Violent protests and a rise in gang-related crimes following Honduras' disputed presidential elections are damaging the country's economy, warns President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
The incumbent leader called on Wednesday for a national dialogue to resolve the situation, cautioning that the nation is being torn apart by the protests. Ongoing riots took a particularly violent turn after the recent ballot recount confirmed Hernandez's initial victory.
"Part of this great national agreement must be in the political order, because politicians are the ones who have participated in the front row of the electoral process," said Hernandez.
"We cannot identify a single peaceful demonstration; all of them are absolutely violent, to the extent of attacking people who have the right to protest."
The president said that although the demonstrations began peacefully, the violence has attracted gangs which have since begun targeting businesses. Store owners are now being robbed during what should be a positive time of year for private enterprise.
Hernandez considers it his responsibility to guide the nation during this time of uncertainty. Peaceful protests should be protected, he said, and society must act to quell violent demonstrations.
The president has received numerous messages of support from the international community since the electoral assembly announced the results of the official ballot recount on Sunday.
Among diplomats voicing their approval is Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, who has called for nationwide peace and for citizens to respect government institutions, namely the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).
"We deeply regret what is happening and we hope that things will return to normal little by little; we make a solidarity call to respect the institutionality," Morales said.
After meeting with opposition candidate Salavador Nasralla and reviewing two separate reports from international observation missions, the United States failed to find "anything that alters" the results.
U.S. officials also issued a warning to U.S. citizens living in or visiting Honduras to take the necessary precautions and ideally postpone or cancel any unnecessary trips to the country.
In the three weeks following the presidential elections, at least 20 protesters have been killed and hundreds more arrested, Radio Reloj reports.
The state has attempted to shift the blame to the left, accusing the Opposition Alliance of instigating the demonstrations.
Former president Manuel Zelaya denied the allegations, saying instead that more than 400 police officers were responsible for the deaths.
Despite the Organization of American States (OAS), the United States and other international bodies supporting Hernandez's apparent win, the Opposition Alliance has vowed to continue its national protests.