Opposition protests rock Honduras

Official count shows candidate Juan Hernandez has a clear lead in presidential elections, but opposition claims fraud.

    Opposition protests rock Honduras
    Juan Hernandez had shown a definite lead in polls over rival Xiomara Castro [AFP]

    Charges of fraud and a new wave of protests have shaken Honduras as the official count in the country's presidential elections showed a clear victory for conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez over leftist Xiomara Castro.

    The electoral tribunal has said Hernandez lead was unbeatable, scoring 34 percent compared to the 29 percent of his rival on Wednesday, with 68 percent of polling stations tallied.

    Leftist candidate Castro and her husband, deposed ex-president Manuel Zelaya, have accused the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of manipulating 19 percent of the votes to favour Hernandez.

    They gave 48 hours for the situation to be resolved. "We will defend the will of the people as it was expressed at the polls," Castro wrote in a Twitter posting.

    "We will confirm our victory, and if it were the opposite, we also would acknowledge it," Zelaya said on Twitter, warning: "Nobody should speculate; we will look at the dimensions of the fraud -- and what was properly done."

    Tensions were running high as the political standoff again spread to the streets with protests by about 400 of students.

    On Tuesday, police beat and used tear gas against about 800 pro-Castro protesters.

    About 100 police in helmets and riot gear used gas and then truncheons to beat the chanting youths. 

    A struggling state 

    The clash between Hernandez and Castro brought new uncertainty to a country reeling from gang violence, poverty and the wounds of a 2009 coup that removed ex-president Zelaya from his seat.

    Known as one of the world's deadliest nations, gangs are known to run whole neighbourhoods, extorting businesses as large as factories. 

    Drug cartels have used Honduras as a transfer point for shipping illegal drugs, especially cocaine, from South America to the United States.

    Honduras is the poorest country in the Americas after Haiti with the majority of the population living in poverty.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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