US backs re-election of Honduran president

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday backed the re-election of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, a U.S. ally, who was certified the winner in last month?s presidential contest in Honduras despite allegations of fraud by the opposition.

?We congratulate President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his victory in the November 26 presidential elections, as declared by the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal,? U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, adding Honduras should pursue a ?long-term effort to heal the political divide in the country and ... electoral reforms.?

Nauert called for all sides to refrain from violence, for those who wish to challenge the result to use legal means to do so and for the government to ensure that security services respect the rights of peaceful protesters and are held accountable for any violations of those rights.

Honduras was rocked by deadly protests following the Nov. 26 vote and the Organization of American States (OAS) called for a re-run, saying the election did not meet democratic standards.

Hernandez, a conservative, has led a military crackdown against gangs in the central American country, and Honduras? murder rate has slid since he took power in 2014.

His opponent, Salvador Nasralla, had appeared headed for an upset win when election results started rolling out. The results were abruptly halted and when they restarted, the outcome favored Hernandez.