[Updated] The result is in and there is no doubt, even if some loony characters amusingly try to write fictitious results.
Honduras had its highest voter turnout in several elections, preliminary data putting abstention at below 40%, perhaps even 35%. That Lobo won with more than 50% of the vote is only accessory: the real result is that in spite of huge international pressure, calls from boycott from the Zelaya camp, the Honduran people bravely decided to turn a page on that chapter of their history, sending home packing all the guys that wanted to cause them trouble and grief. It is moments like today that renew our faith in democracy.
Interestingly the day started slowly, perhaps voters waiting to see if the Zelaya people were going to cause trouble. But as the day went on it seems that a strange mechanic took place, people went to vote late and forced an extension of one hour at the voting stations. Hence the delay in final participation result and the hurried communique early in the day by pro Zelaya and pro Chavez joints that the abstention was going to be at 65%. That was not what CNN showed, but Zelaya and Chavez seem to have been day dreaming for too long.
The clarity of the results thus allow us to procede in naming winners and losers.
The question mark comes fromt he simple fact that the whole business had been so ill managed that there cannot be real winners here. The only one is the interim government who managed to reach the election without allowing for the return of Zelaya.
We might just settle in saying that the winners are those who manged to gain today a respite, an amount of time that will have to suffice to fix the whole mess. As such we can mark here the US and the traditional parties of Honduras. The former because eventually it figured out what was really going on, it figured out that the rest of the continent was out to get the US through Honduras, and thus the US refused to keep playing along. After having displayed the very best intentions during the early Obama's term when he visited the Trinidad summit, the US went along in the early stages of the Honduras crisis when the US joined the rest of Latin America, expecting unwisely that the OAS woudl come up with a real solution. This did not happen and today is the result of the OAS lack of compass.
The other winners were the traditional political parties of Honduras who trusted the people to see that they would by themselves understand the fraud that Zelaya was. Thus they never fully supported the Micheletti system, concentrating on the November election and letting the folks elected 4 years ago deal with the mess they had created. Make no mistake, one of the main reasons why people went to vote in large mount today is that they understood that the candidates owed nothing to Micheletti and that his administration would exit in full in January. Lobo and Santos managed to detach themselves from most that happened in the last few months and thus gained the trust of the people who voted for them.
This is very clear: Chavez and Lula are the great losers of the day as all their manipulations failed. They can wipe a lot of egg from their face even though stupidly a very upset Lula is saying in Portugal that the election cannot be recognized, even though his assistants surely must have informed him of the unusually high turnout. Lula keeps accumulating foreign policy mistakes, a very preoccupying matter for a country which aspires to permanent seat at the security council. As such if in the short term Chavez is the main loser, on the long term Lula and Brazil might be the main losers. Why, you may ask?
The aftermath of today is very simple: the Americas are going to be cut int two because of Honduras. It may not happen if Brazil and Lula finally understand and react, but it will happen if in fact Brazil decides to split the Americas with the US.
In the next few weeks, by late January at the latest, Lobo will have been recognized by at least the US, Peru, Canada, Panama, and Costa Rica. If the following countries have not joined the recognition by then, this one could not wait long: Colombia, Mexico, Trinidad, Barbados and Chile if Piñera wins the presidential election. And because El Salvador and Guatemala share such a long border with Honduras it is difficult to imagine them holding off recognition of Lobo for much longer than January. Brazil and the ALBA will be on the other side, with Argentina as long as the Kichners hold power which is today less and less likely. Brazil and the ALBA on one side, representing an idiotic and retrograde left and the democratic market based economies on the other side. How do you think this will play into Brazil next elections? Will Wilma Roussef be willing to carry that Lula albatross if he does not come back into reason and stop receiving creeps like Ahmadinejerk or support clowns like Zelaya?
On the short term of course Chavez is the main loser. His ALBA is exposed as considerably more ineffectual than expected. Now in Nicaragua the opposition will be straightened with the Honduras example and the child molester of Ortega will have a much harder time to be reelected in a free and fair election. Nicaragua could well be the next domino. Unless it is Ecuador. After all, if Peru and Colombia recognize Lobo and unite in front of Chavez aggression, the dollarized economy of Ecuador will not be able to resist long the need to break ties with an ALBA that has no economic future whatsoever.
There are some smaller losers. The OAS has proven its uselessness. The recognition of Lobo by some will drive inside it a stake that could kill it, the more so if Insulza were to be reelected its general secretary. For an account of Insulza and the OAS mistakes read today O'Grady piece.
So let's close this post with a big congratulation to the Honduran people who have managed to stop the colonial ambitions of Chavez. Bravo!
PS: I have considered only countries in the Americas. But apparently plenty of other countries, potential donors to recover the Honduras economy, are willing to recognize today's vote.
The flack is having its effect. If this morning I saw on Spanish TV a confused Moratinos stating that they would not recognize the election but that they could not ignore it, El Pais from Spain might indicate otherwise. That is, Moratinos boss at the Iberoamerican summit of Estoril is moving already to find a way out the ditch in which Spain placed itself as to Honduras. Amazingly at such a summit they allowed Patricia Rodas to speak as if she were still the only legitimate representative of Honduras even though the results were already known. From El Pais article we can gather that Zapatero is starting to realize that a few mistakes were made by Spain. Then again his guiding light was the ineffable Moratinos, the one that a few moths back said that he saw no problem with the freedom of expression in Venezuela. When is Zapatero going to fire Moratinos?
Meanwhile the mood at Estoril is not helping Zapatero as Uribe who is attending (Chavez is not) has announced that Colombia will recognize the Lobo government. Since Colombia is recognizing Lobo faster than what I predicted myself, then we can speculate with amusement about what is going on in the hallways of Estoril......
In its latest coverage El Pais notes dryly "If the elections held yesterday in Honduras are a fraud, as Zelaya maintains, then the fraud was committed almost normally." Which is an elegant way for El Pais, center left newspaper of record for Spain, to recognize that Zelaya is screwed and that it is time to move on. The same article also points out to the intense anti Chavez feeling that El Pais people found in the voting lines of Tegucigalpa. Meanwhile in Venezuela the government has decided it knows best and persist in its line of calling fraud. We see this without restraint in the bitter text found in the page of the Communication ministry itself. Not that it matter much, Lobo will certainly welcome any action that postpones having to renew relations with any of the ALBA countries.
With the partial count electoral participation is hovering at 61%, which would be nearly 10 points above the last election. This makes it even clearer when you think that Honduras has a huge expatriate population that is registered to vote but could not do it except in a very few US places. If we factor this in, the electoral participation WITHIN Honduras might reach 70%, a stunning set back for Zelaya and his Chavez inspired strategy. No wonder Zapatero is moving to leave behind Lula and Chavez.