US notes Hernandez 'victory' in disputed Honduras vote


Washington (AFP)

The United States on Friday congratulated Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez on winning a new mandate, while urging a full review of any legal challenges to an election marred by suspicions of fraud.

Deadly protests have erupted in Honduras after electoral authorities there belatedly declared last Sunday that the conservative Hernandez beat left-wing candidate Salvador Nasralla by 1.5 percentage points in a vote which international observers say was beset by irregularities.

"We congratulate President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his victory in the November 26 presidential elections, as declared by the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)," the State Department said in a statement.

"We call upon the TSE to transparently and fully review any challenges filed by political parties," it added, acknowledging "irregularities" identified by both Organization of American States and European Union observers.

Nasralla maintains he won the vote, and traveled to the United States this week to press his allegations of fraud in meetings with State Department officials and the Washington-based OAS.

But the United States had appeared to be leaning toward endorsing a win for the 49-year-old Hernandez.

A senior US State Department official told AFP earlier this week that Washington had not seen "anything that alters the final result."

"We urge Honduran citizens or political parties challenging the result to use the avenues provided by Honduran law," the State Department statement Friday said, reiterating its calls for all Hondurans to refrain from violence.

"The government must ensure Honduran security services respect the rights of peaceful protestors, including by ensuring accountability for any violations of those rights," it added.

On Tuesday, Hernandez urged the opposition to engage in talks with him to calm the crisis.

But the opposition rebuffed the appeal, and Nasralla, 64, said he would only enter talks if it were to confirm him as president-elect. He is demanding the election be held again.

Twelve people have been killed in the protests and hundreds more arrested, the United Nations has said, voicing its concern at "excessive use of force."