Honduras

‘Either They Kill Us or We Kill Them’. De Azam Ahmed/NYT

In one of the deadliest cities in the world, an embattled group of young men had little but their tiny patch of turf — and they would die to protect it. Journalists from The New York Times spent weeks recording their struggle.

Azam Ahmed, NY Times bureau chief, México

4 MAYO 2019 / THE NEW YORK TIMES

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Three sharp cracks rang out, followed by three more in quick succession. The thoroughfare emptied. Two old men ducked behind a corrugated fence. A taxi jerked onto a side street. A mother shoved her barefooted toddler indoors.

The shooter, an MS-13 gunman in a tank top and black baseball cap, stood calmly on the corner in broad daylight, the only person left on the commercial strip. He stuck the gun in his waistband and watched the neighborhood shake in terror.

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Bryan, Reinaldo and Franklin scrambled into a neighbor’s dirt yard, scattering chickens. In panicked whispers, they traded notes on the shooting, the third in less than a week. Only days earlier, a child had been hit in a similar attack. Bryan, 19, wondered what response the few young men still living in the neighborhood could muster, if any.

Mara Salvatrucha, the gang known as MS-13, was coming for them almost every day now. It raided homes, deployed spies and taunted them with whistles at dusk, a constant reminder that the enemy was right around the corner, able to charge in at will.

There was no avoiding it. The neighborhood, a patch of unpaved roads no bigger than a few soccer fields, was surrounded on all sides.

To the east, near the Chinese takeout where the three friends used to splurge on fried rice, MS-13 was planning its takeover of the area. To the south, past the house repurposed as an evangelical church, the 18th Street gang was plotting to do the same. North and west were no better. Gangs lined those borders, too.

In reality, not much differentiated the neighborhood where Bryan and his friends had grown up from the ones already controlled by gangs. There was a sameness to them — the concrete homes worn by age; the handcarts offering fried chicken and tortillas; the laborers trudging to work at sunrise, waiting for buses on busy corners.

But for Franklin, whose family had been there for generations and who had a child of his own on the way, the neighborhood was his entire world. Reinaldo and Bryan felt the same way.

Only bad options remained for them: stay and fight, abandon their homes and head elsewhere, maybe to the United States, or surrender and hope one of the invading gangs showed them mercy.

All three had been members of the 18th Street gang, but were sickened by the cadence of murder, extortion and robbery of their neighbors, the people they had known all their lives. Seeking redemption, they kicked the gang out of the neighborhood, vowing never to allow another back in.

Now, they were being hunted — by their former comrades in 18th Street, and by MS-13, which wanted their territory.

And so the young men doubled down for their own protection, transforming back into the thing they hated most: a gang.

“The borders surround us like a noose,” said Bryan, standing in the yard with the others in their group, the Casa Blanca. “We don’t want the gangs here, and for that we live in constant conflict.”

Reinaldo, 22, stood guard, watching the street for any signs of movement.

“Lots of people ask me why we’re fighting for this little plot of land,” he said. “I tell them I’m not fighting for this territory. I’m fighting for my life.”

By Derek Watkins | Sources: Times reporting and the Asociación para una Sociedad más Justa, a local nonprofit organization.

Some of the boundaries shown here are imprecise, and uncolored parts of the map show areas where gang control is unclear.

From 2018 through early 2019, The New York Times followed the young men of Casa Blanca in this tiny corner of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the deadliest cities in the world, and witnessed firsthand as they tried to keep the gangs at bay.

Shootouts, armed raids and last-minute pleas to stop the bloodshed formed the central threads of their stories. MS-13 wanted the neighborhood to sell drugs. The other gangs wanted it to extort and steal. But the members of Casa Blanca had promised never to let their neighborhood fall prey to that again. And they would die for it, if they had to.

Almost no one was trying to stop the coming war — not the police, not the government, not even the young men themselves. The only person working to prevent it was a part-time pastor who had no church of his own and bounced around the neighborhood in a beat-up yellow hatchback, risking his life to calm the warring factions.

“I’m not in favor of any gang,” said the pastor, Daniel Pacheco, rushing to the Casa Blanca members after the shooting. “I’m in favor of life.”

The struggle to protect the neighborhood — roughly four blocks of single-story houses, overgrown lots and a few stores selling chips and soda — encapsulates the inescapable violence that entraps and expels millions of people across Latin America.

Since the turn of this century, more than 2.5 million people have been killed in the homicide crisis gripping Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the Igarapé Institute, a research group that tracks violence worldwide.

The region accounts for just 8 percent of the global population, yet 38 percent of the world’s murders. It has 17 of the 20 deadliest nations on earth.

And in just seven Latin American countries — Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela — violence has killed more people than the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen combined.

Average homicide rate per 100k people. By Allison McCann

Source: Igarapé Institute and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Cities include the 50 highest homicide rates in the world and a group of prominent others for comparison, all with populations of at least 250,000. Average homicide rates are from 2016-2018 or the latest data available.

The violence is all the more striking because the civil wars and military dictatorships that once seized Latin America have almost all ended — decades ago, in many cases. Most of the region has trudged, often very successfully, along the prescribed path to democracy. Yet the killings continue at a staggering rate.

They come in many forms: state-sanctioned deaths by overzealous armed forces; the murder of women in domestic disputes, a consequence of pervasive gender inequality; the ceaseless exchange of drugs and guns with the United States.

Underpinning nearly every killing is a climate of impunity that, in some countries, leaves more than 95 percent of homicides unsolved. And the state is a guarantor of the phenomenon — governments hollowed out by corruption are either incapable or unwilling to apply the rule of law, enabling criminal networks to dictate the lives of millions.

For the masses fleeing violence and poverty in Central America, the United States is both a cause and solution — the author of countless woes and a chance to escape them.

Frustrated with the stream of migrants treading north, President Trump has vowed to cut aid to the most violent Central American nations, threatening hundreds of millions of dollars meant to address the roots of the exodus.

But the surviving members of Casa Blanca, who once numbered in the dozens, do not want to flee, like tens of thousands of their countrymen have. They say they have jobs to keep, children to feed, families, neighbors and loved ones to protect.

“There is only one way for this to end,” said Reinaldo. “Either they kill us or we kill them.”

‘The Next Time, They Will Kill Me’

The men entered without a word, pushing through the thin curtain hanging over Fanny’s front door with the barrels of their AK-47s.

She let out a stifled yelp as they spread through the house, their assault rifles shouldered. After the shooting the day before, the MS-13 gunman had watched Bryan, Reinaldo and Franklin race into Fanny’s backyard, one of the few places they felt safe.

Now it was night, and Fanny was alone. The men did a final sweep for Casa Blanca members, then left as suddenly as they had entered. The message was more terrifying for its silence: They could come and go as they pleased.

A single mother of three, Fanny was a surrogate mother to the Casa Blanca members. She had known them since childhood; they had defended her son from bullies in grade school. As they grew up, her house became a refuge, a place to escape broken homes.

And now, for her closeness with the young men, she had fallen into the cross hairs of MS-13. Shaking with fear, she called her cousin, Pastor Pacheco.

“The next time, they will kill me, I know it,” she told him.

Fanny drew respect in the few blocks controlled by Casa Blanca, but she had no sway beyond the neighborhood, which was where the pastor came in. He knew the leaders of all the gangs.

He had a slight paunch and a wide face that permanently lingered on the verge of a smile. An evangelical minister, he delivered Sunday sermons outdoors in the stifling heat and worked construction to make ends meet.

Then in 2014, a 13-year-old girl in the neighborhood was kidnapped by gang members. Her parents owned a small corner store and had failed to pay their extortion demands. As retribution, they abducted the girl and took her to a private home, where they raped and tortured her for three days before killing her and burying her in the floor.

“People watched as they grabbed her from the street, yelling for help, and no one did anything,” recalled Mr. Pacheco, 40, known mostly as Pastor Danny. “They were all scared for their lives.”

Pastor Danny’s daughter was the same age as the girl. Overwhelmed, he visited the house after the police had cleared the scene. The shallow grave was still open, a small hole in the living room, scraped out of the clay floor. He filled it with his hands.

“I made a promise there,” he said. “I was going to do something.”

Four years on, he still kept the newspaper clippings of the murder, to remind him of that promise.

Most days, he shuttled around the gouged-out streets in his hatchback, a car recognized across gang lines. More than once, he had intervened when the police were beating gang members, or placed himself between rival gangs on the verge of killing one another.

He resented the government, the arbitrary brutality of the police and the relentless corruption that had driven so many Hondurans to leave in caravans to the United States. Though murders in his country were dropping, he often said, the underlying problems weren’t.

Now, with Fanny’s life on the line, it was personal. The pastor knew many of the Casa Blanca members and appreciated the quandary they faced. He didn’t want gangs to dominate the neighborhood, either.

But he was a realist — there was no way to keep them out. MS-13 had made its intentions clear. It was advancing across large swaths of San Pedro Sula, using its numbers, tight organization and ruthlessness to overwhelm smaller, less sophisticated groups.

The way he saw it, Casa Blanca was next. And the invasion was coming, one way or another.

Casa Blanca now had fewer than a dozen members in all. Some had been killed, others imprisoned. The remaining ones were the least experienced in gang warfare. A few were barely old enough to shave.

Bryan worked 12-hour shifts in a factory and began his day at 5:30 a.m. To avoid ambushes, he crept out of the neighborhood each morning, then back in at night. He hardly slept. A combination of fear and candy kept him awake on the job.

He arguably had the least to fight for, living alone in a one-bedroom apartment, estranged from his mother. He only heard from her every other week, when he got paid.

“She’s not like other mothers,” he tried to explain, embarrassed.

Franklin, 19, worked construction, when there was work. He had a steady girlfriend and wanted out of the violence because of the child on the way. But he had a brother who harbored no such fantasies. When the time came, he said, his brother would die fighting.

Reinaldo was the quietest. When others boasted of their exploits, he laughed softly but never joined in. He rarely raised his voice and was tender at times, wrapping Fanny’s youngest son in an embrace after she scolded him for collecting gun shells from the street and shaking them like dice.

Reinaldo wanted a way out, too, but refused to abandon his friends, or the neighborhood. He could scarcely imagine himself anywhere else. His expectations were as hemmed in as his movements.

If Casa Blanca had any leader left, it was Javi, in his early 20s, frighteningly skinny and the most violent by nature. A braided scar ran from his right cheek down to his throat, compliments of a gang that had kidnapped him a year earlier. Everyone called him the Macheted.

Members of the Casa Blanca, who tried to protect their neighborhood from invading gangs like MS-13, found themselves outgunned and outnumbered.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

In November, Javi had taken off for Guatemala in search of a fresh start. Now, he was back.

“I can’t leave this place,” he explained. “It’s my home. I’m not going to run away.”

Like the legions of young men swept up in the region’s homicide epidemic, they felt trapped in a cycle they were powerless to break. Even in trying to escape the violence — by defecting from gangs altogether — they had only managed to summon more of it.

Pastor Danny considered it a good sign that MS-13 had not harmed Fanny. But the sudden escalation worried him. There would be more bullets, more casualties. He was sure of it. Bryan, Franklin and the others could not even spend a quiet afternoon in Fanny’s backyard anymore. It was marked now.

So the pastor made a plan, one that bordered on diplomatic lunacy.

He wanted to broker a meeting between Casa Blanca members and MS-13, the gang threatening their lives.

‘Life Was Good’

Anner stood shirtless on his porch, watching his daughter play tug-of-war with a small dog.

“This is going to be hard,” he warned the pastor. “These guys have lost too much to just give up.”

Anner, 26, was a workingman. He stocked produce at a grocery store, and felt proud of the small house and motorcycle it afforded him. He had grown up with everyone in Casa Blanca. He was not a member, but two of his brothers-in-law, including Franklin, were.

The pastor needed Anner to convince Casa Blanca that peace was the only way. They grabbed Franklin and went inside, where the air-conditioner ran full blast in a losing battle with the heat. Anner wanted the pastor to understand what he was up against — the feudal history of Casa Blanca.

In the early 2000s, he explained, the territory belonged to 18th Street, and the local members operated from a white house, or Casa Blanca.

In 2016, though, a police operation landed the leaders in jail, leaving the neighborhood up for grabs. A new gang stepped in and the locals, who still referred to themselves as Casa Blanca, joined.

But the new gang was brutal and petty. It killed residents for failing to hand over extortion payments, and robbed them even when they complied. The Casa Blanca members were ashamed — people they had grown up with were suffering at their hands.

They revolted, seeking the help of a faction of 18th Street. When they prevailed months later, they joined 18th Street once again.

But the threats, robberies and violence continued. They had lost people, and for what, Anner asked. Simply to swap out one gang’s abuse for another’s?

So they mutinied again and won, kicking out 18th Street after months of bloodshed.

“They converted into an anti-gang group,” Anner said. “Life was good. No more robberies, no more extortion and no more violence against people living in the neighborhood.”

“And then,” he said, “the police came.”

Through the summer of 2017, the police arrested half a dozen Casa Blanca members. Others fled. The ranks were decimated, leaving the lowest-profile members on the street.

“Now the young ones are left alone,” said Anner.

He listed the survivors, and how they would respond to an MS-13 takeover. Franklin’s older brother wouldn’t take it well, he said. He had shot at MS-13 in the past and refused even to sit down with the pastor.

Franklin nodded in agreement. “He says the only truce he needs is the one he carries in his waistband,” Franklin said, miming a gun with his hand.

Others might be game for a truce, Anner said, but the older members, when they got out of prison, could break whatever agreement was made.

Pastor Danny realized what he was wading into: Casa Blanca was leaderless and unpredictable, governed by young men whose instincts for self-preservation were in constant conflict with their bravado.

“If something doesn’t change, there’s going to be a massacre before the end of the year,” Pastor Danny snapped.

“End of the year?” Anner snorted. “I think more like end of the week.”

At that moment, a loud crash erupted, the sound of a rock hitting Anner’s roof. The group raced outside. Franklin signaled for them to be quiet.

“MS-13 is on the block,” he whispered, pointing up the road.

The street was long and narrow, running for more than 30 meters, like a firing range. The pastor, worried about MS-13 gunmen, called the police.

The block cleared out, except for a middle-aged woman walking slowly down the street, alone. After she passed, Anner sighed in relief.

She was the sister of one of MS-13’s leaders, and most likely a lookout, Anner explained.

“She’s a lookout?” Pastor Danny asked sharply, pointing down the block. “That woman was a lookout?”

He was furious at the missed opportunity. Had he known, he told Anner, he would have introduced himself, to ease the tension. As a religious leader, he would pose no threat, he argued.

Instead, they waited on Anner’s porch, praying the gangsters down the way would hold their fire. After half an hour, the pastor made a break for his car, flooring it on his way out.

As he cleared the neighborhood, the police arrived. The pastor rolled down his window to brief them, surprised they had even shown up.

But before he could say anything, the officers ordered him out of the car. The pastor thought it was a joke, until the officer’s voice grew stern.

“But I’m the one who called you guys,” Pastor Danny protested.

Police officers investigating an incident in San Pedro Sula. In 2017, the police decimated Casa Blanca’s ranks by putting many members in jail.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The police made a few calls before waving the pastor on. He twisted his hands over the steering wheel and muttered an expletive.

“And you wonder why we have to solve our own problems,” he said.

‘The Last Card I Have to Play’

The pastor slowed at the knot of unpaved streets separating MS-13 from Casa Blanca. He switched on his hazards and eased past a desolate cinder block structure, where the outlines of young men were visible in the glow of cigarette tips.

A man with tattoos covering his arms and neck appeared at Pastor Danny’s window.

“What do you want,” he asked, taking a long glance up and down the street.

“I want to see Samuel,” the pastor said. “We know each other.”

Just hours after leaving Anner’s house, the pastor had received an alarming call. Armed men on motorcycles were kicking families out of their homes in Casa Blanca’s area, taking the neighborhood by force. He couldn’t wait any longer.

So Pastor Danny fell back on his usual tactic — improvisation — and raced into MS-13 territory, hoping to place himself at the mercy of Samuel, the MS-13 leader in the area, before someone died.

“This is the last card I have to play,” he said.

Members of MS-13, a gang that has taken over swaths of San Pedro Sula and has a presence in the United States, near Casa Blanca’s territory in the Honduran city.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

The pastor scanned the vacant lots and darkened buildings, taking heavy breaths to steady himself. He was used to taking risks, but this was different — Samuel was an important figure, not just a soldier with a quick temper. Even asking for him could arouse suspicion. And scared criminals were dangerous.

The tattooed man stepped back and surveyed the street a second time. Satisfied, he pointed to a peach-colored home. “Check there,” he said.

The pastor drove by a well-lit corner, where two women were smoking with a slender man in a collared shirt and jeans.

It was Samuel. The pastor slammed on the brakes and leapt out of the car, leaving it in the middle of the street with the door still open.

Samuel excused himself from the conversation with the women and stubbed out his cigarette. He looked to be in his 30s, with short hair and the calm bearing of someone used to being in control.

He walked over and embraced the older man. “Pastor Danny, how are you?” he asked.

“I’m not great, brother,” the pastor said. He often took his time when enlisting people’s help, spooling them up slowly. He was, at heart, something of a performer.

But now, nervous and somewhat stunned at finding Samuel, Pastor Danny got straight to the point.

“I have to ask you a personal favor,” he said.

Samuel raised his eyebrows and answered like a politician. “If I can do it, I will,” he said.

“I know your guys are looking to move into the territory of Casa Blanca,” Pastor Danny continued. “But I’m asking you, begging you, please don’t do it violently. Please don’t kill anyone.”

Samuel listened impassively, saying nothing.

“I’m not in favor of any gang,” the pastor went on, filling the silence with his standard refrain. “I just want to protect life. And I have a cousin who lives there and I’m worried she and others could be hurt.”

Samuel interrupted.

“We already own that territory,” he said. “It’s already ours.”

The pastor didn’t know whether he was speaking literally or figuratively. MS-13, while advancing fast, had not yet taken over. This much the pastor knew.

San Pedro Sula is one of the most dangerous cities in Honduras. Tens of thousands of people have fled gang violence in the country, many heading north toward the United States. Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“But there are people there now, kicking a family out of their home,” the pastor insisted. “I have people in the community who are witnessing it.”

Samuel leaned against the pastor’s car, then, seeing it was covered in a film of dirt, eased back off it.

“It can’t be us. We don’t have anyone there right now,” he countered. “What did they tell you?”

The pastor called Anner. “What exactly is happening right now?” he said into the phone.

Anner told the pastor that men on motorcycles had come in masks and kicked out a family half a block from Fanny’s house.

“We don’t have any motorcycles in that area,” Samuel said, shaking his head.

Anner corrected himself. The men had arrived on bicycles, he now said. But he was sure they were kicking people out of their homes.

The back and forth continued, with Samuel asking the pastor and, by extension, an unwitting Anner for more specifics. Anner grew suspicious. The pastor tried his best to explain the location to Samuel, based on the vague answers he could squeeze out of Anner.

“No that can’t be right,” Samuel said. “Where you are talking about is where the old woman sells firewood.”

Samuel sketched a map into the dirt covering the pastor’s back windshield. They took turns drawing streets and landmarks.

“I think where he is describing is here,” Samuel said, tapping his finger against the glass. “And that’s not in Casa Blanca territory.”

The pastor winced. Samuel was right. Whatever was happening, it was not in Casa Blanca territory.

It didn’t matter, though, Samuel said. Everyone knew that Casa Blanca was weak. He had already ordered his lieutenant — a man called Monster — to take over the neighborhood.

His men weren’t forcing families out of homes tonight, he said, but they would enter soon enough.

Samuel then asked the pastor to draw the exact location of Fanny’s house. “Do not worry about your loved ones, we won’t hurt them,” he promised.

And what about the Casa Blanca members, the pastor asked. Would they also get a pass?

“Like I said, the territory is already ours,” Samuel replied. “If we can avoid violence, we will. But that depends on them.”

Samuel relit his cigarette and walked into an abandoned building.

‘We Make Our Money Selling Drugs’

Monster led the pastor into a backyard, where more than a dozen MS-13 soldiers stood in a circle, cloaked in a cloud of marijuana smoke. A boy no older than 10 stood among them, his hat turned sideways, smoking a cigarette.

Pastor Danny introduced himself. Two days had passed since his encounter with Samuel. Now he was back in MS-13 territory, face to face with Casa Blanca’s enemies.

The gunman responsible for the shooting a few days earlier was there, wearing the same black baseball cap. The men who raided Fanny’s house were there, too, standing next to a giant mound of dirt. The pastor kept his gaze on Monster, the man ordered to take over the neighborhood.

When speaking to groups, Pastor Danny had a roundabout way of getting to the point. He flattered, shared bits of intelligence, or preached parables from the Bible, depending on his spot assessment of what would get through to the crowd.

Many of the neighborhoods fought over by gangs in San Pedro Sula are lined by unpaved roads and homes worn with age.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

“You guys are a structure, a disciplined group with organization and resources,” he told them, drawing genuine smiles from the gang members. “It will be hard for the members of Casa Blanca to fight back, and they know that.”

At 26, Monster had become one of Samuel’s top lieutenants. After struggling to make a living in construction, the gang offered him employment, and a community, he said.

It also taught him discipline, which was paramount: No lying to the gang; no drug use (marijuana was the exception); and murder had to be approved by the leadership, unless in self-defense.

“Killing someone isn’t what helps you climb the ladder,” Monster explained. “What matters is how you think, your intelligence,” he added, tapping his forefinger against his temple.

Monster spoke like a small-time official, spouting platitudes and promises with ease. Top-notch security. Respect for residents. No forced conscription. No extortion. It was a surprising speech for a member of a gang that terrorizes people from Central America to the United States.

“We make our money selling drugs,” Monster explained, “so we don’t rob from the people who live in our areas.”

“We need them,” he added.

It all sounded hopeful to the pastor, maybe too hopeful. There was no way to know if Monster was telling the truth. They were killers, after all, no matter what they said about peace.

Still, the pastor wanted to walk away with something concrete. The conversation went on for more than an hour before he finally pushed his plan.

“You know, it might help to meet one of them,” the pastor said casually, as if the idea had only just occurred to him. “I mean, if they’re willing and you’re willing.”

‘Paralyzed by Fear’

In the car, Fanny asked half-jokingly whether the pastor was taking her to be killed. She had dressed up for the occasion, wearing bright red lipstick.

“Don’t be stupid, Fanny,” he said. “I’m trying to save your life.”

They were driving to his brother’s house, outside of Casa Blanca territory, so he could explain his meetings with MS-13.

“Fanny doesn’t listen when she’s at home,” he explained. “She’s just paralyzed by fear.”

Pastor Danny wore the same clothes for the third day in a row. Bags had formed under his eyes. Between counseling Fanny and keeping Casa Blanca from falling apart, there was little time for anything else, even his own family.

His daughter had been hospitalized for a lung condition. When he wasn’t in the neighborhood, he was with his wife, checking on her. Bills were piling up, and finances were not his thing. He preferred being in the streets, his ministry of action.

And right now, Fanny’s safety was his first concern.

“Fanny, you need to think about you and your family,” the pastor said, sensing her doubts. “They told me they wouldn’t touch you.”

Fanny began to cry. After the events of the last few days — the shooting, the invasion of her home — the pastor thought she would be happy with the news. But his promise that she would be safe merely reminded her of all the others who wouldn’t be.

“How would you feel if I told you that I could save your life, but children you have known and loved since they were young might die?” she sobbed. “How would you feel if I told you I could only save you?”

The pastor was confused, hurt even, after all the sacrifices he had made, the chances he had taken. He often joked that there was no gratitude for the work he did, and for the most part, he didn’t expect much. Still, he didn’t want to be chastised for it.

He handed Fanny some tissue to wipe the mascara streaking down her face.

“If others in the neighborhood want to put up a fight and die, that’s their choice, I guess,” Pastor Danny said, shrugging. “I’m trying to save the lives of those who want to be saved.”

Two days later, when the pastor decided to tell Casa Blanca about his plan for a truce, Fanny didn’t join. He gathered everyone at Anner’s house, including a few parents, hoping they might force the young men into accepting it.

It was late evening. Bryan raced in after work, his hair still wet from a shower. Franklin sat on a sofa, legs outstretched.

“They say they will pardon everyone as long as they can enter peacefully,” the pastor said, explaining MS-13’s terms.

The pastor had a way of stretching the facts to their most optimistic lengths. MS-13 had said it did not want to kill. But it never promised to pardon everyone, not explicitly.

Bryan interjected, describing his most recent brush with MS-13 members.

“They didn’t whistle, or look at me in any sort of aggressive way,” he marveled, crediting the pastor’s efforts for the atypical behavior.

Whether the change was at all related, the meeting seemed to be going well. And in the end, the pastor’s true gospel was hope. If he could make Casa Blanca believe that peace was possible, maybe it could be.

By the end of the discussion, Anner agreed to sit down with Monster.

“This is inevitable,” Anner said. “I mean, look at the odds — it’s like 50,000 of them versus eight of us.”

‘We Don’t Want Any Problems’

Anner dressed in his work uniform, a polo shirt with the grocery store’s insignia stitched on the upper left pocket. His boss had given him a few hours off, and Anner was anxious to get going.

In the back seat of Pastor Danny’s car, Anner talked without pause, a nervous habit that could make it hard to get a word in. The pastor hoped he would settle down before they met Monster.

Then, suddenly, Anner grew quiet. He pressed his face to the tinted window and stared.

“I haven’t been on this street in seven years,” he said as they passed into MS-13 territory, struck by how such a small neighborhood could be so rigidly divided — and how isolated it left everyone.

They reached a building with a tin portico. Beneath it, Monster sat on a low-slung chair, smoking weed. He smiled slightly as his visitors looked for a seat. Anner found a splintered crate, the pastor an overturned bucket.

After a brief introduction, Anner began to talk, in his nervous way, for nearly the entire meeting — about his kids, his job, his life in the neighborhood. He even named a few MS-13 members he knew personally.

“I’m not involved in any of this, but I know all of these guys,” he explained.

Monster continued smoking. Inside the building, a pinball machine clanged to life, playing “Limbo Rock” while gang members took turns.

“We don’t want any problems with MS,” Anner said, scooting his crate a little too close to Monster.

“I don’t want to see violence,” he continued. “I work and have a family and I don’t want to lose my house.”

Monster, now very high, shook his head and uttered a soft “No.”

“What about the others?” Anner asked. “Some of these guys have shot at MS before,” he said. “Sometimes out of fear.”

Monster started to speak, but Anner cut him off.

“I just want to ask as a favor that if they don’t resist, if they don’t put up a fight, that you pardon them,” he said.

Monster looked at the pastor, then at Anner.

“Our goal is not to kill anyone,” he said. “If they don’t put up a fight, if they go with the program, we won’t need to.”

Anner slumped over slightly, his tension ebbing. “Thank you, brother, this is a big relief for me. We’ve all been so worried about what would happen, every day. It’s been like living in a war zone.”

Two cars rolled past and the drivers honked their horns to salute the gathered MS-13 members. Children played nearby, kicking a small rubber ball up and down the street.

“Look around,” Monster boasted. “People live more freely here than anywhere else.”

“This could be how it is in Casa Blanca,” he concluded.

Members of the 18th Street gang, which once counted members of Casa Blanca among them. The gang is now hunting its former comrades.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

‘They Don’t Care’

The bodies appeared one January morning, mutilated, wrapped in black trash bags and deposited on the border that divided Casa Blanca from the 18th Street gang.

The warning spoke for itself: 18th Street had learned of the burgeoning truce with MS-13 — and had no intention of accepting it.

A few weeks later, Reinaldo disappeared. He had been walking inside the boundaries of Casa Blanca territory when someone snatched him.

Bryan and Franklin circulated his photo, in case anyone had seen him. After a few days, the pastor learned that 18th Street had taken him. They never got the body back.

The pastor’s fragile peace began to crumble.

MS-13 never entered the neighborhood, as Samuel and Monster said it would. Though it stopped attacking Casa Blanca, as promised, 18th Street picked up where its rivals had left off.

The pastor tried to put the Casa Blanca members at ease, but he had nothing new to offer. For all his efforts — the one-man missions, the clandestine meetings — he had managed only to swap one enemy for another.

Even that didn’t last. Early this year, Samuel and Monster were promoted. After they moved on, there was no one to guarantee the peace. Monster’s replacement in MS-13, Puyudo, resumed the attacks on Casa Blanca — why, exactly, the pastor did not know.

Casa Blanca was still outgunned, still outnumbered, still trapped. In March, a young boy in its territory was wounded in a shootout. A few days later, MS-13 took shots at Anner after work.

A week later, a member shot at Fanny while she was walking her son home from school.

Pastor Danny’s mission became much more daunting. He began saying that his heart wasn’t in it anymore. Trying to change the neighborhood, much less all of San Pedro Sula, or the rest of Honduras, seemed futile.

In his mind, the fact that everything fell on him — a solo peacekeeping campaign, with no help from the government — was a reflection of how dire the situation was.

“All of the things that end here on the streets, it all starts with government corruption,” he said. “I can’t keep fighting against this monster — the government, the country. It doesn’t matter to them. They don’t care.”

He told himself this would be his last intervention. However the Casa Blanca standoff ended — peacefully or not — he vowed to find a life where he wasn’t fighting the monster, as he called the state, and could take up a less demoralizing cause. Maybe he would even leave Honduras.

But that didn’t last, either. His cynicism gave way to hope, as it always did. A few weeks after MS-13 took shots at Fanny, the pastor managed to meet with Puyudo, the new leader in the area. Pastor Danny’s disillusionment fell away.

He gave Puyudo an abridged version of the speech that, by now, he had practiced a half-dozen times. He slipped right back into diplomacy mode.

“I think I can convince him to stop the shooting,” the pastor said. “We are supposed to meet again soon.”

Men searching for a body in San Pedro Sula. Since the turn of this century, more than 2.5 million people have been killed in the homicide crisis gripping
Latin America and the Caribbean.
Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Carta a los migrantes hondureños: ¡Bienvenidos! De Paolo Luers

20 octubre 2018 / MAS! y EL DIARIO DE HOY

Estimados vecinos:
Cuando vi los videos de sus marchas, atravesando a pie Guatemala y El Salvador para llegar a Estados Unidos, tuve que pensar en el éxodo de cientos de miles de venezolanos para Colombia y Brasil.

Me recordé también de las tortuosas marchas nocturnas de centenares de familias campesinas de Morazán, que vi atravesando montes y evadiendo patrullas militares para buscar protección en los campos de refugiados en Honduras, durante la guerra salvadoreña de los 80.

También me volvieron a la mente las escenas de miles de familias sirias que en el 2015 atravesaron a pie toda Europa para llegar a Alemania, porque su país se estaba hundiendo en una guerra interna interminable.

Cuando miles de personas dejan todo atrás y arriesgan su vida y la de sus hijos para emprender semejantes marchas, tienen que haber vivido un infierno y llegado a un grado de desesperación que no les permite quedarse en sus hogares.

Cuando eso pasa, los países vecinos tienen la obligación moral de proteger a los migrantes. Por esto, la orden que Donald Trump mandó a los gobiernos de El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y México de detener la marcha de ustedes, es inmoral y nadie le debe hacer caso. Sean cuales sean las amenazas de Trump, nuestros gobiernos tienen más compromisos con los centroamericanos desesperados que con un país rico que se niega a cumplir su obligación moral de acoger a familias que tan obviamente necesitan ayuda. Nuestros gobiernos tienen que albergarlas, nutrirlas, curarlas y transportarlas, así como lo hacemos con desplazados internos por catástrofes naturales. Si es necesario, con apoyo de organismos internacionales.

Yo no sé quienes están organizando sus marchas. No me importa. Hay quienes alegan que detrás de ustedes hay un plan político y propagandístico de Daniel Ortega y Manuel Zelaya. Esto es ridículo. Nadie emprende una marcha tan dura e insegura solo porque algún demagogo los engaña. Solo la desesperación genuina da la fuerza para aguantar lo que ustedes están aguantando en su caravana.

El problema es: Aun si logran llegar a la frontera mexicana, y aunque el gobierno mexicano los deje pasar y les de asistencia, ¿qué va a pasar en la frontera de Estados Unidos? Trump ya ordenó militarizar su frontera para que nadie entre. Lo declaró asunto de seguridad nacional, alegando que entre ustedes están infiltrados terroristas islámicos y pandilleros.

Naciones Unidas y la Organización de Estados Americanos deben movilizarse para buscar, junto a todos los gobiernos involucrados, una solución que garantice la vida y la dignidad de ustedes. De todas formas, lo que hoy está pasando en Venezuela y en Honduras, con miles de familias saliendo de países que no pueden asegurarles la sobrevivencia, mañana va a pasar en Nicaragua. Los gobiernos de la región tienen que tener respuestas a esta crisis. El Salvador debe de dar el ejemplo, ofreciendo albergue a los que aceptarían quedarse en nuestro país.

Ustedes que están avanzando por la orilla de nuestras carreteras, jalando bultos y chineando niños, sepan que están bienvenidos en El Salvador. Así como ustedes en Honduras acogieron a miles de familias salvadoreñas que huyeron de la guerra. 

Saludos,

Baleadas para nuestra matata. De Guillermo Miranda Cuestas

Todo lo construido desde 1983 no tiene sentido alguno si los diputados, en julio de 2018, no eligen a cuatro magistrados a la Sala de lo Constitucional con independencia, moralidad e instrucción notoria.

guillermo miranda cuestasGuillermo Miranda Cuestas, 23 diciembre 2917 / El Diario de Hoy

Toma varios años comprender la gravedad de un error histórico, y Honduras es un ejemplo de esto. En el año 2012, mientras la sociedad salvadoreña paró las intenciones de un grupo de diputados, apoyados desde la Presidencia de la República, de desarticular a la Sala de lo Constitucional, el Congreso Nacional hondureño destituyó a la Sala Constitucional de ese país por contrariar los planes del partido en el gobierno. En aquel entonces, el Congreso era presidido por Juan Orlando Hernández, quien ya en la presidencia se benefició de los nuevos magistrados constitucionales al permitírsele, en clara violación a la Constitución hondureña, la reelección presidencial. Siete años después, Honduras está hundida en una profunda crisis política.

EDH logEl error histórico de nombrar personas serviles al poder como jueces del máximo tribunal de justicia no es exclusivo de una etiqueta ideológica en particular, ya sea de izquierdas o de derechas. De hecho, en América Latina, se observa este vicio en Nicaragua con Daniel Ortega, en Colombia con Álvaro Uribe, en Bolivia con Evo Morales y en Venezuela con Nicolás Maduro. De ahí que tener una Sala de lo Constitucional capaz e independiente no tiene que ver con la construcción de un proyecto de partido, sino con la construcción de país, de un verdadero Estado constitucional y democrático de derecho. Y justamente de eso se trata la elección legislativa del 4 de marzo de 2018.

Durante la semana anterior, este periódico celebró el 34° aniversario de la Constitución de 1983. Después de la Constitución de 1886, la vigente es la Constitución salvadoreña con más duración y la única que ha sido adaptada a nuevas realidades, a través de reformas constitucionales consensuadas entre distintas fuerzas políticas. Desde una perspectiva histórica, la permanencia de la Constitución de 1983 y su aceptación por una diversidad de grupos de poder, desde el ejército hasta la guerrilla misma, es un logro sin precedentes en El Salvador. Pero la historia demuestra que así como las sociedades pueden avanzar, también pueden retroceder pasos agigantados en perjuicio de generaciones presentes y futuras.

Todo lo construido desde 1983 —una Constitución que reconoce en el ser humano libertades individuales y derechos sociales, un Acuerdo de Paz que fortaleció la institucionalidad democrática del país y una ciudadanía cada vez más consciente de la importancia del imperio de la Constitución en el desarrollo de sus vidas, por ejemplo— no tiene sentido alguno si los diputados, en julio de 2018, no eligen a cuatro magistrados a la Sala de lo Constitucional con independencia, moralidad e instrucción notoria. Por ello es tan importante que en los próximos dos meses la ciudadanía exija posturas y compromisos puntuales de quienes aspiran a ocupar una silla en la Asamblea Legislativa. Todavía hay tiempo para evitar errores históricos.

@guillermo_mc

Una historia en Centro América. De Manuel Hinds

¿Será que no ven que esto podría pasar en El Salvador en 2018 y 2019, que un gobierno no de derecha sino de izquierda maneje las elecciones oscuramente y no entregue el poder? ¿Qué no ven que la impunidad con la que esto ha pasado en Honduras podría repetirse aquí?

manuel hindsManuel Hinds, 22 diciembre 2017 / El Diario de Hoy

Esta es una historia genérica, que ha pasado tantas veces que uno puede escribirla en formulario con espacios en blanco para rellenar los nombres cuando la historia se quiere hacer específica. En este caso las elecciones han sido en Honduras. Las primeras cifras daban el triunfo a Salvador Nasralla con un margen del 5%, que, con cerca del 60 % de los votos ya contados, era casi imposible de superar para el otro candidato, el presidente Juan Orlando Hernández. Éste dijo que lo superaría porque faltaba contar los lugares en los que él tiene más partidarios. Pero entonces el conteo se descontinuó, la computadora principal del proceso se cayó y no se dio ninguna información por un día y medio. Cuando se volvió a dar, el presidente Hernández era el que llevaba la ventaja con el 81 por ciento de los votos contados.

EDH logLa Misión de Observación Electoral de la OEA pidió a un profesor de la Universidad de Georgetown su opinión con respecto al comportamiento estadístico del proceso de votación, para ver si es cierto que el cambio se debió a que entraron nuevas regiones en el conteo. El profesor declaró que las diferencias no provenían de un solo departamento sino de todo el país, que son demasiado grandes para ser generadas por el azar y que no son fácilmente explicables por otras razones, levantando dudas sobre la veracidad del resultado.

Después de recibir el informe de sus propios observadores, la OEA declaró: “Como ya fue informado por la Misión de Observación Electoral de la OEA, el proceso electoral estuvo caracterizado por irregularidades y deficiencias cuya entidad permite calificarlo como de muy baja calidad técnica y carente de integridad. Intrusiones humanas deliberadas en el sistema informático, eliminación intencional de rastros digitales, imposibilidad de conocer el número de oportunidades en que el sistema fue vulnerado, valijas de votos abiertas o sin actas, improbabilidad estadística extrema respecto a los niveles de participación dentro del mismo departamento, papeletas de voto en estado de reciente impresión e irregularidades adicionales, sumadas a la estrecha diferencia de votos entre los dos candidatos más votados, hacen imposible determinar con la necesaria certeza al ganador”. Otras irregularidades incluyen el proceso que se siguió para restablecer el sistema, que no solo alteró la evidencia sino que también dejo al servidor bajo el control remoto de la empresa proveedora, que podría cambiar resultados sin que quedara rastro. Esto es lo que alguien que quisiera cambiar los resultados directamente en la computadora central hubiera hecho.

La OEA declaró que aunque no puede probar que hubo dolo, el proceso fue de baja calidad electoral y que su seguridad fue vulnerada. Luego pidió la repetición de las elecciones, mientras que el tribunal electoral declaró ganador al presidente Hernández.

Cegados por la rivalidad de izquierdas y derechas, muchos salvadoreños no se dan cuenta de que la lección principal de Honduras no es que la así llamada “derecha” (por aclaración, la derecha de verdad no está de acuerdo con hacer elecciones dudosas, de ningún lado) haya “ganado”, ni que turbas movilizadas por la izquierda hayan saqueado tiendas, sino de que un gobierno asentado puede manejar las elecciones de maneras tan oscuras como estas y forzarse en el poder por medio de ese tipo de elecciones. Y hacer eso después de haber violado olímpicamente la Constitución, corriendo para reelegirse cuando está claramente prohibido hacerlo.

¿Será que no ven que esto podría pasar en El Salvador en 2018 y 2019, que un gobierno no de derecha sino de izquierda maneje las elecciones oscuramente y no entregue el poder? ¿Qué no ven que la impunidad con la que esto ha pasado en Honduras podría repetirse aquí?

Algunos han pintado a la OEA como un instrumento del socialismo del Siglo XXI, olvidando que ese mismo organismo ha sido el enemigo más grande de la tiranía venezolana y que el jefe de la misión de observadores de la institución en Honduras es Jorge Tuto Quiroga, un eminente político de derecha que está por encima de cualquier sospecha. Al contrario, con lo mal que se están preparando las elecciones aquí, ya quisiéramos tener una OEA que no tenga miedo de denunciar las irregularidades.

Aprendamos de Honduras. De Erika Saldaña

Si los salvadoreños queremos agarrar lección de lo sucedido en Honduras, hay que tener en la mira el trabajo del Tribunal Supremo Electoral. Es necesario que se garantice un proceso transparente y sin manipulaciones.

erika saldaña

Erika Saldaña, colaboradora de la Sala de lo Constitucional

Erika Saldaña, 11 diciembre 2017 / El Diario de Hoy

Honduras está en serios problemas. Hubo elecciones, pero no tienen presidente. La oposición cree que hay dictadura. Súmele que el pasado jueves los opositores desconocieron al Tribunal Supremo Electoral y han pedido que sea un tribunal internacional el que cuente las actas. La Organización de Estados Americanos enumeró una serie de más de diez irregularidades en el proceso y no descarta que la solución sea una nueva elección. Este el peor de los escenarios. El mecanismo de delegación de poder en la república carece de legitimidad y legalidad para una buena parte de la gente. Su gobierno actual perdió credibilidad.

EDH logLa crisis electoral hondureña es una suma de sucesivas irregularidades institucionales. A la raíz, la sospecha de que el presidente Juan Orlando Hernández manipuló la elección. Esto no se trata de si la izquierda es la víctima y la derecha la victimaria. En Venezuela, por ejemplo, la derecha dice ser la víctima de la izquierda. Aquí de lo que se trata es del respeto a la voluntad de los votantes y a la institucionalidad de una república democrática.

Las irregularidades vienen desde la inscripción de sus candidatos. Hernández se adjudica la candidatura del Partido Nacional con base en una sentencia de la Sala de lo Constitucional de la Corte Suprema, la cual declaró inaplicable la prohibición de reelección presidencial. Es decir, la Sala dijo que un artículo de la Constitución es inconstitucional. Esto es una contradicción en sí misma. Toda la Constitución por su naturaleza misma es constitucional; queda en duda entonces la legitimidad de una candidatura que surgió de una sentencia complicadísima, cuya interpretación buscó favorecer a un individuo más que a la misma lógica de la democracia.

La prohibición de reelección de gobernantes nace como rechazo a aquellos que políticamente se consideran imprescindibles al frente de un país. La alternabilidad en el ejercicio de la presidencia se establece como una “cláusula pétrea” (inmodificable) dentro de las constituciones, con lo cual el mismo sistema busca preservar su integridad contra personas que pretendan adueñarse de un Estado. Sin embargo, casos como el de Daniel Ortega en Nicaragua y Evo Morales en Bolivia ponen sobre la mesa el riesgo de perpetuación en el poder que está surgiendo en diversos países latinoamericanos a través de sentencias constitucionales.

Por esto es importante la elección de Salas, Cortes o Tribunales Constitucionales. Deben nombrarse magistrados que defiendan la institucionalidad y el republicanismo. Los jueces deben defender la Constitución y los principios republicanos, no a personas, incluyendo a caudillos que solo buscan el poder. Además, debemos perder el temor a la alternancia en el poder de los gobernantes, tanto de personas como de partidos. Si un gobierno va a continuar que sea porque es el reconocimiento a sus resultados y a sus políticas de gobierno, no a manipulaciones a los procesos.

El rol del Tribunal Supremo Electoral también ha sido sumamente cuestionado en las elecciones hondureñas. En un proceso electoral poco transparente, los alegatos de fraude toman relevancia. La Misión de Observación Electoral de la OEA reportó irregularidades en el procesamiento de actas y demora en la publicación de datos, con lo cual no se puede tener certeza de los resultados; los bajones de energía eléctrica y los repentinos (y sustanciales) cambios en el conteo de votos no han dejado de ser un fantasma de corrupción en Latinoamérica.

Si los salvadoreños queremos agarrar lección de lo sucedido en Honduras, hay que tener en la mira el trabajo del Tribunal Supremo Electoral. Es necesario que se garantice un proceso transparente y sin manipulaciones. También los ciudadanos debemos comprender que ni la derecha ni la izquierda por sí mismas son una garantía de democracia. Si no existe respeto a las instituciones y a los procesos electorales, y el objetivo únicamente es mantener el poder, cualquier ideología nos puede llevar a regímenes con tintes autoritarios y en el peor de los casos a un caos. Tenemos dos elecciones pronto, abramos los ojos, no queremos fraude. Aprendamos de Honduras.

El problema de Honduras. De Manuel Hinds

Hernández ha destruido la integridad institucional de su país, no ahora en las elecciones puestas en duda, sino en el momento en el que rompió la Constitución para seguir siendo presidente.

manuel hindsManuel Hinds, 8 diciebre 2017 / El Diario de Hoy

Los eventos que han tenido lugar en los últimos días en Honduras están dejando al país terriblemente dividido y agitado. Mucha gente parece creer que esta división se ha generado últimamente, como resultado de unos comicios mal manejados por el Tribunal Supremo Electoral en medio de un proceso del que mucha gente manifiesta profunda desconfianza y que ha culminado en violentas protestas de parte de los que se creyeron ganadores y después se les dijo que eran perdedores.

EDH logLos opositores del presidente Juan Orlando Hernández, que se presentó como candidato a la reelección, dicen que él no ganó las elecciones y exigen que se unja a Salvador Alejandro Nasralla. El problema es mucho más grave que esto porque todo evidencia que el presidente Hernández no debería haber estado en las nóminas electorales.

La Constitución hondureña es taxativa en su prohibición de la reelección presidencial en varios de sus artículos. En el artículo 4, incisos 2 y 3, dice: “La alternabilidad de la Presidencia de la República es obligatoria. La infracción de esta norma constituye delito de traición a la patria”. El artículo 239 dice: “El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del poder ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Vicepresidente de la República. El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán inmediatamente en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos y quedarán inhabilitados por diez (10) años para el ejercicio de la función publica”. Finalmente, el artículo 374 establece los artículos que se refieren a este tema como pétreos —es decir, que no se pueden reformar. El artículo dice: “No podrán reformarse, en ningún caso, el artículo anterior [que se refiere a la manera de reformar la Constitución], el presente artículo, los artículos que se refieren a la forma de gobierno, al territorio nacional, al período presidencial, a la prohibición de ser nuevamente Presidente de la República, el ciudadano que lo haya desempeñado bajo cualquier título y el referente a quienes no pueden ser Presidentes de la República por el período subsiguiente”.

El problema no es si era permitido que el presidente Hernández buscara su reelección. La Constitución es clarísima que no puede hacerlo. De hecho, el expresidente Mel Zelaya fue expulsado del país en 2009 por haber pretendido reelegirse. Entre los que lo expulsaron, o apoyaron su expulsión, estaban muchos miembros del Partido Nacional, que ahora ha intentado reelegir al presidente Hernández.

El verdadero problema de Honduras es que el presidente Hernández logró que la Corte Suprema de Justicia y el Tribunal Supremo Electoral dijeran que, aunque la Constitución dijera lo que dijera, él podría reelegirse, y que esto fue aceptado por el Partido Nacional, que lo nombró candidato, y por el pueblo entero, que aceptó que corriera como candidato a la reelección, y por todos los que votaron por él.

El problema es profundo porque, ¿cómo puede el Tribunal Supremo Electoral, que se arrodilló humillantemente ante el Presidente para decir que lo negro es blanco y para negar la autoridad de la Constitución, cómo puede ahora tener la autoridad moral para decir que no ha habido trampa y que el candidato A o B ha ganado? ¿Qué respeto pueden tener los miembros de la Corte Suprema para exigir el respeto a la ley si ellos mismos la han subvertido?
En este momento todavía no sabemos cuál será el resultado final del proceso. Lo único que sí sabemos es que, con su ambición desmedida de poder el presidente Hernández ha destruido la integridad institucional de su país, no ahora en las elecciones puestas en duda, sino en el momento en el que rompió la Constitución para seguir siendo presidente.re

Con sus acciones para reelegirse, y con la complicidad de los jueces que lo ayudaron a hacerlo violando la Constitución, el presidente Hernández ha causado un daño casi irreparable a Honduras, porque ha deslegitimado las instituciones fundamentales del Estado. El pueblo hondureño pagará por muchos años el haber permitido que destrozaran la integridad institucional de su país. Lo que está pasando ahora no es nada comparado con lo que un país con sus instituciones en el suelo puede sufrir.

Un informe revelador… De Luis Mario Rodríguez

En el caso hondureño se mezclaron la manipulación de la justicia constitucional para permitir la reelección del actual mandatario, la mediocre –o maliciosa– actuación del TSE, la posible injerencia extranjera de los antiguos socios “isleños y suramericanos” del expresidente “Mel” Zelaya, la indiferencia de la sociedad civil.

Luis Mario RodríguezLuis Mario Rodríguez, 7 diciembre 2017 / El Diario de Hoy

La Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA) envió a 82 observadores de 25 nacionalidades a las recientes elecciones hondureñas. En su informe preliminar la OEA señaló que los partidos hicieron traslado masivo de electores, situación que permite inducir la voluntad de las personas, compra de votos en tres departamentos, violación de la secretividad del sufragio en ciertos centros de votación y publicidad ilegal de las encuestas de “boca de urna” con anticipación al plazo que establece la ley; estos datos pueden divulgarse hasta dos horas después del cierre de las votaciones. Se vivió incertidumbre, falta de transparencia y vacío de información por parte de la autoridad electoral. Hubo problemas de coordinación logística y altos niveles de improvisación.

EDH logLa misión de Observación Electoral (MOE/OEA) también indicó que Juan Orlando Hernández y Salvador Nasralla incumplieron el pacto “Declaración por la Democracia Hondureña”. Se trató de una iniciativa del organismo hemisférico para mitigar las ansiedades de los competidores y las primeras manifestaciones de violencia entre los simpatizantes de sus respectivas agrupaciones políticas.

El informe reveló que hubo transporte de maletas electorales sin custodia, que fueron abiertas sin respetar protocolo alguno y que algunas se recibieron incompletas y en otras faltaba el acta de resultados. La OEA advirtió además que el sistema de procesamiento de actas quedó detenido por diez horas. Este aspecto es relevante porque desde un inicio la contratación de la tecnología estuvo envuelta en fuertes controversias. Resulta que la empresa a la que se le adjudicó este servicio se sustituyó 30 días antes de la elección por “sospechas de su cercanía con el partido de gobierno”. Sobre este punto la MOE/OEA recomendó que es necesario determinar y contratar al proveedor que hará la transmisión, procesamiento y divulgación de resultados con suficiente antelación y que los respectivos simulacros deben realizarse oportunamente.

La falta de independencia de la autoridad electoral y el cuestionamiento a la composición partidista de esta instancia fue otra de las graves objeciones de los observadores internacionales. Asimismo se delató la compra de credenciales en la integración de las mesas de votación y la deficiente capacitación de sus miembros a cargo de los partidos políticos. El registro electoral se sumó a la lista de reparos. Se criticó que mantiene a fallecidos como votantes activos y a personas que emigran, porque no se registran en el exterior y permanecen en el censo electoral. La misión propuso contar con un sistema de depuración y actualización permanente para mantener vigentes los registros.

En su declaración final la MOE/OEA expresó que “el estrecho margen de resultados, así como las irregularidades, errores y problemas sistémicos no permiten a la misión tener certeza sobre los resultados”. Entre otras sugerencias se planteó verificar 5,174 actas que no fueron transmitidas la noche de la elección, otorgar un plazo razonable para que los partidos interpusieran las impugnaciones de resultados debido al retraso que sufrió tanto el escrutinio ordinario como el especial, verificar la integridad del sistema de escrutinio y divulgación electoral, y esperar a que en un plazo de 30 días el TSE emita la declaratoria oficial del ganador del proceso. Igualmente censuró enérgicamente la pérdida de vidas como consecuencia del recelo y las sospechas que generó la pasividad del organismo electoral.

En el caso hondureño se mezclaron la manipulación de la justicia constitucional para permitir la reelección del actual mandatario, la mediocre –o maliciosa– actuación del TSE, la posible injerencia extranjera de los antiguos socios “isleños y suramericanos” del expresidente “Mel” Zelaya, la indiferencia de la sociedad civil ante la manipulación de la institucionalidad, y la baja participación electoral, apenas un 58 % del padrón. Un factor adicional, propio de su sistema electoral, es que no existe la segunda vuelta presidencial, mecanismo que habría permitido una competencia entre los dos candidatos más votados por no alcanzar ninguno de ellos el 50 % más uno de los votos.

Varias de las circunstancias ocurridas en Honduras, si no es que la mayoría de ellas, se aplican, salvando las diferencias, a lo ocurrido en 2015 durante las elecciones legislativas y municipales salvadoreñas. El árbitro electoral debe evitar que los procesos de 2018 y 2019 se transformen en una catástrofe que derive en una severa crisis política.

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Comunicado de la Secretaría General de la OEA respecto a las recientes elecciones presidenciales en Honduras

6 de diciembre de 2017 / OEA

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 10.32.47 PM.pngLa Misión de Observación Electoral (MOE) de la OEA para las elecciones en Honduras ha informado a la Secretaría General de la OEA sobre la falta de garantías y transparencia, así como el cúmulo de irregularidades, errores y problemas sistémicos que han rodeado este proceso electoral, en su etapa previa, jornada electoral y etapa postelectoral, que como corolario no permiten a esa Misión tener certeza sobre los resultados.

Por otra parte, resulta claro que no es posible, sin un proceso exhaustivo y minucioso de verificación que determine la existencia o no de un fraude electoral -como ha denunciado parte de la oposición- restituir la confianza de la población en el proceso.

Esta desconfianza y polarización han generado episodios insostenibles de violencia. Resultan irresponsables e incompatibles con la democracia los llamados públicos al amotinamiento e insurrección militar realizados en el contexto postelectoral.

Con igual fuerza, la Secretaría General de la OEA deplora los extemporáneos llamados a la violencia y a la utilización de fusiles de asalto en poder de particulares por parte de líderes partidarios.

La Secretaría General de la OEA condena, asimismo, las muertes acaecidas y exige la inmediata investigación de los hechos, al tiempo que expresa sus condolencias y se solidariza con el dolor de las familias de las víctimas.

La suspensión de los derechos constitucionales relacionados al Decreto del 1 de Diciembre de 2017 emitido por el Gobierno de Honduras se justifican según la Carta Magna citada en el decreto considerado en situaciones extremas, tales como “la invasión del territorio nacional, la perturbación grave de la paz, de epidemia o de cualquier otra calamidad general”. Por ello, la Secretaría General de la OEA considera desproporcionada la aplicación de estas medidas frente a las manifestaciones que tuvieron lugar tras las ya denunciadas irregularidades del acto electoral llevado a cabo el 26 de noviembre de 2017, y solicita el inmediato levantamiento de las mismas.

El proceso electoral es por excelencia la manifestación de la expresión popular, y la democracia no puede ni debe ser menoscabada por irregularidades graves, represión y muertes.

Es imprescindible que se den garantías suficientes para que la violencia sea detenida inmediatamente.

Mirando hacia adelante, el informe de la MOE ha exigido una serie de acciones con el fin de restablecer la confianza, generar certidumbre y dar garantías.

Por ello,  hacemos nuestras las recomendaciones y conclusiones contenidas en el informe preliminar de la MOE. Dichas conclusiones han determinado, con base a criterios técnicos derivados de estándares internacionales, las etapas necesarias a completar.

Lleváremos adelante todos los pasos señalados y brindaremos el imprescindible seguimiento.

El candidato presidencial Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado ha admitido las conclusiones y recomendaciones del informe de la MOE, y ha manifestado su compromiso de someter al escrutinio técnico con acompañamiento de los observadores internacionales los resultados de las elecciones.

Lamentablemente, pese al sustento técnico y de base científica de las recomendaciones de la MOE, no ha sido posible llegar a un acuerdo firmado.

La Secretaría General de la OEA reitera que el proceso electoral en la República de Honduras no ha concluido, por cuanto resta para ello la implementación completa de las recomendaciones que siguen a continuación:

  • El cotejo de las 1.006 actas que fueron sometidas a escrutinio especial con las originales recibidas, para ver si son parte de aquellas que fueron transmitidas online o parte de aquellas que fueron procesadas una vez llegaron al Centro de Acopio Nacional Electoral, ubicado en las instalaciones del INFOP.
  • La verificación de las 5.174 actas del Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) que no fueron transmitidas la noche de la elección, realizando un recuento de votos de las actas que presenten inconsistencias.
  • La revisión de la participación en la votación de los departamentos de Lempira, Intibucá y la Paz, tomando el 100% de las Mesas Electorales Receptoras (MERs) de cada uno de los departamentos.
  • El establecimiento de una etapa razonable para la presentación de impugnaciones. Debido a los retrasos en los escrutinios ordinario y especial, se exhorta al Tribunal Supremo Electoral a ser flexible en la recepción de estas impugnaciones y a resolverlas con todas las garantías procesales, de forma individualizada tras un cuidadoso análisis debidamente fundado y motivado.
  • La publicación de los listados de los miembros de las MERs de los departamentos de Atlántida, Colón, Cortés, Francisco Morazán y Yoro.
  • La verificación de la integridad del Sistema Integrado de Escrutinio y Divulgación Electoral (SIEDE) y de sus componentes.

Si las irregularidades existentes fueran de tal entidad que hicieran imposible que este proceso brinde certeza y seguridad en el recuento, la Misión se reserva el derecho de realizar las recomendaciones adicionales que considere pertinentes sobre cualquier aspecto del mismo, sin descartar inclusive la posibilidad de recomendar un nuevo llamado a elecciones con garantías de que corrijan todas las debilidades identificadas que dieron lugar a las irregularidades graves que se detectasen.

La Secretaría General de la OEA no dejará solos a los hondureños y reafirma su máxima vocación para contribuir a resolver las diferencias en torno al proceso electoral. Por ello, la MOE se mantiene para continuar su apoyo técnico-político.

Referencia: C-090/17