Vote Buying Reported in Honduras Hours Before Polls Open

Vote buying in Honduras
TEGUCIGALPA. At the National Institute of Vocational Training (INFOP), an element of the army guards the last electoral bags that will be distributed to the voting centers. Photo: Manuel Ortiz

By Pamela Cruz. Peninsula 360 Press [P360P].
Tegucigalpa, Honduras. ? Just hours before the polls opened throughout Honduras to kick off the most important election day in the country since the coup d'état and which could mark the course of the country for the next decade, electoral observers have reported vote buying.

This was informed by the Electoral Youth Platform and the Center of Studies for Democracy in Honduras (CESPAD), who detailed that through the electoral observation process that is being carried out in different areas of the country, these cases of vote buying have been reported, which constitute an electoral crime.

In view of this, both organizations stated that in the "Froylán Turcos" Industrial Technical Institute of Tocoa, Colón, where the voting center will be located, the purchase and sale of votes has been reported, arguing that they are payments corresponding to the governmental social program "Chambas Comunitarias" (Community Chambas).

According to the country's Penal Code, article 542 states that electoral coercion is a crime punishable with 4 to 6 years of imprisonment.

"We see these actions as a violation of the citizens' freedom of choice and unfair electoral competition," the organizations said in a brief statement.

Dark electoral panorama

According to Marco Castillo, co-director of the U.S. organization Global Exchange, which has been observing the voting, and which is located in the department of Colon, detailed exclusively to P360P that the electoral process is extremely delayed in the area.

And the fact is that, as well as other areas in the country, they still do not have the electoral bags that include the ballots so that the citizens can freely exercise their decision of election that, among other positions, will decide the next president of the country.

"We have been observing and, above all, what they are reporting to me is that, the whole process is super delayed here in the Colón area, surely the packages are going to start arriving until the early hours of the morning, which is extremely worrying because the whole process is left in the hands of strange actors who cannot be monitored or observed," he stressed.

He pointed out that it is likely that the delivery and installation of polling places in the area took place "in the dark", which would indicate intentional actions.

"We captured a representative of the federal government with caps of the National Party candidate, paying checks for a social program in the same school that tomorrow will be the most important voting center. In general, on this side, we are seeing a very dark and negative panorama," he declared.

TEGUCIGALPA. At the National Institute of Vocational Training (INFOP), an element of the army guards the last electoral bags that will be distributed to the voting centers. Photo: Manuel Ortiz

Necessity and votes

According to the Central Bank of Honduras (BCH), during 2020 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in constant terms, contracted by 9.0 percent, due to the strong national and international health crisis that led to the adoption of social distancing measures, causing the temporary suspension of most of the productive activity in the second quarter of the year. 

In addition to the above, there was considerable damage to crops, housing and productive infrastructure caused by the passage of natural phenomena Eta and Iota in the country in November of the year in question.

Thus, Hondurans have seen their lives very complicated in economic terms, which has forced millions to leave their country, or to sell their vote in exchange for aid.

Clientelist programs continue just hours before the general elections, where more than 5 million Hondurans will be able to give voice to their political decisions to elect their representatives.

What in many countries could be a serious electoral crime, here simply abuses the need of the electorate. People have reported being approached for the purchase of their vote, while being lined up to receive government "aid" that had not been received for months, just one day before voting.

Uncertainty

Recently, Roxi Moncada, owner councilor of the National Electoral Council of Honduras - CNE, a body that has only been formed a little more than two years ago, and whose main function is to organize, administer and guarantee that elections can be held on election day, pointed out that the main challenge faced by the body was to have ballots at each polling place so that the population could exercise their right to make a decision.

"The main challenge is that, in the more than 18,000 polling stations, on Sunday, November 28, there will be at least one electoral suitcase, the ballots for the three levels of election, and a polling station integrated in the manner established by the new Honduran Electoral Law", he pointed out in an interview.

In the political context of Honduras, especially 12 years after the coup d'état, the conditions in the country are quite complex, so the guarantee that clean elections will be held on November 28 can only be assured "formally", said the same official.

He also pointed out that, during the last two years, the councilors of the "autonomous" body, have worked "with hundreds of obstacles" to have an electoral process different from those of 2013 or 2017, the latter, especially branded as fraudulent after, following a "blackout", Juan Orlando Hernández was reelected as president. 

Moncada detailed that the fact that this Sunday's elections will be carried out in a neat manner and with the full will of the people will only be seen this Sunday.

"We are all obliged to do so, the members of the receiving board are public officials and assume a responsibility towards the State of Honduras. But this is a collapsed State after the Coup d'Etat, which has formal authorities, constitutional institutions, buildings, appointed officials, but it is a State without justice and where the rights formally guaranteed in practice are a real tragedy", he stressed.

Generalized severity

Reports of delays in the arrival of the electoral bags were also a constant a few hours before the start of the elections. 

"In the village las casitas, José Cecilio Del Valle they still do not confirm at what time the electoral boxes will arrive. Maybe it will be in the early morning"; "In Escuela Latino 11 ballot boxes are found together with 11 security kits, 4 of them have the CNE label damaged. The electoral boxes were not properly secured so that they are without any defect".

More than 5.1 million citizens of Honduras are summoned to the polls to elect who will head the government for the next 4 years, three designated "vice presidents", 298 municipal mayors, 128 deputies to the local Parliament and 20 to the Central American Parliament will also be elected.

You may be interested in: Honduran elections with no guarantee of "cleanliness": electoral counselorl

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