Tegucigalpa, Honduras — Left-wing opposition candidate Xiomara Castro scored a major lead early Monday as Hondurans appeared set to oust the conservative National Party from power after 12 years of continuous rule.
Castro will be the country’s first female president.
Castro declared himself the winner, despite orders from the National Electoral Council for political parties to wait for official results.
“We will win! We will win!” Castro, the former First Lady of Honduras, who is running for her third presidency, cheered Liberty and Re-Foundation Party supporters when only a fraction of the ballots were tallied. “Today people have got justice. We have reversed authoritarianism.”
The National Party also quickly declared victory for its candidate, Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasri Asafura, but early returns were not promising.
As of early Monday, Castro’s early lead was intact. With 51% of the polling station, Castro received 53% and Asafura 33% of the vote, according to preliminary calculations by the National Electoral Council. With over 1.8 million votes counted, Castro had a margin of over 350,000 votes. The council said the turnout was over 68%.
After a long night of celebration, the capital slowly woke up on Monday. The streets were devoid of normal work week traffic and instead conveyed the calm serenity of a holiday morning. As newspapers piled up around the city, it was clear that the country’s major outlets could not resist Castro’s victory, despite warnings from the National Electoral Council to wait for official results.
Along Morzan Boulevard, where thousands attended early morning, businesses remained aboard, still unsure whether it was safe to open. Graffiti pointed a finger at the National Party, urging its leaders, especially incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández, to hurry toward an exit.
Vanessa Soler, 20, hurried to work in the city of Tegucigalpa. A broad smile was evident even under his face mask when asked about the upcoming election results.
“It’s great,” Soler said. “It did justice, he respected the verdict of the people.”
Like many interviewed on Monday, Soler expressed relief that the election had not turned violent. And with such a wide gap he expected the other side to be bound to recognize the result.
As for what is likely to be Honduras’ first female president, Soler smiled again: “Now we women are going to rule.”
Jose Lagos tied a knot of men sipping coffee and talking about the election in the capital’s central plaza.
“You have to respect whoever wins,” Lagos said. He said the 12-year tenure of the National Party was a long time. “A female president is what Honduras needs.”
On Sunday night, thousands packed Morzan Boulevard, blowing car horns, waving red flags of the Libre Party and setting off fireworks. After midnight, the street filled with Castro’s celebratory supporters.
Fearing vandalism, some businesses along the boulevard had their windows covered with wood or metal sheets, but the celebration appeared peaceful.
In 2017, after a long election filled with irregularities, protesters took to the streets and the government imposed a curfew. Three weeks later now-incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández was declared the winner despite the Organization of the American States Observation Mission being called to re-election. At least 23 people were killed.
Late on Sunday, Castro promised a permanent dialogue with the people of Honduran and said that from Monday he wanted to begin dialogue with all sectors of society and international organizations to find solutions for the Central American country, which Recovering from major storms, plagued by gangs and enduring corruption and high poverty. Her husband, the former president, who was ousted by a military coup in 2009, did not appear on stage with her, but her son and daughter were there.
Salvador Nasralla, who lost to Hernandez in 2017, ended his candidacy and joined his coalition in October, when Castro received late support. The move took a three-way run that could have favored Asafura just two.
Castro sparked a wave of dissatisfaction with the National Party’s rule. Hernandez became a national embarrassment with US federal prosecutors in New York accused of running a narco state and fueling his own political rise with drug money. Hernandez has denied all this and has not been formally charged, but that could change once he steps down.
In addition to a new president, Hondurans on Sunday elected a new Congress, new representatives to the Central American Parliament and a slew of local races.
The organization for the American States Observation Mission said in a statement late Sunday that the vote appeared to be “fair and peaceful.”
Sunday’s turnout was 10 points higher than the 2017 turnout.
Credit: www.nbcnews.com /