Melissa’s remarks at COFADEH Press Conference

My name is Melissa Stiehler. I am the international coordinator of the Honduran Equality Delegation, the first LGBTQ solidarity delegation to Honduras and we are here as a part of the Honduras Solidarity Network’s election observation team, which is the largest in the country. I’ve been working with the Movimiento Diversidad en Resistencia. We observed in over 10 departments in the country and are deeply concerned about the irregularities that were witnessed in all 10 departments. Our delegation’s observations paint a grim picture not only of extreme fraud during this election, but foreshadow serious concerns for Human Rights, especially those of at risk activists and the LGBTQIA community. While we will be releasing a detailed report of what we experienced, I’d like to share a few examples:

  • Human rights abuses:
    • In addition to the anti-democratic events during the elections, we took testimony about how the military surrounded national media transmitters.
    • The military’s presence around the transmitter is clearly an intimidation tactic against free expression.
  • Major electoral violations:
    • A number of reports that voters received ballots already marked for the National Party.
    • A number of reports of votes that were purchased for cash, food, or other necessities.
    • An example of a voter was allowed to vote with a photocopy of their identification.
    • National Party purchased table credentials from smaller parties so they would have more say at the voting tables if conflict occurred or if they wanted to create a conflict for a LIBRE voter.
  • Denial of Right to Vote:
    • We met 2 voters and heard 2 more reports of voters listed as dead and were thus disqualified from voting.
    • We also say voters listed as registered who were able to vote but had died.
    • There were multiple people whose votes were annulled due to clear bias against LIBRE, from representatives at voting tables.
    • Furthermore, we are extremely concerned that 20% of the votes are not being taken into account.
  • Systemic Practice that May Violate Secret Ballot:
    • We witnessed a number of situations in which the voter’s choice was not secret due to obvious announcement of table representatives.
  • Inappropriate campaigning:
    • Partido Nacionalista refuses to move campaign table to appropriate 50 ft. from entrance to the polling station.
    • Illegal campaigning inside and blocking voting entrance:  in a sexually provocative manner, underage girls wearing National Party t-shirts and handing out mock ballots.
  • Minor electoral violations:
    • Voting at most stations we observed did not start at 7 am.
    • Voting list was not present outside of voting room.
    • The polling kit arrived late, delaying voting.
    • Press interviewed table presidents and interrupted the voting process, and photographed within voting room while TSE demanded we could not document the voting process.
    • Soldier attempted to hide from observers while taking photos of them, instigating a lack of transparency.
    • There was a disproportionate amount of soldiers in areas with high LIBRE support.
  • International Observation Integrity:
    • The integrity and effectiveness of international election observation has been severely compromised. More will be detailed in our report. My colleague has already described a number of these instances. However, I will specify one particular case:
    • One of the two teams we sent to Olancho was followed by two vehicles without license-plates immediately after leaving the polling station they were observing.
    • After frantic and evasive driving from one of their accompaniers, the delegates succeeded in avoiding a confrontation. I have no doubt this was a threat and an act of intimidation against the overseeing of the democratic process.
  • U.S. Role in Election:
    • I’d like as a U.S. citizen to talk about US role in this election. My delegation and I would like to denounce the statements of Lisa Kubiske, the U.S. ambassador. Before even 50% of the votes were counted, she claimed this election should be respected and there are legal mechanisms to challenge the results. I emphatically disagree. I have first-hand experience of the fraud.
    • HSN and my delegation has documentation of serious and undeniable fraud in all 10 districts that we observed in.
    • And we have no confidence that there are legal mechanisms to challenge the results, given the occupation of the public ministry.
    • The murders, intimidation tactics, and human rights violations demonstrate that this was not a free election.
    • On behalf of my delegation, we are especially worried about the state of human rights after this fraud.

I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn in saying that the US is well aware of the violations that are happening here in Honduras. Despite the Leahy Law, the US continues to support and aid in increasing militarization in Honduras. It is also not off to say that the US hand their hand in this election. We believe that the only thing that will change US actions and narratives about this fraud and the massive human rights violations will be pressure, pressure, and more pressure from people like us.

 

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