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article imageHonduras demos overshadow Hernandez inauguration

By Noe LEIVA (AFP)     Jan 27, 2018 in World

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was set to be sworn in for a second term Saturday as the opposition vowed mass protests over claims he fraudulently won November elections.

The leftist Alliance in Opposition against the Dictatorship has called for more street protests during the inauguration in Tegucigalpa, after thousands marched against Hernandez on Friday night.

Extra police and troops, also in the thousands, have been drafted in to the capital of the Central American country to ensure security for the event, scheduled to begin around 1500 GMT at the National Stadium.

Defeated opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla told AFP a "human mob" will enter the stadium to try and block the swearing in, but he expects strong army resistance.

The opposition alliance accuses Hernandez, 49, of putting in place a "military dictatorship" and said the election was stolen from Nasralla, a former TV anchor.

Hernandez stood for re-election against Nasralla despite a constitutional ban on presidents serving more than one term.

On the eve of the inauguration, it emerged that Hernandez's newly appointed police chief, Jose David Aguilar Moran, would be investigated by a government commission after reports that he had helped a drug cartel ship a consignment of cocaine to the United States.

- Siege city -

Defeated Honduran opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla leads a caravan of vehicles in...
Defeated Honduran opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla leads a caravan of vehicles in a protest

Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds jailed since Hernandez was declared the winner of the November 26 run-off election.

The result was announced after a three-week stretch of often-interrupted ballot counting that stoked tensions and sparked accusations of fraud.

In the latest protest, Nasralla led a convoy of hundreds of honking vehicles carrying his flag-waving supporters through the streets of Tegucigalpa Friday night.

"I hope that the international community finally starts to realize and that sooner than later, within the next weeks, it will force the dictator to step down," Nasralla said during the demonstration.

Protesters chanted his name and called "out JOH," using Hernandez's initials.

"We came to tell JOH that we don't recognize him as our president," said one demonstrator, identifying herself only as Silvany.

Political scientist Juan Ramon Medrano said earlier that "the Honduran government is showing signs of dictatorship."

"In Honduras there is a political crisis that organizations such as the OAS and the United States do not measure with the same yardstick as they measure Venezuela," he said, referring to the Organization of American States regional bloc.

"There is a strong and fairly organized opposition that continues on the streets and that can lead Honduras to a kind of civil war."

Market analyst group Eurasia said the demonstrations "will likely diminish after Hernandez's inauguration."

"Still, Hernandez will begin his second term in a much weaker position given the social component, with his legitimacy in question," it said in a note ahead of the inauguration.

The Organization of American States had proposed holding new elections after its observer mission expressed doubts about the outcome.

However, the bloc recently said it intended to "work in the future with the elected authorities of Honduras."

- US backing -

Guatemalan political scientist Renso Rosal told AFP the political crisis in Honduras could have wider repercussions for the region.

He said the central spark for the crisis was Hernandez's "unconstitutional action in seeking reelection."

The president has implicit backing from the United States, which is pouring millions of dollars into Honduras as well as neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador to help improve security.

Army members remain at the Tiburcio Carias Andino national stadium  where Honduran President Juan Or...
Army members remain at the Tiburcio Carias Andino national stadium, where Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez will inaugurate his second term, in Tegucigalpa

The three countries, collectively known as Central America's "Northern Triangle," are the biggest source of undocumented migrants heading to the United States, and are also key in the fight against drug trafficking.

The head of the Honduran government commission, Omar Rivera, told reporters the police chief and two subordinates would undergo a "re-evaluation process" in the wake of the news reports alleging their involvement in aiding the drugs shipment in 2013.

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