Honduras rises up to reclaim its democracy

A statement from the Observatory on Sunday's historic election
On Sunday, delegates from the Progressive International Observatory witnessed history: the election of Xiomara Castro, the first woman to become president of Honduras.

For millions of Hondurans, the election not only offered a chance to endorse Castro's program of national "refoundation" and the extension of social and economic rights it contained. It also presented the opportunity to turn the page from a decade of bloodshed, uncertainty, and instability, since the armed forces led a coup against president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

The triumph of democracy in Honduras reflects the courage of its citizens to overcome efforts to suppress their participation in Sunday's election. Targeted political violence, mass disinformation and rampant corruption threatened to derail the democratic process. A cyberattack of unknown origins crashed the electoral authority's webpage in the morning, and just hours later — with no votes counted and no clear exit poll — the ruling National Party declared victory in a major press conference: a clear effort to dissuade turnout among remaining voters.

But the Honduran people could not be deterred. Nearly 70% of the country turned out to vote on Sunday, delivering a crushing defeat for ruling National Party — and, by extension, the militarization of Honduran society that the United States government had financed.

In the first test for the Progressive International Observatory, delegates worked closely with local activists and national electoral experts to bring transparency to the Honduran election. The delegation raised the alarm around failing physical infrastructure and preparation before days polls opened. The delegation denounced electoral irregularities and attacks to the democratic process on election day. And the delegation will remain watchful of potential "lawfare" against Honduran democracy — until every vote is counted, and long after.

The return of democracy to Honduras is a staggering achievement. But is also fragile. In the decade since the 2009 coup, the armed forces have only become better supplied, better financed, and more deeply connected with US military allies.

The Progressive International therefore calls for sustained global vigilance to ensure a fair conclusion to the vote count, and to resist the possibility of a military intervention in subsequent days.

Such vigilance is a necessary companion of the reconstruction process already underway in Honduras — to repair its democratic institutions, but most of all, to build a fairer society and bring justice for the crimes its people have so recently endured.

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