY: Beijing’s unlegislated actions breach international and WTO trade rules, and affect the basic principles of the EU single market, the letter said A group of 41 EU lawmakers on Tuesday condemned China for its political and economic coercion of Lithuania, and called on leaders of the bloc to demonstrate solidarity with Vilnius. The letter was initiated by Slovakian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Miriam Lexmann, who is cochair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. “We, the undersigned members of the European Parliament, resolutely condemn political and economic coercion of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) against Lithuania,” the letter said. The letter addressed European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and
‘STIRRING CONFLICT’: Chinese content farms use hundreds of fake accounts to reach ‘every corner of society,’ an official at the Investigation Bureau said China is conducting disinformation campaigns that involve more than 400 fake accounts targeting Taiwanese on social media, the Investigation Bureau said on Friday. China is trying to infiltrate social media, Internet forums and online chatrooms that are popular among Taiwanese to subvert the public’s trust in the government, destabilize society and meddle in elections, the bureau said. Since it started tracing fake accounts and disinformation to Chinese content farms in April last year, the Information and Communication Security Division investigated 2,773 such cases, the bureau said. It has forwarded 174 cases to prosecutors, who have listed 234 people as suspects, the bureau added. An