Honduras set for first female president as Castro holds wide lead

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With more than half the votes counted, Xiomara Castro took a 20 percentage point lead over the ruling party’s candidate Asafura.

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Former Honduran first lady and leftist opposition candidate Xiomara Castro is set to become the country’s first female president, returning the left to power 12 years after her husband was overthrown in a coup as a result.


With more than half the votes counted, Castro had the support of at least 53 percent and a nearly 20 percentage point lead over Nasri Asafura of the ruling National Party, according to a live count by Honduras’s National Electoral Council (CNE). .

Castro, whose husband Manuel Zelaya was ousted from the presidency in a 2009 coup backed by the business and military elite, claimed victory late on Sunday, even as CNE said the final vote was held. No result will be declared till counting.

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With over 1.8 million votes counted, Castro had a margin of at least 350,000 votes. Major Honduran news outlets have called the race a victory for the 62-year-old Castro, despite warnings from CNE to wait for official results.

The council said the turnout was over 68 percent.

Jubilant celebrations began at Castro’s campaign headquarters as the vote count and his lead began, with supporters chanting “JOH OUT” in reference to the National Party’s two-term president, Juan Orlando Hernández.

Hernandez is deeply unpopular and has been implicated in a United States federal court for drug trafficking. He denies wrongdoing, but could face indictment when he steps down.

Castro said in a campaign speech, “I strongly believe that the democratic socialism I propose is the solution to lift Honduras out of the abyss we have been buried by neoliberalism, a narco-dictatorship and corruption.” Is.”

Castro, who will be the first female president of the Central American nation, has promised major changes, including a constitutional change, UN support in the fight against corruption, and loosened abortion restrictions.

It has also pitched the idea of ​​dropping diplomatic support for Taiwan in favor of China, a policy proposal keenly watched in Washington, Beijing and Taipei.

Business leaders immediately congratulated and Castro promised to work “hands-on” with the private sector. “We are going to form a government of reconciliation, a government of peace and justice,” Castro said.

However, critics have sought to portray him as a dangerous fanatic, recalling Zelaya’s closeness to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

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

The election took place against a backdrop of deep socioeconomic problems and poverty, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which helped record numbers of Hondurans to leave the US.

Al Jazeera’s Manuel Rapalo, reporting from the capital Tegucigalpa on Sunday evening, said the vote took place in “one of the most polarized political environments in recent memory” – and “many were concerned that violence could spread to the streets”.

Many voters who expressed distrust in the electoral system, Rapallo explained, marred the 2017 vote after allegations of fraud in which the ruling National Party claimed victory, sparked protests.

Honduras has been hit hard by mass violence, drug trafficking and hurricanes, with 59 percent of the country’s 10 million people living in poverty.

“We’ve tried this government for 12 years and things are going from bad to worse,” Luis Gomez, 26, told AFP news agency in the Tegucigalpa neighborhood of La Sousa. “We look forward to doing something new.”

Castro, who had previously sought the presidency twice, captured the unpopularity of the outgoing Hernandez, while National Party candidate Asafura was at pains to keep his distance from the president during the election campaign.

Asafura was accused of embezzling $700,000 in public money in 2020, and the so-called Pandora Papers linking him to impact-pedaling in Costa Rica.

The third leading candidate for the presidency, Rosenthal of the Liberal Party, spent three years in US prison on charges of money laundering. As per the preliminary election results, he secured only nine per cent marks.

Asafura urged voters to show patience in a social media post, but stopped short of accepting.

The fate of the 128-member Congress of Honduras also remained up in the air as it was not published on Monday. If the National Party takes control, it could complicate things for the Castro administration.


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