Washington, D.C. — On December 22, the U.S. State Department recognized President Juan Orlando Hernández as the winner of the highly contested and troubled presidential elections in Honduras. The November 26 election was marked by multiple inconsistencies and delays, leading the Organization of American States (OAS) to call for new elections, as its electoral observation mission in Honduras concluded it could not certify the voting results as accurate. Multiple Members of Congress and civil society groups echoed the OAS call. However, by recognizing President Hernández in spite of the OAS recommendations and the widely documented irregularities with the voting process, the Trump administration has sent a dangerous signal to Latin America at a time when Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela are all preparing to hold presidential elections in 2018, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
“By averting its eyes from what happened in Honduras, the Trump administration is signaling to the region that it is willing to overlook threats to the democratic process when dealing with an ally,” said Adriana Beltrán, Director of the WOLA Citizen Security program. “This was an opportunity for the United States to send a strong message that deeply flawed elections and the repression of peaceful protests are not acceptable. Instead, Washington has chosen to ignore human rights and democracy.”
Two days after the November 26 vote, as Honduran security forces reacted forcefully against nationwide protests, the U.S. State Department opted to certify that Honduras had met human rights and rule of law requirements for the release of U.S. aid. To date, at least 12 and as many as 20 people have been killed in demonstrations since election day, with hundreds more arrested.
“Finding a sustainable response to the high levels of violence, corruption, and inequality requires the cooperation of a credible government firmly committed to the rule of law. Congress should withhold assistance to Honduras until there is clear evidence that human rights abuses are being addressed and democratic norms respected,” said Beltrán.