The government in Honduras has suspended certain constitutional guarantees to grant the military and police forces more powers to restrain growing unrest over allegations of electoral fraud, as political violence turns deadly in the country.
A senior official with the Honduran Council of Ministers, Ebal Diaz, announced the suspension of the constitutional provisions in a local news program on Friday.
It came shortly after an announcement by the Honduran electoral tribune of plans to resume the delayed and controversial presidential vote count that had begun last week.
Honduras has been the scene of unrest since an abrupt shift emerged in the results of the presidential election. While opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla had been in the lead, he began to lose votes and ultimately fell behind incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez after a suspicious 24-hour delay in the official announcement of election results. More delays then followed.
Nasralla soon alleged electoral fraud and asked his supporters to take to the streets to defend his “triumph.”
Protests have since then expanded, and at least one person has been killed, 20 have been injured, and more than 100 others arrested for what authorities have described as looting across Honduras.
Lines also appeared outside gas stations and cash machines. Banks were congested with people trying to withdraw or deposit money.
Under the new powers, security forces imposed a nation-wide dusk-to-dawn curfew for 10 days starting on Friday.
According to police sources, at least one man was shot and killed during a protest rally in the city of La Ceiba, and some 12 members of the military and police forces suffered injuries in other protests.
At least 10 protesters were also injured in the capital, Tegucigalpa, authorities at the city’s Hospital Escuela said.
In the country’s second-biggest city of San Pedro Sula, thick plumes of black smoke polluted the air as protesters burned tires while police forces attempted to disperse the crowds with tear gas.
The government was due to release the final results of the presidential election — which was held last Sunday — at 9 p.m. local time (0300 GMT) on Friday, according to the electoral tribunal, but opposition complaints about irregularities in the counting process have seemingly further delayed the announcement of the results.
International concern, meanwhile, has intensified regarding the electoral crisis in the Latin American country, which struggles with violent drug gangs and one of the world’s highest murder rates.
The 64-year-old Nasralla of the Honduran center-left alliance is one of the country’s best-known personalities and backed by former President Manuel Zelaya, a leftist who was ousted in a 2009 coup widely reported as US-sponsored.
One of the four magistrates on the electoral tribunal raised “serious doubts” about the counting process on Thursday.