Hondurans weary of corruption look for change in election

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For many Hondurans, Sunday’s election will be about snatching power from a party whose successive administration has been widely blamed for deepening corruption and prompting thousands to flee the country to the United States. Is.

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More important to him is expelling President Juan Orlando Hernández’s National Party after 12 years, which takes over when power is gone. Such is the animosity towards Hernandez that for many years, migrants out of Honduras chanted “Get out of JOH!” slogan of. Referring to his initials.

There are many complaints against Hernandez and his party. An already difficult life has become even more difficult for many. Honduras was hit by two devastating storms in 2020. According to the National Institute of Statistics, the pandemic raised unemployment to 10.9% last year. According to the World Bank, the economy has declined by 9%. And the street gangs rule the area through terror.

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Hernandez has also become a national embarrassment. US federal prosecutors in New York have accused him of running a narco state and fueling his political rise with drug money. Hernandez has denied all this and has not been formally charged, but that could change once he steps down.

And many believe that Hernandez is not legitimately their president. A friendly court lifted the constitutional ban on re-election and Hernandez won a 2017 contest full of irregularities that were nonetheless quickly recognized by the Trump administration.

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So in Sunday’s election the National Party’s candidate, Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasri Asafura, faces significant hurdles as Hernandez’s chosen successor.

Honduran prosecutors also accused him of private access to more than $1 million in public money, but the Supreme Court put the case on hold until a type of comptroller court investigates.

Try as you might, Asafura couldn’t shake Hernandez’s stigma. At a recent rally in Tegucigalpa, Asafura pleaded, “I am different.”

The strength of the National Party is its ability to distribute benefits and mobilize voters, including about 200,000 government employees, and Asafura is still in the running. Of the 14 candidates, whoever receives the most votes on Sunday wins; There is no runoff.

The poll gave Shiomara Castro the best chance to defeat Asafura. This is Castro’s third attempt. She lost to Hernandez in her first run and then dropped out in 2017, when she was joined by Coalition-backed television personality Salvador Nasralla, who dropped out to support her this year.

The 62-year-old candidate of the left-wing Liberty and Refoundation Party is the wife of former President Jose Manuel Jelaya, who stirred both the US and Honduran establishments by forming close ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. coup in 2009. Officials justified his removal, alleging that he had planned to violate the same constitutional ban on re-election that Hernandez later ignored.

He has also been accused of corruption. When a Honduran drug trafficker was sentenced to life in the United States in 2019, US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said he had paid millions in bribes to government officials, including $2 million to Zelaya, Zelaya denied an allegation.

Castro’s campaign has focused on the need to remove the existing power infrastructure and connect Asafura to Hernandez at every opportunity.

“They call Honduras a narco state because of this mafia that controls us and because of which they also say we are the most corrupt country in Latin America,” Castro said at a recent campaign event. “This is a moment to say enough about the misery, poverty and exclusion our country is experiencing right now.”

Over the years, US relations with Honduras have been governed by Honduras’ willingness to cooperate in the War on Drugs, as a major transshipment point for cocaine headed north and to help prevent migration. . But US prosecutors have shown that while the government was aiding the intervention, its politicians were benefiting from drug proceeds and helping protect other shipments, most notably those of former lawmaker Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez. In the case, the president’s brother, who was sentenced to life in prison in the United States.

The Biden administration continues to contend with Central American migrants arriving at the southwest border, many of whom are from Honduras. Vice President Kamala Harris has cited corruption in the region as one of the major problems driving that movement.

According to Vanderbilt University’s America’s Barometer Pulse of Democracy 2021 report released this month, more than half of those polled in the nation of 9.3 million expressed a desire to live or work abroad – 30 percent more than in 2004 .

In addition to the president, Hondurans would elect a new Congress and their representatives for the Central American Parliament.

Luis Vasquez, 43, a systems technician in Tegucigalpa, said he was overwhelmed by all the candidates.

“There is no substitute for offers that we can rely on; It is just that much,” he said. But he was sure that his vote would not go to the National Party, “because the high level of corruption has shown.”

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Sherman reported from Mexico City.

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Juan Orlando Hernandez

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