Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ponce Fonseca: Gang and Foreigners are Protesting in Honduras

General Rene Orlando Ponce Fonseca, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Honduran Armed Forces, sees Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Salvadorans protesting in Honduras; but not Hondurans.  I suggest he open his eyes.

On Monday, after 100,000 Hondurans marched in San Pedro Sula on Saturday to protest the fraudulent "official" results of the Honduran elections of last November, and tens of thousands marched in Tegucigalpa on Sunday for the same reason, General Ponce Fonseca gave an interview in which he said:
"These marches are infiltrated by members of criminal structures who have been joined by elements from other countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, a point that's been well established."

Lets translate that.  For "members of criminal structures" read "gang members", and for "elements from other countries" read "foreign interference".  For "a point that's been well established" read "I say so". 

So according to General Ponce Fonseca gangs and foreigners are marching in Honduras, upsetting the peace, causing violence, and hurting his soldiers by pelting them with rocks.  Bear in mind that his soldiers have automatic weapons with live ammunition and have been firing on the crowds without provocation, and to deadly effect.

To make it clear, Ponce Fonseca continued:
"The intention to maintain chaos and burn down the country are objectives that take us to another dimension which is outside of all order, but the Armed Forces are prepared to defend the people."

So protesters are not Honduran people to General Ponce Fonseca.  The Honduran people are those who are not protesting.

No wonder we see the Honduran Military Police violating the human rights of protesters all the time. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Party politics in Honduras, post 2017

While the OAS has not recognized the outcome of the presidential election, Juan Orlando Hernández is proceeding as if the election is settled. Meanwhile, media and political observers from outside Honduras have pivoted to critiques of Salvador Nasralla, Manuel Zelaya, or both for supposedly playing their cards the wrong way, and for the actions each is taking now.

This seems entirely misguided to us. It is worth noting that there was never a chance that Hernández would concede that the election was fraudulent. We doubt that he would have done anything even if the US placed pressure on him, beyond what he is doing: calling for a national "dialogue" that, as in his previous dialogues, is controlled by him and excludes those who view him as corrupt and illegitimate.

Given that reality, it is worth emphasizing that having the officially reported election results come in so close was surprising, and probably not just to those of us watching from outside. Poll tallies that came in as paper documents and were not scanned at the election site appear to have been manipulated. But those transmitted directly as scans allowed the popularity of opposition to Hernández to show clearly.

Which brings us to the next steps: what is happening, and what should we make of it?

Much is being made of the fact that Nasralla and Zelaya are proceeding separately. International commentators seem to be fascinated with the personality issues involved, and ignore the fact that the Alianza was not a party. It was formed under Honduran electoral law that allows for alliances.

Technically, the Alianza joined two existing parties: Libre and PINU. The party founded by Nasralla, PAC (Partido Anti-corrupción), was originally supposed to form part of the Alianza as well.

However, PAC was taken over in May by dissidents, after the TSE declared their original primary null and void on a technicality. The Honduran press described this situation as a mess. As reports published outside Honduras made clear, this culminated a move by a faction in PAC that was tied to the Partido Nacional.

So in the aftermath of the November election, Nasralla has no party affiliation. He has announced that he is starting over again, pushing for a fuerza nacional-- a national political movement, which in Honduras is a first step to forming a party. Nasralla specifically called for participation by "the Alianza that gave him the electoral triumph"
which will be expanded with all the other sectors of the country that oppose the dictatorship such as the people who have demonstrated in the streets, workers, the church, honest businessmen, unions, the Partido Liberal, and the youth that always accompanied him.
This is playing a long game, looking forward to the next election in 2021. It represents a calculated attempt to broaden his original constituency, appealing to the remnants of the Liberal Partido, which came in third in the national presidential race, but also inviting people who may have supported the Alianza but be less comfortable with Libre's strong social democratic agenda.

Nasralla doesn't really have any other choice if he wants to influence the political future. There is no "Alianza" party of which he might be called the leader in Congress. The shell of PAC, led by his rival, managed to win 1 seat in congress (with less than 1% of the vote nationally). In fact, even in the 2013 elections, PAC only gained 13 seats in the congress. It was always a presidential movement, created by a prominent and visible person, but not anything like a traditional party.

The stakes are different for Zelaya. With the end of the presidential campaign, he returns to his position as leader of Libre. Libre is a party that was built by experienced politicians, and includes a substantial national congressional presence. Libre won 30 seats in Congress (with 23% of the vote nationally). That's a net gain of two seats.

Libre actually overtook what remains of the Partido Liberal, which saw its congressional delegation shrink from 33 to 26 (with 20% of the national vote). The Liberal Party continues to work through the aftermath of the 2009 coup, which was led by one faction within the party against the sitting president from the same party. When Zelaya created Libre, many progressives that formerly were Partido Liberal members followed him.

One of the dynamics to watch is what will become of the remains of the Liberal Party. Luis Zelaya, the candidate for president, was an unexpected choice, a university professor with no history of political office holding. Part of his motivations for seeking office parallel those that guided Nasralla: the corruption scandal in the Honduran social services agency, IHSS. He also was moved by the extra-judicial killing of a university student.

Luis Zelaya shocked most observers when he supported the assertion by Nasralla that the Alianza candidate was the real winner of the contest. He has remained firm on this point. That has led to calls from within what his supporters call the lado oscuro or Dark Side of the party for his removal from his leadership of the party. Zelaya has openly accused those calling for his removal of being in a "perverse" coalition with the Partido Nacional.

Back in early 2015, Mauricio Villeda, then leader of the Liberal Party, was part of the first agreement to oppose the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández. As recently as this spring, political strategists in Honduras were writing about his chances of leading a three-party alliance in the presidential race.

Which brings us to the next four years. If the Partido Liberal follows Zelaya, and he and his congressional delegation coordinate with Libre, they would form a voting bloc of 56 members, facing the Partido Nacional's 61 (based on a national vote of just under 48%).  This is enough on its own to block some of the constitutional moves that have been a staple of Hernández' consolidation of power.

And they could do more, with sufficient focus. The remaining 11 seats in Congress went to minority parties. The remnant PAC is suspected of being a National Party adherent. Other small parties that were floated as potential participants in a National Party alliance were the PUD, PDCH, FAPER and Vamos.

Only the first two of these political movements had seats in the previous congress, holding a total of five. PUD held on to its seat, but the PDCH lost three, ending up with a single seat. That brings the total votes that normally follow Hernández automatically to 63. This is two less than a majority in the 128 seat congress.

Adding the 4 congressional seats won by PINU to those of Libre, with which it formed the Alianza, would point to a core opposition of 34 votes. If the Partido Liberal under Luis Zelaya can work with Libre and PINU in the next congress on issues where they share concerns, they would still be at a disadvantage, with a total of 60 votes.

The wild card is something called the Partido Alianza Patriotica. It received enough votes in this election to receive 4 seats in congress. It ran the general who carried out the 2009 coup, Romeo Vásquez Velasquez. Not surprisingly, he ran on a tough on crime, support the military platform. In 2013, its first campaign, the party didn't even win a single congressional seat. So there's no history to go on.

And of course, there's the lone Partido Anti-corrupción diputado elected, who just may turn out to have more leverage than expected.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Pope to investigate the Honduran Church

The Italian newspaper, L'Espresso, reported yesterday that the Pope is investigating charges of corruption, both moral and financial, against Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga and a close aide, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda.  The allegations, L'Espresso noted, were made in a report to the Pontiff last May. Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga is in charge of the Pope's Council of Cardinals charged with reforming the priesthood in the Roman church.

According to L'Espresso, Rodriguez Maradiaga has received payments totaling more than $600,000/year from the Catholic University of Honduras, where he is Chancellor.

L'Espresso states that Rodriguez Maradiaga made questionable payments to the male friend of his nephew and close aide, Bishop Juan Jose Pineda.  The Diocese, under Rodgriguez Maradiaga's control, bought and paid for an apartment for Bishop Juan Jose Pineda and his close friend, Erick Cravioto Fajardo, a Mexican who calls himself "Fray Erick" but has reportedly never taken vows.  The two of them, Bishop Pineda and Eric Fajardo, have lived in an apartment together adjacent to the Cardinal in Villa Iris. An anonymous Italian source said that the report implied a close and indecorous relationship between Pineda and Fajardo.  Bishop Pineda recently bought Fajardo a new apartment near the center of the city, and a new car.  L'Espresso implies the funds for these purchases came from the Diocese.

L'Espresso also claims the report says that Rodriguez Maradiaga has sent millions of dollars of Diocesan money to offshore, London-based investment firms like Leman Wealth Management that ceased to exist after two years and "lost" $1.2 million of the money after depositing it in German banks.  In addition, the report reportedly says that millions of dollars of Diocesan funds have been given to projects controlled by Bishop Pineda, projects that have only weakly defined goals.

The issues were investigated and the report was written by Argentinian Bishop Jorge Casaretto.

The Archdiocese of Honduras responded saying that the Catholic University supports all the Bishops of Honduras, and that it's not "personal" money, but money to further the Diocesan mission. The Archdiocese denies that there was any kind of offshore investment as described in L'Espresso.  Bishop Pineda asked for and received a personal meeting with the Pope to clear his name.

Padre Juan Ángel Lopez, a spokesperson for the Episcopal Conference of Honduras, told told El Heraldo that this was part of a plot to remove Cardinal Rodgriguez Maradiaga, who turns 75 next week and must submit his resignation to the Pope for consideration.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dictatorship: the ghost that haunts re-election in Honduras

The tweet from @Codigo504 is the kind of mordant humor I think of as typically Honduran:
Después del informe de OEA y el tuitazo de Almagro los cachurecos deben calcular bien sus próximas acciones. ?

After OAS’ report and Almagro’s tweet, the Cachurecos need to think very carefully about their next steps ?

"What Would Carias Do?"

That's easy: hold on to power however he could. Tiburcio Carías Andino is the ghost hovering over presidential re-election in Honduras.

While the rhetoric used to justify the 2009 made re-election especially potent as a current political issue, the constitutional ban on re-election is not a long-established Honduran practice. It was inserted in the 1982 constitution that Oscar Arias famously called the "worst in the entire world" during his failed attempt to negotiate an end to the 2009 crisis.

The 1982 constitution was enacted as part of the exit from a long period of military rule, guided by the relationship of Honduras and the United States. One of the new features was the declaration in the Constitution that certain provisions could not be amended, including the prohibition on re-election and the definition of the term of the presidency as four years. These features have been described as "centerpieces" of the new 1982 constitution.

Why such an insistence that no future president would serve more than four years? It might seem at first that this was intended to forestall the kind of military dictatorships that had dominated Honduras from 1963 to 1982 (with a brief hiatus for an elected government lasting just over a year from 1971-1972). But that is too short a time frame to understand this provision.

Tiburcio Carías Andino is the ghost hanging over the understanding of the potential for a Honduran President to exploit electoral laws to hang on to power indefinitely. The Honduran people see Juan Orlando Hernández as seeking to follow the path of Carías, not of Policarpo Paz.

Carías Andino first took supreme executive control of Honduras in 1924, during a period of substantial political conflict. In 1932, he ran for election and started an unprecedented period of 16 years in that office. The constitution in force at the time prohibited consecutive terms as President, so Carías Andino initiated the writing of a new constitution. This allowed him to stay in office, and consolidate executive control.

Carías suppressed political opposition. His power ended in part due to protests that began in the capital city and in San Pedro Sula. In the latter case, the brutal suppression of the protests shaped a generation of political activists.

In the aftermath of his presidency, Honduras experienced a significant turmoil, starting with a presidential term by Carías hand-picked successor, Juan Manuel Gálvez. Toward the end of his term in office, a major strike against the dominant banana industry transformed the country, showing the power of labor.

The 1954 election for president did not produce a candidate with the then-required majority vote. (A majority is no longer  required by the 1982 constitution, leading to the election in 2013 of a president who received less than 38% of the popular vote, and contributing to the crisis of 2017. This non-majority clause can be seen as another haunting from the age of Carías Andino.)

In 1954, the resolution of the election was messy: the legislature was supposed to vote to decide who would be president, requiring a two-thirds majority. Two parties boycotted the required sessions, preventing this resolution. The Supreme Court was supposed to resolve a legislative failure to decide, but it was perceived as illegitimate due to being packed by Carías Andino. (Legislative packing of the Supreme Court by Hernández facilitated the decision that opened the way to his seeking re-election, another piece of the Carías playbook that he emulated.)

In the void of power, the vice president, Julio Lozano Díaz, took over, suspending the congress and instituting the writing of a new constitution. His extra-legal regime lasted two years, ending with a military coup. The candidate from 1954 who had received the most votes, Ramón Villeda Morales, was elected to a six-year term in 1957.

Villeda Morales initiated modernizing policies including modest agrarian reforms. By the end of his term, these led to opposition from conservative sectors of Honduran society. Under the constitution then in force, Villeda Morales himself was limited to one six year term as president. His party's nominee was expected to win, however, and to continue his policies.

That prospect was enough to initiate a military coup. The seizure of government initiated the long period that only ended in 1982 with the ratification of the current constitution. Its provisions about presidential election are shaped by the history that began with Carías Andino: a single term for president, without re-election, and no requirement for a majority, a run-off election, or any mechanism for resolving elections too close to truly be called like the one that once threw election to the Congress and then the Supreme Court.

The US government in 1963, under the direction of President John F. Kennedy, cancelled aid, withdrew US military from Honduras, and called the Ambassador to Honduras back to the US. None of these actions led to the return of control to civilian government. General Oswaldo López Arrellano, who held power until 1971 and again from 1972 to 1975, eventually initiated new agrarian reforms, before falling out of power due to a bribery scandal involving the United Fruit Company.

His two successors, also military officers holding extra-judicial power, consolidated the ideology of the military as a stabilizing force that led to their institutionalization in the current constitution as the guarantors of democratic processes. That constitutional role was cited by the military as motivation for their actions in the 2009 coup d'etat.

Hernández has worked to make the army loyal to him. He has also invested, with substantial US aid, in the creation of new militarized police whose role in the 2013 election already was seen as promoting repression. The history of presidential manipulation of the armed forces, too, can be traced back to the Carías dictatorship that is providing so much of the model for the current president.

So indeed, the question #whatwouldCariasDo appears to be the one that we all should be asking as we watch to see what tactics the modern successor to the authoritarian who scarred Honduran political memory might adopt.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Statistics and fraud

We now have two separate statistical analyses of Honduran presidential voting data, and both conclude the same thing: there was something fishy that happened in the middle of vote counting.

To recap: The Economist looked at the percentages of votes that went to the two main candidates before and after the long break by the TSE in posting vote counts.

Before the break, with about 57% of the vote counted, Salvador Nasralla had a 5% lead. After that, the lead steadily declined to the final apparent margin of just over 50,000 votes.

The Economist specifically asked whether the explanation offered by the Partido Nacional-- which claimed that the later votes came from more rural locations more likely to favor their candidate-- could account for the shift. They compared vote counts before and after the break in counting within each municipio.

Rather than being differences between urban and rural places, their analysis compared vote counts within each locality. They found an average shift of 3.8% within the same locality. It didn't matter if the municipio was rural or urban-- they all shifted the same way.

One known difference: votes tallied after the break included a large number that were not scanned and transmitted from the polling places on the day of the election. Instead, these were trucked up to Tegucigalpa and scanned there. Much of the discussion about vote counting has centered on the treatment of these vote tallies, including concerns about some arriving in open, unsecured packages, and the rumor that some were scanned in a hotel (and thus potentially could have had substitutes).

The Economist also drew attention to the unusually high voter turnout reported in the late-counted votes, in particular, from three largely rural departments. This, they note, could reflect a better get-out-the-vote operation-- or ballot box stuffing. Here it is worth remembering that the sign-off on vote tallies is done by credentialed party members, and there has been reported fraud and sale of credentials by smaller parties, in 2013 and 2017,

There matters stood until the release by the OAS today of a report by Georgetown University Professor Irfan Nooruddin. His analysis identifies a point when 68% of the votes were counted where, across different regions, both the turnout level and support for the Partido Nacional increases sharply. Either of these would be unusual; both are very unusual.

Nooruddin uses the reported data to do something that the actual vote counting never did: he simulates what vote counts would have looked like if results had posted randomly. This has been a key problem throughout the process: it is unclear what order the TSE used in its vote counting; it was not statistically random nor selected to be a representative sample. The OAS in its initial report noted that the TSE shifted from counting as votes came in to some unexplained selection process. Nooruddin helps us see if the election would have been less confusing if the voting tallies were counted randomly.

The conclusion of this part of the analysis is that if the votes were accurate, and were counted randomly, the pattern seen could have happened, and not result from tampering.

Nooruddin doesn't stop there-- as he notes, this part of the analysis is only worthwhile if the vote counts were accurate. He continues with tests of this assumption, and finds that the differences between early counted vote tallies and later ones "are large and suspicious".

Every department showed the same pattern of early lead for the Alianza followed by a change in pattern. As in the analysis by The Economist, the universality of this pattern is not easily explained by innocent factors. There is nothing about early vs. late vote tallies that would account for this.

It is as if there were two elections being counted, with precincts in every department changing the same way.

The only way we can imagine to have this result would be if for some reason the TSE did a preliminary sort of actas and deferred counting those most favorable to the National Party until last. Needless to say, that makes no sense.

Nooruddin points out that the shift in turnout in the later-counted tallies would be expected less than one in one thousand times-- statistically a significant difference. He presents an in-depth analysis of the Department of La Paz that shows that even in a department that favored Hernández throughout counting, and has a higher-than-average turnout rate, the later vote tallies increased in both reported turnout and voting for the Partido Nacional. The turnout increase is statistically likely to occur only one time in one thousand. Nooruddin concludes "such a sharp increase in turnout in the same department is unusual".

He writes that these findings are "consistent with a hypothesis of tampering with the vote tallies that were counted last".

So what could have happened?

One way to produce such an effect is good old fashioned ballot box stuffing-- reporting more votes than actually took place, and attributing the extra votes to a preferred candidate. Once the acta was signed, no one went back to double check the voter rolls or ballots. As long as the math on the tallies added up, you could have a voting pool in whatever form you like. This might well be correlated with places where votes weren't transmitted online the day of the election, as the ballot stuffing could happen at many points.

A lot of anxiety around these late vote tallies revolves around whether fake actas were substituted on the way to Tegucigalpa, or even fake images of actas in the TSE database. These, again, would work, and would not produce any contradiction unless the full ballot box was opened and recounted.

Both statistical analyses allow for the possibility this was just a really unusual way votes came in and were counted. But in Honduras, there is little trust in the system and unusual has already translated into illegitimate.

What happens next will determine whether Hondurans can begin to rebuild trust in democratic processes.

OAS calls for new elections in Honduras

Today witnessed a series of press conferences in the contested Honduran election.

Shortly after the OAS Mission said it would be making a statement late today, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral announced its own announcement would be made earlier in the day.

Not surprisingly, given previous statements, the TSE's announcement was their conclusion that the presidential election had been won by Juan Orlando Hernández, of the Partido Nacional. Neither the Partido Liberal nor the Alianza formed by two opposition parties, the Partido Anti-corrupción and LIBRE, have accepted the vote tallies posted by the TSE, alleging a number of different kinds of fraud.

There is also a potential legal issue left unaddressed: whether the candidacy of Hernández was entirely legal. The current president ran for an unprecedented second term under a Honduran constitution that prohibited even talk of re-election, until a Supreme Court he shaped while head of Congress ruled otherwise. The Supreme Court ruling opened the door to re-election. But lawmakers in Honduras did not pass any legislation authorizing re-election. Technically, then, this is not just an unprecedented election outcome: it is one that took place outside any defined legal framework.

Both the European Union and the Organization of American States are on record as seeing the electoral process as problematic. While the EU released a statement today that many read as supporting the TSE's conclusion, the OAS today signaled more reservations, beginning with statements by Secretary General Luis Almagro on Twitter.

These were expanded in the OAS announcement this evening that the Secretary General of the OAS cannot provide certainty about the results of the election. The press release reiterates previous descriptions of the electoral process as "characterized by irregularities and deficiencies" and of "very low technical quality" and "lacking integrity".

The press release continues:
in the face of the impossibility of determining a winner, the only road possible for the winner to be the Honduran people is a new called to general elections, within the strictest respect for the rule of law, with  guarantees of a TSE that would enjoy the technical capacity and the confidence of the citizenry and the political parties.

This is followed by the appointment of a commission from the OAS of ex-presidents Jorge Quiroga and Alvaro Colom to "carry out the necessary work for a new electoral process and national democratic reconciliation in Honduras".

The full basis for this position is contained in the OAS mission's report to the Secretary General. It rehearses all the weaknesses in the electoral process. It calls allowing a run for re-election based on a court finding (without implementing legislation in place) a "bad practice...that revived the polarization generated by the coup and political crisis of 2009".

The OAS report also provides a new statistical analysis by Professor Irfan Nooruddin of Georgetown University addressing whether the sharp change in voting patterns noted after a break in counting could be explained in any innocent way.

This retraces some of the terrain covered by an analysis in The Economist that concluded that the shifts in voting seen were very unlikely.

Professor Nooruddin uses additional techniques, and concludes "on the basis of this analysis, I would reject the proposition that the National Party won the election

We will revisit these statistical analyses tomorrow, explaining what they do (and do not) show, and relate those observations to some of the known problems in the conduct of Honduran elections in general, and this one in particular.

For now, though, the question is: will Juan Orlando Hernández accept the OAS recommendation? Or does he think he can ignore the massive resistance to his re-election that has already led to almost two dozen deaths of protesters, and the closure of roads across the country?

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Processing an Acta: Rules and Procedures

Amidst allegations of voting fraud, the Honduran Tribunal Supremo Electoral does itself no favors with its incapacity to explain what it does. For many outside observers, it may be worth reiterating that the TSE does not directly count ballots; even when voting irregularities are charged, they mainly return to and re-examine the summaries of votes at each polling place, or MER.

Even those of us who have been following contested TSE procedures through the last three electoral cycles can get confused about how the TSE processes these vote tally sheets (acta in Spanish). Some confusion about how the political parties obtain actas has been evident in blog posts and other coverage. Although what follows is dense, it is an attempt to make this more transparent.

There are published rules governing how actas are supposed to be generated and transmitted to the TSE. The rules are contained in a document issued by the Tribunal Supremo Electoral on November 21 and published in La Gaceta of November 24, 2017-- just two days before the election. They are titled "Reglamento del Sistema Integrado de Escrutinio y Divulgacion Electoral (SIEDE)" and describe both the hardware and software environment for the processing of vote tally sheets for the three elections held on November 26, 2017.

Here's how it was supposed to work:

First, there is a physical space in a voting center where there are two different kinds of "digitization kits". This is the ATX, the "area of transmission (area de transmisión)". 

It contains a tablet kit, consisting of a tablet, a multifunction printer/scanner, and a GSM (cell phone) modem. It also contains the Operador de Mesa Receptora (OMR) kit, consisting of a tablet, multifunction printer/scanner, and 2 GSM modems, one for TIGO and one for CLARO, the two major cell phone providers in Honduras. 

Each OMR kit serves up to five MER (polling places). The modems are supposed to be connected to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) over the cell phone provider's data network, terminating in the TSE's computer center.

Each OMR kit is operated by a custodian who is designated and credentialed by the TSE.

On the day of the election, the TSE is supposed to reset its database, and all counts, to zero at 6 am and generate and sign a document that this occurred.

At 7am, the digitization kits are set up in the voting centers.  At that time the security envelope containing the login information for that specific kit is opened, and the operator logs in over the VPN to the TSE system to receive encryption keys, security certificates, digital signatures for each MER that that operator will support, and only for those MER. 

The operator then generates an "hoja de prueba" that is supposed to show that there are no images of actas stored on the tablet, print it, and sign it, then scan it and send it to the TSE.  This process is supposed to shut down the OMR kit, so that it cannot be used until after the voting center closes at 4 pm

At 4 PM, when the voting center closes, the software controls the transmission of the voting tally sheets. Voting tally sheets (actas) are generated at each MER for each of the three levels of election, in this order:  Presidential, Congressional, and then Municipal.  Actas are signed by representatives of each political parties present at the MER.

Then the President of the MER, along with any members who want to join in, take the vote tally sheets physically to the ATX area inside the voting center.

Once the acta is at the ATX, it is the responsibility of the ATX custodian to wake up the equipment, log in using the TSE supplied credentials, verify the ATX information (department, municipality, voting center, identification number of the ATX, number of the MER).

We can assume that all of this information is contained in the JSON information transmitted to the TSE.  We can also guess that this error-prone manual process is responsible for the actas in the TSE system today that have images of the tally sheet for a particular MER, but are filed within the system as if they are the tally for a different MER. This is acknowledging that there is the potential for operator error, which the system is supposed to have safeguards to prevent.  Once the information is entered into the tablet, the custodian is supposed to make sure the whole system is working (the procedure to do this is not specified).

Then the OMR custodian scans the actas in the ATX that serves the particular group of MERs.

The software works off a QR code on the acta and verifies it is for a MER assigned to this ATX and OMR kit.  Once scanned, the system displays the scan on the tablet for the custodian to verify the quality of the scan, that the information is legible, and that it is correctly scanned with no missing or obscured information.  If it is OK, they click a button on the screen to transmit it.  If its not OK, they click another button on the screen to rescan the acta.

Transmission occurs between the ATX and a receiving server in the TSE computing center, where it is then replicated to the servers of each of the political parties.

The political parties are responsible for installing a fiber optic network between their server and the TSE network. Each acta replicated is encrypted with a digital signature that guarantees its authenticity, as transmitted by the ATX.  The political parties and the TSE verify the digital signature of the acta to validate it.

There is a second check on poll tallies provided for the political parties. Back at the OMR, once an acta is transmitted up to the TSE, the custodian prints enough copies of the acta to give to each party's representative on the MER and stamps of the back of each one a rubber stamp that says it conforms to the original and is signed by the secretary of the MER.  This process is repeated for each of the OMR kit's MER for the actas for the Presidential, Congressional, and Municipal elections.

Obviously, if there isn't a party representative at a specific MER, this copy won't be received by the party. In general, when the parties cite their actas, they mean the ones transmitted by the TSE, but they may also have the paper copies.

Once transmission concludes for all actas, the custodian prints a receipt for his/her service as custodian and transmits the log files to the TSE.

Now here's one place where what happens introduces the fear of manipulation: all the actas scanned at the ATX centers are supposed to be scanned a second time in Tegucigalpa when the physical package of electoral materials (maletas in Spanish) arrives. The OAS report noted that some of these arrived without security, already open. Pictures of a truck backing up to a hotel in Tegucigalpa that appeared to show such packages raised the concern about some actas possibly being scanned outside the INFOP facilities. In both situations, there is concern that a substitute acta could have been inserted in place of the one scanned on election day at the ATX center.

The published rules make clear that at INFOP, as the documentation physically arrives, the actas are taken out and scanned a second time, and that those scans go into the TSE computers and are replicated to the party servers.

The scans produced in Tegucigalpa replace original scans transmitted from ATX centers. These scans are clearly done using different procedures with a different way of getting in to the system. INFOP does not use the ATX software. There are no documented security protocols to provide for the authenticity of the INFOP scans in the rules as printed by the government.

We presume that the scanner and software in the INFOP center is different than that used in the ATX centers. The images from scanning at the INFOP center (1) lack the time and date stamp at the top, and (2) don't clearly show the security tape applied to the acta to prevent alteration.

It is notable that the otherwise very specific rules from the TSE do a bunch of hand waving rather than documenting the scanning protocol at the INFOP warehouse. It is only by reading between the lines that we can infer that these scans replace the ATX transmitted scans in the TSE system.  A proper software/procedural audit would have questioned why there were no protocols described for this process, but the TSE didn't ask its audit firm, Audisis, for a pre-election audit.

What the published rules make clear is that each political party can receive both a physical certified copy of each acta from its representative on the MER, and a digitally transmitted, encrypted acta image from the ATX, replicated from the TSE receiving server. 

Each party also receives a scan of the acta made in the INFOP warehouse as each election package physically arrives back at the TSE warehouse and is opened and scanned. 

At no point does the TSE compare each of the scanned images with the paper original and the votes recorded in its computers to validate the results of the election. That simple procedure would detect some kinds of fraud that are suspected or rumored.