Honduras nominated for female president as left-wing Castro storms for victory

TEGUCIGALPA, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – Honduran presidential candidate Xiomara Castro was on track for a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, declaring victory as supporters danced outside her offices to celebrate left-wing return to power 12 years after her husband was ousted by a coup.

The election, which was to give Honduras its first female president, seemed to have gone smoothly, unlike four years ago, when a close result led to a controversial result and deadly protests following widespread accusations of irregularities.

With half the ballots counted, Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, had a nearly 20-point lead over Nasry Asfura, the capital’s mayor and aspiring National Party, who won 34% according to a preliminary statement on Monday.

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Cheering celebrations erupted in Castro’s campaign headquarters as the vote count flowed in and her lead stopped. The offices of Asfura’s ruling Conservative National Party were deserted.

A self-proclaimed democratic socialist in a country where few women hold public office, Castro won the support of a broad crowd of Hondurans who were tired of corruption and the concentration of power that grew under the National Party.

“We have returned authoritarianism,” she told supporters late Sunday, surrounded by her Libre Party loyalists, aides and family, including her husband Zelaya, who was displaced as business and military elites allied against him, heralding a half a dozen years of nationality. Party government.

“peace and justice”

Depending on her political choices, Castro could reverse a weakening of the Honduran justice system, which has benefited corrupt and criminal groups, a trend seen across Central America in recent years.

She has promised help from the UN to strengthen the fight against corruption. She promises to legalize abortion in some cases. She can establish diplomatic relations with Beijing, an issue of concern to Washington.

Business executives quickly congratulated, and Castro promised to work “hand in hand” with the private sector.

Xiomara Castro, presidential candidate for the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), makes a statement after the end of the parliamentary elections in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on November 28, 2021. On the left is Vice Presidential candidate Salvador Nasrala. REUTERS / Jose Cabezas

“We want to form a government of reconciliation, a government of peace and justice,” Castro added.

However, critics have painted her as a dangerous radical, reminiscent of Zelaya’s proximity to Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez.

In his speech, Castro promised to strengthen direct democracy by holding referendums on key policies. Elsewhere in Latin America, this tool has sometimes actually strengthened the power of the president.

A planned referendum by Zelaya on constitutional reforms, including allowing a president to be re-elected for another term, was a catalyst for the coup against him, where the elite were uncomfortable with his alliance with Chavez.

Despite such opposition to re-election, a Supreme Court filled with current President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s allies later amended the Constitution to allow him another term.

Early Monday, Castro thanked Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Twitter for a message in which he congratulated her.

The election took place against the backdrop of poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which added to anger driven by scandals that helped force a record number of migrants to travel to the United States.

Castro, who had run for president twice before, seized the unpopularity of the outgoing Hernandez, who has been implicated in a drug trafficking case in a US federal court.

Hernandez has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but his party’s candidate Asfura did much to distance himself from the president during the election campaign. Castro’s husband Zelaya was also implicated by a witness in a US court for accepting drug bribes. He dismissed the charge.

Asfura urged voters to show patience in a post on social media, but stopped admitting.

The fate of Honduras’ congress with 128 members remained in the air with no preliminary results announced by the Electoral Council. If the National Party can retain control, it could complicate the life of a Castro administration.

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Reporting by Gustavo Palencia and David Alire Garcia; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel, William Maclean

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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