I REPORTED from inside Honduras during the US-backed coup in 2009, and it’s looking awfully like the groundwork for a second coup is being prepared.
The signs are ominous: the unexplained halting of the vote count after left alliance candidate Salvador Nasralla took an early and irreversible lead, the intimidation of journalists, the torture and murder of social movement activists and the convoys of military trucks captured on film streaming towards the capital.
Right-wing president Juan Orlando Hernandez, whose administration and family are implicated in drug smuggling and money laundering, has refused to concede defeat.
Meanwhile, after a 48-hour news blackout, the electoral authorities have begun drip-feeding extraordinary new results that showed Hernandez on course to overhaul his rival and retain the presidency.
The Honduran oligarchy and its US sponsors have long understood that democracy threatens their grip on power. Back in 2006, charismatic left candidate Manuel Zelaya convincingly won the elections, and he was duly sworn in as president. But Zelaya was in office for just three years before he was kidnapped at gunpoint by the military and flown to exile in Costa Rica.
His crime had been to double the minimum wage in a country where a quarter of children have stunted growth due to malnutrition.
At the time, there was hope that the new US president Barack Obama would deliver on his promise to open “a new chapter of engagement” with Latin America and withdraw military and economic support for the coup regime. But behind the scenes, Hillary Clinton’s State Department cut a deal with far-right Republicans to endorse the military takeover and the ousting of Zelaya.
Despite the increase in repression and killings in the years that followed, the left regrouped in a new political party called Libre and formed an anti-corruption alliance with clean politicians and public figures.
Today, we should discover whether the regime is going to allow Nasralla to take up his rightful position as president, or once again snuff out democracy at the point of a gun.