UN mediation effort on Honduras political crisis stalls

Supporters of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship protest against the re-election of President Juan Orlando Hernandez outside the United Nations building in Tegucigalpa on February 9, 2018
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Bitter divisions over a contested presidential election in Honduras have dimmed prospects for talks mediated by the United Nations to defuse the crisis, a former diplomat involved in the effort said Wednesday. Human rights groups say at least 30 people have been killed in clashes with police since the November 26 vote in which President Juan Orlando Hernandez won re-election over opposition charges of fraud. Last week, three UN envoys met with both sides to explore conditions for a dialogue but have made little headway, said Efrain Diaz Arrivillaga, a former Honduran ambassador to the UN. "With recent developments in the country, the dialogue is in a fairly critical condition," he said. "A truce needs to be brought in first of all to lower the confrontation level and the path of dialogue needs to be returned to." Diaz appeared to lay blame for the situation on Hernandez and his right-wing National Party, which he said had shown "tremendous intolerance." He said they were making "very serious accusations (that are) inadequate for creating an environment for dialogue." The opposition candidate, leftist Salvador Nasralla, had held a big early lead in the vote but the count then slowed and Hernandez was declared the winner. Hernandez took office January 27 amid protests and sporadic violence. His government accuses the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship of being linked to gangs active in Honduras. It is also behind a bill being debated by lawmakers seeking to fine websites or social media platforms for posting comments deemed offensive or promoting "hate campaigns." The opposition and media rights groups view the bill as an attempt to muzzle legitimate online criticism of the government, and to hinder the organization of protests. Diaz told AFP that the UN envoys to Honduras were due to present a report to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the prospects of mediation. He warned that Hernandez was facing an ungovernable situation because of questions raised by the Organization of American States and others about his legitimacy in office. "The country could go further into ungovernability and repression and violence could grow," he said.

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