TEGUCIGALPA – Honduran center-left candidate Salvador Nasralla said on Sunday it was clear there had been fraud “before, during and after” a bitterly contested Nov. 26 presidential election and that he was headed to Washington to meet with U.S. and other officials.
Nasralla’s comments, made in a video posted on Facebook, followed a decision by the nation’s electoral tribunal to declare conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez the official winner of the vote. The announcement sparked calls for renewed street protests.
Nasralla said he had meetings planned with the U.S. State Department and the Organization of American States.
Hernandez beat Nasralla by 1.53 percentage points, according to the official count.
The secretary general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, said earlier on Sunday that “serious questions” still surrounded the election results and he asked that “irresponsible announcements” be avoided.
Honduras has been roiled by political instability and violent protests since the vote, which initial counts suggested Nasralla had won. The count has been questioned by the two main opposition parties, including the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship, headed by Nasralla, as well as a wide swath of the diplomatic corps.
European Union election observers said the vote recount showed no irregularities.
“After comparing a large random sample of voting records provided to us by the Alliance and the original records published on the tribunal’s website, the mission observed that the results presented practically no differences,” said Jose Antonio de Gabriel, the adjunct head of the EU’s mission.
Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who backed Nasralla, took to Twitter, saying Hernandez “is not our president” and calling for people to take to the streets in protest.
The tribunal had initially declared Nasralla the leader in an announcement on the morning after the vote, with just over half of the ballot boxes counted. It then gave no further updates for about 36 hours.
Once results started flowing in again, Nasralla’s lead began narrowing and eventually disappeared.
That prompted national protests, in which 22 people were killed, including two police officers, according to data tallied by the Committee of Detained Disappeared Persons in Honduras.
President’s sister killed
In a related development the sister of Honduran President elect Juan Orlando Hernandez and five others died when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed on Saturday, the Honduran military said.
Hilda Hernandez, 51, was a close advisor to her brother, who is embroiled in political turmoil in the wake of a Nov. 26 presidential election, which remains unresolved. She was previously the government’s communications secretary.
Two reconnaissance helicopters were sent to comb the missing Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil helicopter’s planned flight path from Toncontin international airport in capital city Tegucigalpa to Comayagua, some 50 miles (80 km) northwest, but because of inclement weather conditions land teams were sent in, the Honduran armed forces said in the statement.
“The remains of the aircraft were located and no survivors were found,” the armed forces said, adding it would investigate the causes of the crash.
A government source, who asked not to be named said: “The six people aboard the aircraft, including Hilda Hernandez have been found dead.”