x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Honduras opposition wins disputed post-coup election

Conservative candidate Porfirio Lobo easily wins Honduras' presidential election in a vote that has put the United States at odds with leftist governments in Latin America.

TEGUCIGALPA // Conservative opposition candidate Porfirio Lobo has easily won Honduras' presidential election in a vote that has put the United States at odds with leftist governments in Latin America. Mr Lobo, a rich landowner, had more than 55 per cent support with more than half the votes counted and his closest rival, Elvin Santos of the ruling Liberal Party, then conceded defeat. The election could calm a five-month crisis which was sparked when the Honduran army overthrew leftist president Manuel Zelaya in June and flew him into exile.

But while Washington commended yesterday's vote, leftist rulers of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela and other Latin American countries say the election is invalid because it was backed by the coup leaders and could end any hope of Mr Zelaya returning to power. The division puts in danger US president Barack Obama's attempts to turn a new page with Latin America where memories of military coups supported by the United States during the Cold War are still fresh.

As the partial election results were announced after long delays that officials put down to technical problems, hundreds of supporters of Mr Lobo's National Party waved flags and danced in a victory celebration at a hotel in the capital. Mr Lobo, 61, is seen as more able than Santos to lead Honduras out of political gridlock and diplomatic isolation. "Today Honduras has decided its own future to end once and for all the crisis that has affected us and damaged the most needy," he said in a victory speech.

But Mr Zelaya said the election was illegitimate and that the election winner would not be a true president. Soldiers grabbed Mr Zelaya from his home on June 28 and threw him out of the country, sparking Central America's biggest political crisis since the end of the Cold War. Neither Zelaya nor his arch-rival Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Congress after Zelaya's overthrow, took part in the race.

* Reuters