15th Nov 2019

EU pleased with 'broadly peaceful' Honduran election

Elections in Honduras held by the country's right-wing coup regime have "neither been recognised nor not recognised" by the European Union, although Brussels has welcomed what it believes was a peaceful process. Human rights groups however are contesting the EU assessment.

"We are very pleased that the elections took place in a broadly peaceful and calm manner," European Commission spokesperson Lutz Guellner told reporters on Monday (30 November) following Sunday's controversial ballot boycotted by the left.

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"What is important now is that the parties intensify their efforts in favour of a negotiated solution that would be based on dialogue and unity."

"I am not saying we are recognising the elections but also not that we are not recognising them either," he told EUobserver.

"It's a very early assessment. We need to look and see what's happening on the ground."

The EU's assessment is based on descriptions provided by the bloc's delegation in Tegucigalpa and three commission election experts in the country.

"It was a very small team in place," said Mr Guellner.

Brussels did not however send a formal election observation mission. Neither did the UN, the Organisation of American States or the US-based Carter Center, which often performs such work.

Spain's foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos, whose country will assume the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in January, said there would be no EU recognition: "Spain will not recognize these elections, but not ignore them."

"We are looking for a dialogue of national reconciliation in which there are new actors and a dialogue with President Zelaya. The EU position is a united position."

Conservative cattle rancher Porfirio Lobo appears to have won the election, with between 53 and 55 percent of the vote, according to exit polls. Turnout nevertheless appears to have been significant,

Human rights organisations however do not agree with the EU view.

Amnesty International is worried about a series of unlawful detentions, arrests and raids of opposition groups on the eve and day of the presidential elections.

"Justice seems to have been absent also on election day in Honduras," said Javier Zuñiga, the head of the Amnesty International delegation in Honduras.

"It is essential the whereabouts of all people detained are made public and all incidents of abuse, investigated. The rule of law must fully be restored."

The group urged the Honduran authorities to reveal the identities, whereabouts and charges against all people detained.

Domestic human rights groups have claimed that in the lead up to the vote, the government carried out intimidation, torture, illegal detentions and in some cases assassinations against those sections opposed to the coup regime.

Wide, the European network of women's organisations, accused the regime of engaging in "a systematic campaign of intimidation, physical and sexual abuse, and torture. Women have increasingly become target of this campaign."

"Two women died of complications from tear-gas exposure; nine activist women were killed, their bodies showing evidence of torture." At least four people have been killed in fighting between authorities and protesters since the June coup that overthrew left-wing leader Manuel Zelaya, according to Human Rights Watch

One Brussels-based analyst worried that the EU had been quick to endorse elections in Afghanistan only to have to backtrack from the position once widespread fraud was revealed.

"It's a politicisation of election observation, but it's also a pretty busy transition time for the EU as well. The EU is likely following the US lead on this, waiting to see what Washington does first before they make their mind up."

Washington initially condemned the coup but is now expected to recognise the results.

Most Latin American nations, with the exception of Peru, Panama and Costa Rica, have said they will refuse to do so.

The Union of South American Nations, which is modelled on the EU but still very much in the early stages of development, on Friday called on the EU to adopt a similar position to its own and refuse to recognise the result.

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