San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Leftist in Honduras presidential race declares herself winner, victim of fraud

TEGUCIGALPA — The leftist who believes she was elected as Honduras’ next president said Tuesday that her campaign had been hit by massive fraud and that she would announce her plans in 48 hours.

“On Friday, I will give my remarks on the final outcome of the elections. We will defend the will of the people as it was expressed at the polls,” Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed ex-president Manuel Zelaya, wrote in a Twitter posting.

Castro, who would be her country’s first woman president and has not been seen in public since she claimed victory late Sunday, said her victory was decisive, but that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal manipulated 19 percent of the votes to favor her top rival Juan Orlando Hernández of the ruling conservative party.

The electoral tribunal has said Hernández won with 34 to 29 percent, with 68 percent of polling stations tallied.

But “the TSE (electoral council) hid 19 percent of the ballots on election night which altered the outcome,” Zelaya wrote on his Twitter account. “Within 48 hours results from around the country will be in” and the alleged fraud will be ironed out, he said.

“We will confirm our victory, and if it were the opposite, we also would acknowledge it,” Zelaya said warning: “Nobody should speculate; we will look at the dimensions of the fraud – and what was properly done.”

Tensions were running high as the political standoff exploded into violence on the streets of Tegucigalpa earlier.

Police beat and used tear gas against about 800 people demonstrating in support of Castro.

“Why are the people asked to come out and vote if they are not going to respect the result? There has been a massive fraud here,” charged student Carlos Garcia.

About 100 police in helmets and riot gear used gas and then truncheons to beat the chanting youths and send them scrambling.

Students fled from police, running to their nearby campus, and at the entrance gates authorities lobbed more tear gas at them. The university called off classes for two days as post-electoral tensions deepened.

Local government institutions are so weak and the police so corrupt that Honduras is on the brink of becoming a failed state.

Gangs run whole neighborhoods, extorting businesses as large as factories and as small as tortilla stands, while drug cartels use Honduras as a transfer point for shipping illegal drugs, especially cocaine, from South America to the United States.

Hernández is a law-and-order conservative who has promised a militarized program to improve public safety in the world’s deadliest nation, also among the poorest in Latin America.

The clash between Hernández, of the National Party, and Castro of the Libre party, brought new uncertainty to a deeply troubled country, also reeling from the wounds of the coup just four years ago.

Castro running mate Juan Barahona said “we won’t be here with our arms crossed. … We will defend our victory legally, diplomatically, and also in the streets.”

But Hernández, who is also speaker of the legislature, said the people had spoken at the ballot box.

The governments of Colombia, Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica congratulated Hernández. Nicaragua’s leftist President Daniel Ortega also recognized Hernández as the winner.

European Union and Organization of American States observers called Sunday’s voting process transparent and non-problematic.

The election’s winner will inherit a country of 8.5 million people with 71 percent of the population living in poverty and a soaring homicide rate of 20 murders per day.

Castro, who proposes “Honduran-style democratic socialism,” wants to rewrite the constitution and “re-found” the country – a move similar to the one that led to the coup that ousted her husband in 2009.

Zelaya was elected Honduran president as a PL candidate in 2005.

But when he showed signs of moving to the political left and tried to reform the constitution, the military abruptly deposed him with support from Congress and the Supreme Court in 2009.

The military ousted the democratically-elected president with no vocal or active opposition from the United States – a fact that deeply undermined US credibility across all of Latin America ever since.

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