Bloomberg: The U.S. should back new elections in Honduras

Bloomberg View Editorial Board

There is only one way out of Honduras’s deepening political crisis, and that is a new presidential election. It’s a solution the U.S., with its long history in Latin America, should help bring about – although it would help if it had an ambassador there.

The certification this week of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s contested victory in last month’s election has brought Hondurans into the streets, continuing a wave of violent demonstrations that have claimed at least 24 lives. It comes after a deeply flawed ballot-counting process that included long delays, after which Hernandez’s early deficit mysteriously disappeared. (The final tally put him ahead by about 1.5 percent.) The vote was denounced by numerous observers – including the Organization of American States, which has called for new elections.

Yet the U.S., which has no ambassador in Tegucigalpa or an assistant secretary of State for the hemisphere, has been only mildly critical. When Hernandez’s victory was certified, it urged opposing political parties to “raise any concerns they may have.”

Hernandez has won friends in Washington with his willingness to crack down on crime and illegal migration to the U.S., and his investor-friendly policies. At the same time, his administration has been responsible for ugly human rights abuses and been implicated in several high-profile corruption scandals.

Even before last month’s flawed vote, Honduras was notable for the lack of popular confidence in its electoral mechanisms. And if it’s stability that Washington seeks, these disputed results do not promise to achieve it. Protracted unrest will only make fighting drugs and illegal migration harder.

As the administration’s just-released National Security Strategy says, “Stable, friendly, and prosperous states in the Western Hemisphere enhance our security and benefit our economy.” The best way to ensure that Honduras becomes one is to support free, transparent and fair elections.

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