TEGUCIGALPA – Opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla said on Friday that he was withdrawing from politics after the US government’s decision to recognize incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez as the winner of the disputed Nov. 26 Honduran presidential election.
“Now, with the decision of the United States, I am out of the picture,” the former television personality told a press conference in Tegucigalpa.
He spoke hours after the US State Department congratulated Hernandez on his victory, while also acknowledging “irregularities” in the process, as pointed out by election observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union.
Nasralla blasted Washington for “endorsing” election fraud in the Central American nation.
“I am concerned about the setting of a precedent that the government of Honduras was not elected by the majority of the people, but rather was imposed by the will of the United States,” he said.
The former opposition standard-bearer said he was placing his hopes with the OAS, whose head, Luis Almagro, has already proposed that Honduras hold new elections, given the “impossibility” of providing a credible final count.
“We’re going to go to the OAS to learn whether it has a reason to continue existing or is only a facade that is there to collect money,” Nasralla said, making it clear that he remains convinced he was the true winner of the election.
Both Hernandez and Nasralla claimed victory hours after the polls closed on Nov. 26.
While the first partial results issued by the TSE election court showed Nasralla in the lead, an interruption in the tabulation was followed by the release of figures giving Hernandez the advantage.
Last Sunday, the TSE proclaimed the right-wing incumbent the winner with 42.95 percent of the vote, compared with 41.24 percent for Nasralla, the candidate of a center-left coalition.
“Honorable politicians have no future” in Honduras, Nasralla said Friday, though he described his participation in the election as “a very beautiful experience.”
He said US policymakers fail to comprehend that the current Honduran government is a corrupt “narco state.”
The third-place finisher in the Nov. 26 ballot announced Friday that he would file a formal challenge to the official results.
Liberal Party hopeful Luis Zelaya, who got 14.74 percent of the vote, said that Nasralla was the actual winner and predicted that Washington’s recognition of Hernandez would not end the political crisis in Honduras.
Hernandez’s re-election bid was controversial from the start, as the Honduran Constitution limits the president to one term.
His candidacy was permitted on the basis of a May 2015 ruling by five Supreme Court judges who owed their appointments to Hernandez.
In 2009, the Honduran military ousted left-leaning President Mel Zelaya based on accusations that his call for a non-binding referendum on constitutional reform was a gambit aimed at allowing him to seek re-election.
Zelaya, one of Nasralla’s leading backers, spoke out Friday to condemn the US message of congratulations for Hernandez.
“Those people (the US government) are false,” he said while leading a road-blocking protest outside Tegucigalpa.
A score of people have been killed by security forces during post-election protests.