After more than two weeks since elections were held, Honduras still does not have an officially recognized president-elect. In this piece, I discuss the election and its aftermath, focusing on the energy of resilience and resistance among Honduran youth and the protest and repression that has erupted since the election. I highlight how the highways and toll booths are important sites of tension and destruction. I am conducting doctoral fieldwork in Honduras, focusing on the experiences of deportees in and around the Sula Valley yet the unexpected election and its aftermath has taken center stage.
“The only thing Juan Orlando offers us is the pozo,” Irvin Daniel [i] tells me. Pozo – literally meaning “well” [ii] – refers to newly constructed supermax-style prisons in Honduras.
A week after Honduras’ currently contested elections, Irvin Daniel explains why people are fervently opposed to the re-election of the current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez (colloquially known as JOH). At 24 years-old, Irvin Daniel describes life as a daily struggle. He lives in Villanueva, on the outskirts of San Pedro Sula, where his family built a make-shift home along land that was once a railway. Irvin has been deported from Mexico twice. He is trying to finish high school and is constantly looking for work. His uncle and two cousins were murdered last year, one of them after having an asylum claimed denied and being deported from the United States. As Irvin and others see it, Orlando’s past four years in power have only made life harder for young people living on the margins.
At 4pm on November 26th, the Honduran election polls closed. Yet late that night, there were still no results. This was unusual: typically, by 11:00pm the votes are tallied and the winner declared.
With about 50% of the vote reported, Salvador Nasralla, of the primary opposition party known as the Alianza, was ahead by 5 percentage points. Statistically, this seemed to assure an Alianza victory. However, late that same night Orlando declared himself the winner. The body in charge of counting the votes, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), notably is led by Orlando-appointees. The TSE continued to postpone announcing an official count, citing differing and often unusual reasons. At one point, the TSE announced the electoral technology crashed and had to be re-initiated. Then the TSE claimed that many of the votes from areas where the Alianza dominates had irregularities that required additional scrutiny. Improbably, in the following week, the TSE released new preliminary information stating that Orlando was ahead by 1.5% with the final count still pending.
Today, two weeks after Hondurans voted, there is still not an official result.
While the declaration from the TSE is still pending, their judgement appears increasingly irrelevant. The constant stalling and confusion only adds to the popular sentiment that Juan Orlando and his ruling National party are committing fraud to maintain the presidency.
Meanwhile, people have taken to the streets, demanding that the popular vote be respected and that Juan Orlando concede. After two days of massive protests that included torching toll booths, blocking highways, and looting stores, the government has instituted a nation-wide curfew, suspending constitutional protections and forbidding people from leaving their homes between 6:00pm and 6:00am. [iii]
The military and police forces have met protesters with increasing levels of violence. At least 14 people have been killed by security forces since the elections, and 844 people are currently detained. [iv]
Irvin Daniel – and other young people like him – are at the forefront of this popular protest. People his age were young when a 2009 coup d’état removed the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, from power. Since his ouster, the National Party has ruled the country. Irvin Daniel has experienced eight years of one-party rule for most of his adult life.[v]