20 Dems ask Tillerson to support new elections in Honduras

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A group of 20 Democratic legislators asked Thursday the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to support a repetition of the presidential elections held last month in Honduras, given the irregularities found by the Organization of American States.

"Thus far, the State Department's response to events in Honduras has been inadequate", reads a letter sent to Tillerson by the 20 members of Congress and shared with reporters by Rep. Norma Torres, a Democrat from California.

The Democrats want Tillerson also to denounce what they consider "excessive use of force" by Honduran security forces handling the streets protests that have taken place since the Nov. 26 election.

The Honduran police confirmed 17 deaths, but the opposition and the Committee of Detained and Disappeared, a non-governmental organization, said at least 24 people have been killed in the three weeks of unrest.

The OAS, which sent election observers to the country, issued a statement saying it was impossible to determine the outcome with enough certainty due to irregularities.

However, The Associated Press has learned that the U.S. is leaning toward recognizing the result of the election.

A senior official, who does not have authorization to talk to reporters and requested anonymity, said the U.S. would not make a final determination until at least Friday, when a five-day deadline for the opposition to present new information and challenge the results expires.

The official suggested that based on the findings of two election observer teams, the U.S. would likely follow Mexico's lead in recognizing the result.

The legislators said the decision of the State Department to certify the country's progress in protecting human rights and attacking corruption shortly after the election "has helped to foster the perception that the United States is biased, and is either unwilling or unable to serve as an honest broker."

The certification affects only half of the U.S. funds that go directly to Honduras' central government, which amounts to between $15 million and $20 million, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Other U.S. assistance is unaffected by the certification process.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the winner, but the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla claims fraud and came to Washington earlier this week seeking support from the U.S. government and the OAS.

The first results reported by the electoral court before dawn the day after the Nov. 26 election showed Nasralla with a significant lead over Hernandez with nearly 60 percent of the vote counted.

Then public updates of the count mysteriously stopped for more than a day, and when they resumed, that lead steadily eroded and ultimately reversed in Hernandez's favor.


Reach Matthew Lee on Twitter at http://twitter.com/APDiploWriter and Luis Alonso Lugo at http://www.twitter.com/luisalonsolugo

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Matthew Lee and Luis Alonso Lugo


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