Honduras president calls for talks, opposition says no

Tegucigalpa (AFP) –


Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez called on the opposition Tuesday to hold talks with his government, after he was declared the winner of a bitterly disputed election.

But the opposition candidate, Salvador Nasralla, rejected dialogue -- unless it was to confirm that he, and not Hernandez, won the November 26 poll.

A key figure in Nasralla's leftwing Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition, ex-president Manuel Zelaya, urged supporters to keep up nationwide demonstrations, albeit peacefully.

Both Hernandez and Nasralla claimed victory after the election, which international observers said was marred by irregularities.

After three weeks of delays, uncertainty, opposition claims of fraud and sometimes violent street demonstrations, Honduras's Supreme Electoral Tribunal on Sunday finally declared Hernandez the victor.

The opposition has refused to accept that. Protests broke out right after the tribunal's announcement but appeared to ebb on Tuesday following crackdowns by police firing teargas on demonstrators.

In Tegucigalpa, Hernandez made a broadcast to the nation on Tuesday, saying: "As president-elect, I hold out my hand and have an open spirit to closely listen to the other side and to find, through dialogue, a national accord that allows us to uphold peace and security."

However, for many Hondurans his legitimacy remained in question. Under the country's constitution, Hernandez was barred from seeking re-election. But that ban was overturned in 2015 by a ruling from the Supreme Court, which is dominated by loyalists.

Nasralla traveled to the United States over the weekend to drum up support for his claim to the presidency and highlight alleged vote-rigging.

On Monday, he met with Luis Almagro, chief of the Washington-based Organization of American States, to press his case.

On Tuesday, still in the US capital, Nasralla said: "Yes, I want to take part in dialogue -- so that he (Hernandez) understands that four years with him in power, and with all these people ranged against him, the country will be ungovernable."

He said the election was marred by "monumental fraud," and that he had presented evidence to Almagro, who has backed Nasralla's demand for a new election to be held.

Nasralla also said US credibility would take a blow if Washington recognized Hernandez as president-elect.

Zelaya -- who was ousted in a 2009 coup, ostensibly for trying to stay in power more than one term -- also gave no ground as the opposition coalition's chief strategist.

"Our call to all the Honduran people is that they peacefully keep up mobilizations on a national level," he told a news conference in Honduras.

He rejected Hernandez's appeal for talks, saying he himself was interested in dialogue only "if it is to recognize Nasralla's triumph."