favorite Central American was back in the news this week, as
Honduras painstakingly counted ballots in front of international
observers and tried to discern, with utmost transparency, the winner of
the Nov. 26 presidential election.
Amid the tension, left-wing candidate Salvador Nasralla cried fraud and called for an uprising. Soon, like a bad centavo, pro-Chávez Honduran former President
turned up in the midst of one angry mob.
Recall that in
2009 Mr. Zelaya was kicked out of the country, with the support of his
own party, for violating the constitution. Mrs. Clinton, who was then
secretary of state, tried and failed to force Honduras to take Mr.
Zelaya back. Last week he was seen again, wearing his signature cowboy
hat and leading a bunch of hooligans trying to break into the warehouse
where the electoral authorities had stored ballots and tally sheets from
around the country for counting. The raid did not succeed, but the
incident captured the spirit of Zelaya-Nasralla politics.
Nasralla, a former game-show host, ran against incumbent center-right
President Juan Orlando Hernández. By Friday it looked like Mr. Hernández
had narrowly won. Mr. Nasralla seemed sure of it too. That’s when he announced that his
supporters would stay in the streets for years in protest unless he was
declared the winner. With no concession, the uncertainty dragged on.
Nasralla insists he was robbed. Never mind that this election had
greater scrutiny by international observers than any contest in the
region in recent memory. Or that Mr. Nasralla’s “Alliance of Opposition”
had equal access to the tallying process. The Zelaya-Nasralla movement
is using its phony cheating claim to justify a torrent of violence.
to Central America, where even after Venezuela has succumbed to famine,
the left remains committed to the tactics that brought the country to
misery. The process is simple: win one election, then consolidate power
and never leave. The strategy has been successful in Nicaragua, where
Sandinista Daniel Ortega has been in power since 2007. He is as corrupt
as any caudillo and has handily put an end to political pluralism,
competitive elections, transparency and institutional independence.
Salvador may soon suffer the same fate. Former leftist guerrillas of
the FMLN party, who are also allies of Venezuela, have governed since
2009. The party moderated its image to get to power, but last week the
party secretary announced that its goal is to end capitalism—including the right of private property.
Guatemala a United Nations prosecutor, who is in the country ostensibly
to root out corruption, has teamed up with the local leftists to try to
unseat a center-right president. The prosecutor has so far been
unsuccessful, but he has generated dangerous instability. In Honduras,
socialist hopes were on Mr. Nasralla, which is why his followers are
taking his loss so badly.
Polls had widely anticipated that Mr. Hernández would win re-election, as the Economist wrote
on Nov. 25. Yet the earliest returns, released on Nov. 27, showed Mr.
Nasralla in the lead. Officials cautioned that with less than 60% of the
vote counted it was too soon to declare a winner.
electoral tribunal did not give the victory to Mr. Nasralla immediately,
he called for rebellion. His supporters have blocked highways with
burning piles of debris, destroyed cars, trashed storefronts, set
highway tollbooths ablaze, and rampaged through the residential
neighborhoods where electoral authorities live. On Friday a nighttime
curfew was imposed for 10 days. Mr. Nasralla’s supporters flouted it.
violence is well-organized, raising suspicions of outside help. Exiled
Venezuelan political science professor José Vicente Carrasquero warned
in a video of Venezuelan “elements” seeking to undermine the integrity
of Honduran institutions.
That Mr. Hernández was behind in the
early count was surprising but explainable. In the capital there were
reports that thugs “instructed” neighbors not to vote. Most of his
backing came from outside the big cities. Both sides had agreed before
the election that the physical tally sheets had to be reviewed in
Tegucigalpa. It took longer to get them from rural areas.
charge is that Mr. Hernández is an ally of the U.S. and has been
allowed to steal the election. But that doesn’t add up either.
teams from the Organization of American States and the European Union
played a key oversight role. On Tuesday the European mission criticized
the tribunal’s failure to communicate at regular intervals with the
public. Yet it also noted that all parties had representatives on hand
to monitor the process.
Midweek, the two candidates came together
to sign a document pledging that they would each respect the final
outcome. Within hours Mr. Nasralla backtracked, alleging that he had
been tricked. Hondurans speculated that the reversal came about because
Mr. Zelaya did not approve. In other words, Hillary’s old friend is the
one calling the shots.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.