Saturday, November 23, 2013

"The image of openness"? Election Observers Harassed

The normally open borders of Honduras with its neighbors are only partly open this week.  Venacio Cervantes, head of Immigration,  said yesterday that the borders are open, but that foreigners must justify their trip into Honduras at this time.  "All entrances will be controlled," said the retired General.

Actually, he said a lot more:  "All hotheads and national and foreign agitators who promote boycotting the election will be neutralized".

Today, he was ordered by Porfirio Lobo Sosa to stop, after two separate incidents of harassment of foreign election observers were reported by domestic and foreign press.

Cervantes reportedly said that he was
not going to permit disorder from [those] that come to slow down the electoral process, and those hotheads who want to protest and make unrest and confusion;  the armed forces will proceed in accordance with all that's legal and we shall be forceful in the application of the law.

Unfortunately, the "hotheads" he thought would be slowing the electoral process included duly accredited election observers-- on whom any hope of this election being seen as transparent rests.

The earliest incident happened Friday, Nov. 22.  ERIC, the Equipo de Reflexión Investigación y Comunicación, a Jesuit organization long established in Honduras, had its offices in El Progresso, Yoro, raided by Immigration police from the town. They entered a room where over 100 foreign election observers had just finished receiving training from a Tribunal Supremo Electoral official, and demanded that the Guatemalans, Salvadorans, US Citizens, and Canadians that made up the group present their TSE accreditation documents.

They also ordered the leader of the group, Alexis Lanza, to bring everyone down to the nearest Immigration office for unstated reasons.

Honduran Immigration police have no authority to enforce the election law, nor have they been formally asked to do so by the TSE.  They have no legal power to ask for a foreign election observer's TSE accreditation documents. The only thing they can legally ask someone to produce is their passport or other immigration documents that identify them and authorize them to be in the country.

Then on Saturday, November 23, military police entered the Aurora Hotel in Tegucigalpa, and ordered everyone in the hotel to leave their rooms, interrupting a meeting of LIBRE activist Eduardo Enrique Reina with his duly assigned and accredited foreign election observers.  All were asked to identify themselves and were threatened with explusion from the country.

That was too much for David Matamoros, president of the TSE, who ordered Immigration to stop following and harassing foreigners, saying
They told me they were following two people who had entered the country 10 days ago, but at this moment we cannot have any discussion of the act of going to a place where we have invited foreigners, because we must maintain the image of openness, the image of peace and tranquility which we want to have, not only for the Hondurans, but also for the international observers.

Matamoros says he went directly to President Lobo Sosa to ask that Immigration, which is part of the executive branch, be ordered to cease its operations following foreigners in the country.  Matamoros also issued instructions to the police and Armed Forces pointing out that they, in support of the election, were supposed to protect, not harass, election observers.

Anything to preserve the image of openness and tranquility.

1 comment:

Hector said...

Credential mismatch at a table.
Represents Partido Nacional, but with a credential belonging to Alianza Patriotica.