Hondurans head to polls, seeking end to 5-month crisis

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- After months marred by violent protests, bombings and state-mandated curfews, Hondurans headed to the polls Sunday morning to elect a new president. Many came bearing hopes that the elections would provide a way out of the five-month political crisis that has hovered over the country since the removal at gunpoint of former President Manuel Zelaya.

Though residents poured through the doors of local voting precincts, many did so quietly and without much of the fanfare of blaring car horns, music and flag waving that came with previous elections. Authorities reported some clashes with police in San Pedro Sula.

"We will celebrate once the elections are done and the results are announced," said voter Guido Ferrari, 67, after casting his vote at a school in a working-class neighborhood called Kennedy. "For now we must remain serious to ensure the rest of the world sees just how serious we are about this election. All eyes are on our country and, it's not something as Hondurans take lightly."

World leaders have condemned the Central American nation ever since Zelaya was shuttled out of bed at gunpoint and flown to Costa Rica in the early-morning hours of June 28.

Honduras's interim President Roberto Micheletti has said the country's actions were justified because Zelaya violated laws when pushing for a referendum that had been outlawed by the Supreme Court and many feared would let him change the constitution and run for reelection.

Leaders of the Resistance Movement, Zelaya supporters, said Election Day was marked by search warrants and arrests to intimidate Zelaya's followers. One Resistance member headed out on the street with a megaphone and landed in jail, leaders said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

"What you've had here is a human hunt today, this day which to us is a public event convoked by the military and the dictatorship to empower and legitimize themselves," said Bertha Oliva, the director of COFADEH, a human rights organization.

"Our reports are that voting was not massive. The majority of the people understood that you cannot have democratic and transparent elections under a coup-installed government. This process is illegitimate and illegal."

She said the group had documented 20 or 30 detentions nationwide.

The Resistance Movement urged its followers to stay home Sunday. The group's candidate, Carlos H. Reyes, withdrew from the race, although another leftist candidate, César Ham, decided to participate.

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