Past and present Honduran political party leaders, religious leaders and United Nations delegates gathered today in Tegucigalpa to take part in a "pre-dialogue" meant to quell tensions that have persisted since the country’s controversial elections Nov. 26 of last year.
Local media says that these Honduran pre-dialogue sessions are focused on human rights at the call of the U.N., which released a report last week saying that at least 16 civilians were killed at the hands of state security forces between Nov. 26 - when Hondurans voted in presidential elections - and Jan. 27 - when Juan Orlando Hernandez was sworn in for a second time as president.
Former presidential candidate from the Opposition Alliance, Salvador Nasralla, and Opposition Secretary-General Manuel Zelaya have said they won’t send representatives to talks among the current administration and international mediators because they say the topic of electoral fraud during the elections is being "ignored."
Last week Zelaya said, U.N. mediators have been "divisive" and have "ignored the Nov. 26 Electoral Coup; the state of the nation; the assassinations at the hands of the repressive armed forces; and the taking of political prisoners."
Nasralla agreed to send a representative to these pre-dialogue sessions because, as he says, they are "preparatory, ... exploratory" but don't oblige him to continue in the multi-party discussions if electoral fraud is not taken into account.
"I’m not getting involved in any dialogue. (By taking part in the pre-dialogue) I’m seeing if there’s an opportunity to enter a dialogue that becomes binding. If there’s no chance for a binding dialogue, there’s no dialogue," said Nasralla this week. "If (the results) of the talks are binding, let’s talk electoral fraud,” added the former candidate.
Nasralla’s pre-dialogue representative, Tony Garcia arrived at the talks with a draft bill to make sure that "whatever is agreed upon here becomes law." Nasralla and the Opposition Alliance team have continually made electoral reform a condition of participating in talks.
Also on hand at today’s third pre-dialogue was Ebal Diaz, minister of the presidency who told the press, "We’re ready to discuss these topics and we invite the Minister of Human Rights, Karla Cueva" to participate as well.
Representatives from the Innovation and Unity Social Democratic Party were also present along with former Honduran President Roberto Suazo Cordoba, an ex-foreign minister, and diplomat, Carlos Lopez Contreras and Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez.
The crisis erupted after the electoral authorities awarded the presidency to Hernandez after initial vote counts gave the advantage to Nasralla in the Nov. 26 polls. The Opposition Alliance leader has continually called for new, clean elections.
Large demonstrations have persisted since late November to which Hernandez responded with brutal force. Though the U.N. attributes 16 deaths to the military crackdown on protesters, human rights organizations say the government is responsible for upwards of 35 deaths and for arresting some 1,350 people, many of whom remain in jail.