After casting her ballot for former Vice President Elvin Santos of the ruling Liberal Party in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Erika Rodriguez told the Miami Herald: “I don’t even care who wins. This is the first time you are going to see all Hondurans celebrating — anybody’s victory.” So despite the fact that her candidate lost to cattle rancher and former congressman Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, Rodriguez joined millions of other Hondurans last night to celebrate a peaceful and successful democratic election.
The turmoil in Honduras began this summer when then-President Manuel Zelaya attempted to hold a referendum to gauge public interest in changing the constitution. As a leftist known for his ties to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, many democracy advocates in Honduras alleged Zelaya was following in Mr. Chávez’s footsteps and attempting to change the law to stay past term limits. Deeming this was a violation of Honduran law, the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress ousted Zelaya before his term was up. Rather than side with the democratic institutions of the land, the Obama administration surprisingly backed Zelaya’s demand for a return to power. For four months, U.S. diplomats bullied and hectored the interim government of Robert Micheletti to return Zelaya to power — despite an August report from the Law Library of Congress that concluded that the Honduran government had every right to depose him.
Thankfully, the Obama administration eventually realized the error of their ways and helped broker a deal between Zelaya and the interim government on October 29th. The critical point of the pact was the recognition of a truly Honduran process for resolving the political crisis – yesterday’s presidential election. But Zelaya has since backtracked on his word. Speaking from the Brazilian embassy yesterday, Zelaya told CNN: “Absenteeism triumphed. … These elections don’t correct the coup d’etat.” According to the Miami Herald, Zelaya supporters told registered voters to stay home, and some went as far as planting minor bombs throughout the capital to create a climate of fear.
Despite these threats of terror, the Honduran people defied Zelaya, Chavez, and leftist Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (whom President Barack Obama loves), and participated in the elections in overwhelming numbers. About 61% of Hondurans turned out to vote in the election yesterday, compared to the meager 46% that turned out to vote in 2005.
The elections were monitored by over 600 observers from at least 31 countries who visited 75 different polling centers and interviewed thousands of Hondurans. The Washington Senior Observer Group, of which three Heritage scholars participated, released a statement saying in part:
We witnessed the enthusiastic desire of thousands of Honduran citizens to cast their ballots. Many took time to thank us for our presence today. Without exception, they expressed confidence in the electoral system, pride in exercising their right to vote, and a profound hope that their election is a decisive step toward the restoration of the constitutional and democratic order in Honduras.
It is now time for Zelaya to honor his side of the October 29th agreement and accept the legitimacy of Sunday’s elections. Furthermore the Obama administration must assert itself to make sure Zelaya does not derail the electoral process and steal Honduras from its people.
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