The Trump administration on Friday recognized the results of Honduras’ disputed presidential election, despite problems found by poll observers and calls from the U.S. Congress for a new vote. In a statement, the U.S. State Department congratulated President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his re-election, but also urged the country’s electoral commission to examine all disputes to the result.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in the statement that all sides should aim to end the recent violence that has killed at least 17 people. Nauert also called on security forces to respect the rights of peaceful protesters.
Hernandez was officially declared the winner of the November 26 election on December 17. However, opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla and his supporters have pointed to fraud. The Honduran electoral court announced that Hernandez won with 42.25% of the vote; Nasralla received 41.42%.
Nasralla arrived in Washington earlier this week to seek support from the United States and the Organization of American States in a challenge to the results.
Election observers from the OAS and the European Union had found irregularities with the vote. The OAS, which sent election observers to the country, said in a statement it was impossible to know the true results because of the irregularities.
Nauert said the close election, along with issues identified by the OAS and the EU, demonstrate the need for Honduras to openly review all challenges to the results. She also said Honduras must aim to “heal the political divide in the country” and create election reforms.
Early results of the election showed Nasralla having a large lead over Hernandez, with 60% of the vote counted. Public updates of the count, however, stopped for more than a day. When they restarted, Nasralla’s large lead had disappeared. Hernandez pulled ahead.
On Thursday, a group of 20 Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to support another presidential election in Honduras. The lawmakers cited irregularities found by election observers. The group also asked Tillerson to criticize what it considered to be too much force used by Honduran security forces during street protests after the election.