Honduras is preparing to change course radically. If the vote count does not take an unexpected turn, after 12 years of conservative rule, the Central American country, the second poorest on the continent after Haiti, has turned left and has chosen a woman to lead the country for the next four years. According to provisional data, it is a victory by a landslide by more than 20 points against the conservative candidate Nasry Asfura with 51.4% of the votes counted. The count was stopped on Monday, although the advisers of the electoral body indicated that it was due to a delay in the arrival of the minutes that had not been able to be transmitted digitally.
Xiomara Castro’s victory is also supported by a historic turnout that exceeded 68%, a particularly high figure in a context of apathy at the polls. After two attempts at the top of the list, the 62-year-old Castro returns to power as president, after being overthrown as first lady.
“Twelve years … Twelve years …”, Xiomara Castro began Sunday night in front of his followers amid nostalgic pauses. Her first words as president could not allude to any other memory than the night of June 2009 when her husband Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by a coup that removed him from power and out of the country in pajamas. His victory closes a long journey through the desert of the Honduran left trying to regain the presidency. A time when the opposition fled into exile, later lived an illegitimate reelection and finally an electoral fraud while dragging its cause around the world with little success. With these wickers, as soon as the first official data was known, towns and cities throughout the country exploded in a party in which they shouted over and over again “they are leaving, they are leaving” and “yes it could”. On Sunday night in the streets the catchy electoral music of the campaign “Juanchi is going to New York, the gringos are waiting for him” was played again, alluding to the current president Juan Orlando Hernández and the links with drug trafficking that were heard about him in an American court during the trial against his brother Tony.
At 9:33 p.m. (almost 5:00 p.m. Spanish time), Xiomara Castro took the microphone and in front of his followers dedicated the victory “to the martyrs who offered their lives so that the people could have freedom, democracy and justice,” he said in reference to the many times that his movement was repressed by soldiers and police. “God delays, but does not forget,” he said.
Castro’s speech was that of an “elected president”, as it was presented, who has managed to convince the countryside and the middle classes, tired of the scandalous corruption and links with drug trafficking that range from the president to a large number of deputies . “Never again will power be abused in this country,” he insisted. We are going for a direct and participatory democracy ”, he pointed out in reference to the Constituent Assembly with which he promises to re-found the country.
The daughter of a landowner from Olancho, the first time that most Hondurans heard about Xiomara Castro was in the summer of 2009, when she mobilized to defend the government of her husband, expelled after a civil-military agreement for flirting with Chávez and Cuba and breaking a good number of laws. Until that day, Castro had flawlessly fulfilled the role that Latin America reserves for presidential wives: smiling, opening hospitals and visiting the poor, who in Honduras make up 70% of the population. However, after the fall of her husband, she took a step forward, which continues to this day.
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During those turbulent days after the coup, while her husband protested in exile, she led The resistance, and on many occasions she was humiliated by the uniformed men whom she always faced peacefully and accompanied by her children. With a soft tone, moderate speech and unsophisticated Castro has gone from a discreet woman who walked two steps behind her husband to leading the return of the left to power. In the social sphere, in his program he has promised to promote a minimum abortion (rape, risk for the mother and unviable fetus) in one of the few countries in the world that prohibits abortion in any circumstance. Politically, he is committed to a new Constituent Assembly, for which he needs broad support in Congress. Economically, their proposals are so vague that there is room for everything, from support to small businesses to plans for young people with which to stop the caravans that empty the country. In the international arena, his party, Libre, is part of the São Paulo Forum that brings together the main leftist formations on the continent from the FARC of Colombia to the indigenism of Evo Morales. Honduras is one of the 15 countries in the world that, in exchange for money and aid, maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, dispensing with China, but Castro’s team has dropped that it could change partners and open the doors to China where It was America’s backyard.
Castro faces a titanic challenge. On January 27, he will take over the reins of a socially broken country that in the last year has suffered two hurricanes in a row, and in which gas, gasoline and the most basic foods have not stopped rising. For years, Honduras has been a machine for expelling caravans of young people to the United States and if nothing remedies it, after a 7.5% drop in the economy, it will end the year with 700,000 new poor, according to the World Bank. The collective disenchantment coexists with a cruel neoliberal system where Honduran environmentalists are the most assassinated in the world, gasoline ($ 1.15 per liter) or electricity have almost European prices, extractivist companies pierce the country and build hydroelectric plants controlled by deputies who grant the concessions to themselves. To deal with all this, Castro has a team inherited from her husband’s stage in which there are from nostalgic for Castroism “officials capable of putting on a tie to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund,” reveals a source close to his team . Vice President Salvador Nasralla adds the conservative note in the Cabinet.
Beyond Honduras, the turn to the left shakes the Central American chessboard. Her husband, Manuel Zelaya and Daniel Ortega are good friends, and the rancher from Olancho does not forget that the Sandinista welcomed him and took him for a walk when he left power in 2009. He traveled with him in his Mercedes Benz when Zelaya threatened more than once with return to Tegucigalpa from neighboring Managua during the provisional government of Roberto Micheletti. At the same time, he shares closeness with Nayib Bukele, who is united by his hatred of Juan Orlando.
The day of Sunday leaves a great defeat that is the outgoing president Juan Orlando Hernández. With one of the lowest popularity ratings on the continent, Hernández will have to confront, now away from power, the accusations of the US justice system. Although he has no open case, his name appears 104 times in the trial against his brother in which he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for drug trafficking.
In the street, the sensation of Xiomara Castro’s victory came amidst the strangeness of a victory that did not involve riots or a heavy count. Accustomed to the stress of voting day, the publication of the results was a balm for the battered country that laughed again in the streets after a year full of misfortunes. The previous tension conveyed the feeling that it was the last chance to drive so much fed up on peaceful channels.
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