Honduran Opposition Leader Says U.S. Is Wrong to Fear Him

(Bloomberg) -- Honduran opposition leader Salvador Nasralla says he’s a moderate, pro-U.S. candidate who Washington is wrong to fear, as he demands a full recount of ballots in a disputed election that has plunged the central American nation into its worst crisis in nearly a decade.

Nasralla says he is a moderate who the U.S. government has mistakenly branded a radical. This has led them to throw their weight behind his opponent, President Juan Orlando Hernandez, he said.

Honduran Opposition Leader Says U.S. Is Wrong to Fear Him

“The United States doesn’t want me to be president,” Nasralla said in a phone interview from Tegucigalpa. “They know I won the election but they won’t accept it because they are afraid that my government will be a leftist one.”

Election officials said Sunday that Hernandez maintains his narrow lead in the Nov. 26 vote, after they finished a special review of ballots from 4,753 voting centers. With just over 50,000 votes separating the candidates, and with Nasralla alleging fraud, remarks from Washington and from foreign election monitors are likely to carry great weight in the coming days, as Hondurans try to gauge whether the winner is legitimate.

The electoral authority said it won’t declare a winner until it has conducted further reviews of challenges to the result. Nasralla said he won’t accept the result until a recount is conducted of every ballot cast in all the country’s 18,103 voting centers. He says the Hernandez government is trying to steal the election, and is calling for an international, forensic audit of the computers used to count the ballots.

Nasralla, 64, a former sports journalist, said that Washington’s fear and suspicion of him stems from his alliance with leftist former president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup. Nasralla said that he is “pro-U.S.” and would improve current relations, in particular by putting fewer conditions on extradition requests.

“We’re going to have a pro-U.S. policy,” he said. “They’re our main trade partner, and we’re going to maintain this good relationship with them.”

Days of Chaos

The yield on the nation’s dollar bonds due 2027 was little changed at 5.4 percent on Monday. The Central American nation has $1.7 billion of dollar bonds outstanding.

Hernandez, who presided over the world’s largest bond rally over the past four years, won the backing of the US as he extradited alleged drug lords and money launderers. The State Department cleared Honduras for millions of dollars in aid last week saying the government has worked to fight crime and corruption.

In days of chaos since the election, demonstrations have shut down parts of major cities and blocked highways. In a report released Friday, Amnesty International said security forces chased, arrested and used tear gas and firearms against protesters. At least 14 people were killed, most from gunshot wounds, and dozens were injured, the report said.

Nasralla said that tally sheets from at least 7,800 centers were manipulated the night of the election, which lead to a long delay in results. He said that he’d continue to call protesters to the streets until his demands of a full recount are met.

"In a country where there are no strong institutions, people take to the streets,” he said. “It’s the only option we have.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.