Honduran security forces battle protesters as election chaos lingers

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduran soldiers and police clashed with protesters blocking roads across the Central American country on Saturday, as discontent continues to fester nearly two months after a disputed presidential election.

Security forces launched tear gas against rock-throwing supporters of the center-left Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship and tried to clear impromptu roadblocks of burning tires they had set across the capital Tegucigalpa and around the country, according to police sources and TV images.

Honduras, a poor, violent country that has long sent vulnerable migrants north to the United States, has been embroiled in a political crisis since the Nov. 26 election, which the opposition says was stolen by center-right President Juan Orlando Hernandez. At least 31 people have died in violent protests.

“Out with JOH, out with the dictator,” masked protesters shouted in Tegucigalpa’s Miraflores neighbourhood.

The Honduran electoral tribunal declared Hernandez, a staunch U.S. ally, the official winner of the election last month despite strident protests over the vote count.

Initially, the vote tally had clearly favoured centre-left opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, but it swung in favour of the incumbent after a 36-hour delay.

Hernandez is due to take office on Jan. 27.

“We have to stay in the streets,” said former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup and is one of the opposition leaders.

“If they move us from one spot, we have to move to another.

We need to be permanently mobilized to keep up the pressure and

prevent the dictator from installing himself.”

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