by Jill Dobbe
The heavy, clinging smell of burnt rubber hovers throughout the morning air, while helicopters buzz low overhead. Streets usually packed with bumper to bumper lines of vehicles are nearly empty. Banks, stores, offices, and schools are closed until further notice. A few walkers scurry along the vacant sidewalks to get to their homes before protesters descend upon the city to loot, set fires, block exits, and battle with the military and riot police.
Honduras, my second home, is under a 10-day curfew and in a state of emergency. The 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew has begun and we are told to stay inside, or be arrested. Safe behind my locked and gated neighborhood, I await news of the final election results relying on updates from colleagues, friends, and the news media to tell me what’s happening out on the streets. As an ex-pat, living and working in the capital of Tegucigalpa for the past seven years, I have grown to love this country, its warm, friendly people, and its glorious vistas, beaches, and charming towns. Life overseas sometimes comes with risks in the way of, health, safety, or travel inconveniences, but a police crackdown and curfew is by far, the worst I have yet to experience.
The battle over the Honduran presidential election continues into its third week. What began as peaceful protesting in the city streets suddenly turned into a mass of angry demonstrators waving their party’s flag, and raising their indignant fists against perceived election fraud. Each night orange flames shoot high above burning tires that block the main thoroughfares, while la policia congregate en masse tossing tear gas canisters into the unruly crowds.
Violence and hostility have taken over the streets of this familiar place I call my home. Angry Hondurenos are on their sixth day of arguing for, or against, the presidential election that took place on Sunday, November 26, 2017, when both candidates declared themselves victorious. Despite a number of international observers from the Organization of American States, who descended upon the country to take part in overseeing that the ballot counts were fair, the country’s citizens believed otherwise and now, six days later, still no official word has been given on who the next president is, however rumors abound. Even though the curfew is forcing Hondurenos to stay inside their homes, some have taken up “cacerolazo,” protesting by banging on their own pots and pans, making as much noise as possibe.
In 2009, then President Manuel Zelaya, a Libre, tried to run for a second term, which violated the constitution, and he was ousted. Rumors claimed he was taken during the night while dressed in his pajamas. Now in 2017, a second historical election is taking place. The incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, of the Nationalista Party, is attempting to run for his second term. The month prior to the election when every Honduran was focused on a major soccer match with Argentina, Hernandez’s government amended the constitution and made it legal for him to run for president again. The Opposition Alliance candidate, Salvador Nasralla, of the Liberale Party, who ran against Hernandez had the lead, until an unexplained hour-long computer shutdown suddenly put Hernandez ahead, causing outrage and claims of illegalities. Nasralla is now calling for his supporters to take to the streets demanding that justice be done.
Life is still up in the air in Honduras. The shared understanding is that the winner will be announced on December 22, 2017, but we’ve heard that before. By law the Supreme Electoral Tribunal overseeing the election process has until December 26, 2017. As it stands now, President Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party will win the election and be the first president to serve a second term. However, the Liberales and Libres have demanded that all votes be counted, but that is not expected to happen. Honduras will remain in limbo until the results are released. When that finally happens, an eruption in the country is likely to occur. Our main concern is to what extent this will be contained by the military and the police. Christmas, 2017, will be one the Catrachos (native Hondurans) and expats living here, won’t forget.
The stark blue sky overhead and blazing sun continues to shine on this captivating and stalwart country. Heavenly bougainvillea and hibiscus still blooms in a flurry of vibrant colors. Despite the disorder and the present mayhem, I know that Honduras will persevere. After all, they have lived through much worse, hurricane Mitch in 1998, a coup d’etat in 2009, poverty, gang violence, and one of the highest murder rates in the world. The people will carry on as this is a country made up of strong and resilient Hondurans, who know to hold their families dear in times of trouble and pray for a safe, peaceful, and uncorrupted country.
Jill Dobbe is an international educator, travel writer, amateur photographer, and published author of two travel memoirs who writes about her experiences living and working in schools and countries around the world. She presently lives in her seventh country, Honduras, with her husband, Dan, and her Yorkie-Poo, Mickey. While working as an elementary principal, Jill also writes, reads, takes photos of the beautiful people and countries of Latin America, and muddles her way through the Spanish language. Jill loves her life as an international educator, and most days, feels like she is living her dream.