Observers from the Progressive International arrive to Tegucigalpa as Honduras prepares to elect a president, three vice presidents, 298 mayors, 128 national lawmakers, and 20 deputies for the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN).
Combining observation at voting centers with real-time analysis of the vote count, the delegation will work with the Centro de Estudio para la Democracia (CESPAD) and the National Electoral Council (CNE) to ensure transparency and accountability in the country's democratic process.
The delegation arrives at a decisive moment for democracy in Honduras. Following a decade of military force, foreign intervention, and documented irregularities in its electoral process, the country now faces a stark choice: respect the popular will, or repress it.
Honduras has yet to recover political stability after the 2009 coup — led by the country's armed forces and aided by US military officers — against president Manuel Zelaya.
The presidential elections that followed — in 2013 and 2017 — were again mired in allegations of fraud, low technical capacity, and outright corruption. In 2017, even the OAS itself went as far as to say: "the OAS General Secretariat cannot give assurance regarding the outcome of the elections."
The country now faces both domestic and international threats to its democratic process.
Disinformation runs rampant across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as candidates spread conspiracy theories and slander opposition candidates in an attempt to suppress participation in the election.
Meanwhile, political violence is on the rise. In July, the former lawmaker Carolina Echeverría from the Liberal Party was assassinated in her own home as she planned for a congressional re-election campaign.
This was hardly an isolated attack. Just last month, opposition deputy Olivia Zúñiga Cáceres, daughter of slain Indigenous leader Berta Cáceres, faced an assassination attempt similar to that of Echevarría. Activists across the country report regular violence and intimidation in the run-up to Sunday's election.
The rise in political violence has raised questions the role the armed forces in the country's political system. Since the coup in 2009, the Honduran armed forces have enforced Zelaya's exile, taken over key roles government administration, and assumed police duties.
The power of the country's armed forces is backstopped by the US government. Through its hemispheric "War on Drugs", the US has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars in military training and aid to these same armed forces.
The strategy has proved disastrous both for Honduras as for the stated aims of US drug policy — exemplified most clearly by the indictment of sitting president Juan Orlando Hernández for his alleged attempts to "leverage drug trafficking to maintain and enhance his political power."
Concern is now mounting — within Honduras and internationally — that Sunday's election will see widespread fraud, violence, and repression. Opposition forces have organized courageously to demand the restoration of democracy to the country. But careful monitoring will be necessary to guard against the deployment of authoritarian tactics in the streets, at the ballot box, and in the official vote count.
That is why the Progressive International has mobilized to Honduras. Under the banner of its newly launched Observatory, the delegation will investigate potential irregularities and communicate its findings across the Progressive International's global network, ensuring that — against the country's emboldened forces of authoritarianism — the world is watching.
Photo: Kristen Joy Williams