In what critics call a weakening of U.S. support for democracy in Latin America, the Trump administration appears to be prioritizing concerns about illegal immigration and drug trafficking from Honduras over the country’s violent and flawed election process.
The administration’s relative silence on last month’s disputed election in Honduras, where a right-wing incumbent and friend of the White House has been accused by opponents of stealing votes, is reminiscent of America’s ideologically driven Cold War policies.
Over the last quarter of a century, Washington sought to fortify democracies across the region and bolster ties overall. When President Obama ended more than half a century of hostility with Cuba, all of Latin America applauded.
The Trump administration is acting more selectively, however, chiefly criticizing leftist leaders.
The State Department has labeled the Nov. 28 decision of Bolivia’s Supreme Court to eliminate term limits as a “step back for democracy,” for example. The move allows leftist President Evo Morales to seek an unprecedented third term.
The White House also has walked back some Obama-era reforms easing trade and travel with Cuba, citing human rights abuses by Havana’s leftist leaders.
But in Honduras, a longtime U.S. strategic ally, the administration has appeared supportive of increasingly autocratic President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
The Central American nation voted for president on Nov. 26. Hernandez was running for reelection after he had stacked courts with supporters who helped him change the Honduran Constitution to allow another term.
Vote counting initially put Salvador Nasralla, a popular TV host, ahead. Then the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which was in charge of counting votes, mysteriously went silent for more than 24 hours. When it released results again, Nasralla’s lead had dramatically shrunk and Hernandez soon moved to the lead.
Opponents and international monitors cried foul and the impoverished nation of 9 million has been engulfed in tension and violence since. At least 14 people have been killed and dozens injured, mostly by government security forces firing on unarmed demonstrators, according to Amnesty International.
By Tracy Wilkinson and Kate Linthieum for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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