3rd December 2021
Xiomara Castro, the leader of the left-wing Libre Party and wife of former President Manuel Zelaya (2006-2009), is set to become the first female President of Honduras following a general election on 28 November that external observers described as “largely peaceful” despite the violence that preceded it (as reported in our previous issue). Although Castro and Nasry Asfura, the Mayor of Tegucigalpa (the country’s capital city) and nominee of the Nacional Party to succeed term-limited incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández, both initially declared victory on election night, the tabulation of the first half of the votes by the National Electoral Council showed Castro with a nearly 20% lead over Asfura. Accordingly, two days later, on 30 November, Asfura announced his concession, following a meeting with Castro during which he “personally congratulated” her, saying, “I hope that God illuminates and guides her so that her administration does the best for the benefit of all of us Hondurans to achieve development and the desire for democracy.” Castro faces an uphill battle in terms of fulfilling the ambitious promises that propelled her to victory: rescuing the economy by reining in both the budget and inflation, fighting corruption by inviting a UN taskforce into the country to help her do the job, and battling the organised crime and related violence that induces mass migration northward. In addition to the state’s security apparatus remaining predominately loyal to Nacional, Castro will have to contend with Nacional at the legislative level, as well as dissent within her own coalition, which is a big tent of opposition figures and parties that came together to oust Nacional, but do not seem to agree on much else. At the international level, it will be interesting to see if Castro follows through on her pledge to switch Honduras’ recognition of “China” from Taipei to Beijing, which could raise the ire of the US, Honduras’ largest trading partner. Meanwhile, since Castro will not be inaugurated until sometime in January, Hernández still has time to make decisions with effects that will reach far into Castro’s tenure, such as Central Bank appointments and infrastructure deals.
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