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Rep. Ellison Condemns Apparent Election Tampering in Honduras & Calls for Halting U.S. Military Aid

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In Honduras, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets Sunday to denounce alleged election fraud and to support opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla. Last week, the electoral commission paused the counting of the votes when incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández was trailing opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, head of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship. On Friday, Hernández’s government suspended constitutional rights and imposed a military curfew. For more, we speak with Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Honduras, where tens of thousands of protesters have poured into the streets to denounce alleged election fraud and to support opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla.

JUAN SANCHEZ: [translated] We are protesting here to call on the electoral tribunal to fulfill what the people have decided, the vote of the people for a president that the people have already chosen.

AMY GOODMAN: The election pits U.S.-backed President Juan Orlando Hernández against Nasralla, head of the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, a coalition party that’s supported by former leftist President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup in 2009. Hernández was widely expected to win the November 26 election, despite growing concerns about his consolidation of power and the militarization of Honduras. But in a surprise upset, early election results showed Nasralla leading Hernández by five points. The electoral commission, which is controlled by the incumbent President Hernández, then inexplicably stopped publishing election results for a day and a half. By the end of the week, the commission resumed publishing election results and claimed Hernández had taken the lead.

On Friday, Hernández’s government suspended constitutional rights and imposed a military curfew. At least three people have been killed in recent days, as Honduran security forces have opened fire against protesters. Among the victims, 19-year-old Kimberly Fonseca, who was shot in the head as soldiers opened fire against a blockade erected by protesters in the capital, Tegucigalpa, Friday night.

Under mounting pressure, the commission has agreed to hold a partial recount of the vote, which Nasralla has rejected as being too limited. Instead, at the protest Sunday, Nasralla called on the low-level members of the military to rebel against the generals and stop enforcing the curfew and the crackdown against protesters.

SALVADOR NASRALLA: [translated] In this moment, I’m not calling on the generals of the armed forces or the colonels of the armed forces, because they have already failed the people. Today, the 3rd of December of 2017, I’m calling on the base of the armed forces to rebel against your bosses.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by three guests, but we’re going to start with Minnesota Congressmember Keith Ellison.

Keith Ellison, you recently were in Honduras. This is an issue you have been concerned about for years. Can you talk about what’s happening there, the U.S. connection to the current president and what you think needs to happen?

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, I think that we need a full examination of the U.S. relationship with Honduras relative to the years of security aid we’ve been sending down there and just the dramatic violence that is suffered by women, activists and people who are struggling for a more fair and democratic Honduras.

You know, the fact of the matter is that early, earlier in the election process, it looked as though Nasralla was ahead. They slowed down the process. And then, now, all of a sudden, Juan Orlando Hernández is ahead. It looks like there was tampering with the election process. This is highly irregular. And it appears as though there has been a reversal, in terms of the election outcomes, from Nasralla to Hernández. And this is deeply troubling.

I can tell you that, you know, going back many years, I’ve been concerned about activists in Honduras, people like Berta Cáceres, who was simply an indigenous woman trying to protect her land, organizing, and was—won the Goldman Prize for environmental activism, and then was shot and killed very suspiciously. There are members of the military that have been even accused of doing it. And the election—and the investigation has been quite messy. Now, after you see this election, people having some hope that they might be able to get some democracy, then, in the middle of the election count, we see this reversal. So, I’m concerned, deeply concerned, and will continue to be monitoring this situation.

AMY GOODMAN: And the situation of the U.S. giving millions of dollars in aid to the military in Honduras, a military that’s now cracking down on protesters, possibly involved with an electoral coup d’état—what about that U.S. support for what’s going on there? And do you think it should be stopped?

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, we have something called the Berta—

AMY GOODMAN: $114 million in military security and other security.

REP. KEITH ELLISON: We have something called the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, which says that we should suspend military security aid until such time as it can be objectively determined and certified that this aid is not being used to repress and suppress, you know, legitimate actors who are engaging in protected First Amendment-type activity, activity that is no different from anything we would expect activists to do here in order to raise consciousness around the issues that they care about. You know, in Honduras, we’ve seen activists, whether they are small farmers, whether they are women’s rights activists, whether no matter—journalists, we’ve seen them getting killed and harassed and abused. And so we have the Berta Cáceres Act, which we’re pushing forward right now. And so, we would like to see that bill enacted. And if enacted, it would suspend aid until it could be certified that the rights of folks have not been—are no longer being trampled upon, as they try to seek a more democratic Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Congressman Keith Ellison, we want to thank you for being with us, recently back from Honduras, long concerned about the situation there. When we come back from break, we’ll be joined by Honduran human rights activist Zenaida Velasquez, one of the founders of the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras, lost her sister during demonstrations in 2011. And we’ll also go to Honduras directly to talk about what’s happening there on the ground. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Honduran musician Karla Lara, performing here in our Democracy Now! studios.

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Honduras: Protesters Defy Military Crackdown and Flood the Streets to Protest Alleged Vote-Rigging

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