The Left Sets Honduras on Fire
Hillary Clinton’s favorite Central American was back in the news this week, as Honduras painstakingly counted ballots in front of international observers and tried to discern, with utmost transparency, the winner of the Nov. 26 presidential election.
Amid the tension, left-wing candidate Salvador Nasralla cried fraud and called for an uprising. Soon, like a bad centavo, pro-Chávez Honduran former President Manuel Zelaya turned up in the midst of one angry mob.
Recall that in 2009 Mr. Zelaya was kicked out of the country, with the support of his own party, for violating the constitution. Mrs. Clinton, who was then secretary of state, tried and failed to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back. Last week he was seen again, wearing his signature cowboy hat and leading a bunch of hooligans trying to break into the warehouse where the electoral authorities had stored ballots and tally sheets from around the country for counting. The raid did not succeed, but the incident captured the spirit of Zelaya-Nasralla politics.
Mr. Nasralla, a former game-show host, ran against incumbent center-right President Juan Orlando Hernández. By Friday it looked like Mr. Hernández had narrowly won. Mr. Nasralla seemed sure of it too. That’s when he announced that his supporters would stay in the streets for years in protest unless he was declared the winner. With no concession, the uncertainty dragged on.
Mr. Nasralla insists he was robbed. Never mind that this election had greater scrutiny by international observers than any contest in the region in recent memory. Or that Mr. Nasralla’s “Alliance of Opposition” had equal access to the tallying process. The Zelaya-Nasralla movement is using its phony cheating claim to justify a torrent of violence.
Welcome to Central America, where even after Venezuela has succumbed to famine, the left remains committed to the tactics that brought the country to misery. The process is simple: win one election, then consolidate power and never leave. The strategy has been successful in Nicaragua, where Sandinista Daniel Ortega has been in power since 2007. He is as corrupt as any caudillo and has handily put an end to political pluralism, competitive elections, transparency and institutional independence.
El Salvador may soon suffer the same fate. Former leftist guerrillas of the FMLN party, who are also allies of Venezuela, have governed since 2009. The party moderated its image to get to power, but last week the party secretary announced that its goal is to end capitalism—including the right of private property.
In Guatemala a United Nations prosecutor, who is in the country ostensibly to root out corruption, has teamed up with the local leftists to try to unseat a center-right president. The prosecutor has so far been unsuccessful, but he has generated dangerous instability. In Honduras, socialist hopes were on Mr. Nasralla, which is why his followers are taking his loss so badly.
Polls had widely anticipated that Mr. Hernández would win re-election, as the Economist wrote on Nov. 25. Yet the earliest returns, released on Nov. 27, showed Mr. Nasralla in the lead. Officials cautioned that with less than 60% of the vote counted it was too soon to declare a winner.
When the electoral tribunal did not give the victory to Mr. Nasralla immediately, he called for rebellion. His supporters have blocked highways with burning piles of debris, destroyed cars, trashed storefronts, set highway tollbooths ablaze, and rampaged through the residential neighborhoods where electoral authorities live. On Friday a nighttime curfew was imposed for 10 days. Mr. Nasralla’s supporters flouted it.
The violence is well-organized, raising suspicions of outside help. Exiled Venezuelan political science professor José Vicente Carrasquero warned in a video of Venezuelan “elements” seeking to undermine the integrity of Honduran institutions.
That Mr. Hernández was behind in the early count was surprising but explainable. In the capital there were reports that thugs “instructed” neighbors not to vote. Most of his backing came from outside the big cities. Both sides had agreed before the election that the physical tally sheets had to be reviewed in Tegucigalpa. It took longer to get them from rural areas.
Another charge is that Mr. Hernández is an ally of the U.S. and has been allowed to steal the election. But that doesn’t add up either.
Observer teams from the Organization of American States and the European Union played a key oversight role. On Tuesday the European mission criticized the tribunal’s failure to communicate at regular intervals with the public. Yet it also noted that all parties had representatives on hand to monitor the process.
Midweek, the two candidates came together to sign a document pledging that they would each respect the final outcome. Within hours Mr. Nasralla backtracked, alleging that he had been tricked. Hondurans speculated that the reversal came about because Mr. Zelaya did not approve. In other words, Hillary’s old friend is the one calling the shots.