Honduras election challenges long-ruling National Party

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Fears of a rigged vote and reports of pre-poll threats to the opposition have created high tension.

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Honduras is poised for potential violence as more than five million people have voted to replace President Juan Orlando Hernández, a controversial figure of drug trafficking in the United States.

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Left opposition candidate Xiomara Castro of the LIBRE party led opinion polls last month, but the ruling right-wing National Party (PN) – whose candidate is charismatic Tegucigalpa mayor Nasri Asafura – has benefited from better organization and more resources to run. Its campaign.

Fears of election rigging and reports of pre-poll intimidation have created tension in the opposition for Sunday’s election.

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Four years ago, Hernandez ran and won a second consecutive unconstitutional term amid cries of deceit from the opposition and international observers.

This led to widespread protests, after which over 30 people were killed in the government’s action.

The country has been ravaged by violent gangs, drug trafficking and hurricanes, with 59 percent of its 10 million population living in poverty.

security measures

Voting opened at 7 a.m. (13:00 GMT) and closed at 5 p.m. in a single round of voting. Around 18,000 police and an equal number of personnel will be on duty across the country.

“We are positioned to guarantee the Honduran people that there will be security and peace,” Armed Forces General Tito Livio Moreno told a news conference.

The PN has been in power ever since Manuel Zelaya – Castro’s husband – was overthrown in a 2009 coup backed by the military, the business elite and the political right.

Corruption and drug trafficking scandals have gripped many of his inner circle, including Hernandez and Asafura, in recent years.

Soldiers patrolling Cantarans a day before the general election [Moises Castillo/AP]

Hernandez’s brother Tony is serving a life sentence in a US prison for drug trafficking.

The drug baron the president helped extradite to the US has accused him of engaging in the illegal trade.

Meanwhile, Asafura was accused of embezzling $700,000 of public money in 2020 and also linked to impact-pedaling in Costa Rica at the Pandora Papers.

The Liberal Party’s Yankee Rosenthal, the third leading candidate out of 13 running for the presidency, spent three years in US prison after admitting to laundering drug-trafficking money.

These scandals have cemented former First Lady Castro’s hand, and she scored 12 to 17 percent in some opinion polls in October.

financial concern

Jobs are the biggest concern for many voters.

According to a study by the Autonomous University, unemployment rose from 5.7 percent in 2019 to 10.9 percent in 2020, mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The country was also devastated by two storms in 2020.

Alvin Aguilar, 32, begging for money at a traffic light with his eight-month-old daughter in his arms, said he hoped the new government would provide “work and everything else”.

“Shiomara [Castro]”She can change things in the country,” Luis Andino, 27, told AFP news agency as he stood among a group of people outside the National Trade Institute, which is helping motorists qualify for driving licenses. was trying to offer.

Karen Amador, 22, a street vendor selling baladas, a typical Honduran stuffed tortilla, said she would not vote because “none of them have anything to offer Honduras”.

Honduran will also elect 128 members of the National Congress and 20 representatives to the Central American Parliament.

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