By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Larry Fisk, Fort Ripley, left the United States Nov. 17, to monitor the national elections in Honduras, held Sunday, Nov. 24. He returned home Nov. 26.
Fifty-five representatives from both the Alliance for Global Justice and the Task Force of the Americas also traveled to Honduras. The two groups are advocates of human rights and are claiming the elections were not peaceful and transparent as the Honduran government reported.
Fisk has a history of monitoring elections in both Nicaragua and Venezuela and a huge interest in the promotion of democracy and ensuring that the will of the people is heard.
Before the Honduran election, Fisk and others visited with the indigenous Lenca people in the state of Antibuca, Honduras. The Lencas live in a remote area and have been fighting with a Honduran mining company who would like to mine the minerals in the area, dam the rivers and pollute the Lenca properties that have been theirs since before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
He also met with the Mestizo peasants in the state of Yoro who are also being threatened by another mining company. It is proposing deforestation to retrieve the minerals. The Mestizos have refused to sell their land and are therefore being threatened.
The northern shore of Honduras, on the Caribbean Ocean, is the home of descendants of African slaves. Fisk learned big companies covet that land for both palm oil production and to create a cruise ship port. The residents there have also been intimidated to sell.
“The rich families and companies of Honduras would like to displace all these people for big agriculture and tourism,” said Fish. “The people of Honduras subside on the land and they are feeling threatened. They support the Libre Party which wishes to stop the destruction.”
Fisk said those who own the companies, those people who want to profit on the backs of the poor, want the National Party to stay in power.
Manuel Zelaya, a liberal, was elected president of Honduras in January 2006. He wanted to help the poor and because of that, he was ousted in 2009 by the military which was backed by the 10 most influential families in the country, Fisk said.
“After he was ousted, the government held a staged election, which was not recognized by world leaders. The election in November was a response to that, set up by the National Party, now in power,” he said. Juan Orlando Hernandez is the president-elect.
The newest of the nine political parties in Honduras is Libre. It’s a faction that arose when Zelaya was ousted. The poor people, workers, students, union members and women started the movement along with those interested in a democratic Honduras. But they do so under threat of harm or death.
“I heard stories of those in support of the Libre Party threatened with murder or harm if they voted,” said Fisk. “Poor women with children receive quarterly welfare. Members of the National government told them their funds would stop if they didn’t vote for the current Party. It’s pure intimidation.”
Other people said that even though their voter registration cards had the correct address, the registrar’s information did not, therefore, the person could not vote.
There were some who were told they had died and therefore could not vote.
Fisk received several hours of training from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal which runs the Honduran elections and is controlled by the National Party.
After the training, he and the others were harassed by immigration, saying they were in the country illegally. They produced the proper papers and badges proving they were in Honduras with the blessing of the government.
“I went to four different schools in Santa Rose de Copan to observe the election,” said Fisk. He also observed the delivery of the voting materials by the military to various polling places.
Each polling place was required to have a representative of each Party present. Some parties are so small, they couldn’t cover all the polls. Their seats were then sold to the National Party and nothing was done.
Some issues witnessed by the members of the Alliance for Global Justice or heard about during the voting included polls closing with people still in line to vote; candidates handing out cash to voters in front of the polls; giving voters a PIN number to use for free cellphone minutes; promises of money if the National Party wins; and slashing the tires of the Libre Party representatives on their way to the polls.
When the results of the election came in, some polls had the National Party ahead by 90 percent.
“While the U.S. Embassy agreed, both the Libre and the Anti Corruption parties disputed the results,” said Fisk.
Fisk said that each Party member represented at a poll had a copy of the local results when the votes were counted. Many said the numbers on their copies didn’t correspond to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s numbers.
“Where Libre representatives were vacant, the numbers were heavily skewed in favor of the National Party,” he said. “It is my feeling that the conditions in Honduras before the election were not conducive to a free election and that Hondurans were denied access to a free and fair electoral process.”
While Fisk and his fellow observers could do nothing in response to their findings, they urge everyone who is interested to call their government officials and ask them to stop aiding the National Party that used the military and the police for intimidation.
“These people (Hondurans) are very sad and are worried about their lands and livelihoods,” he said. “They are facing more years of hardship.”