Honduran presidential candidate Xiomara Castro appeared poised to return the left to power 12 years after her husband was ousted in a coup, even as the counting of votes for Sunday’s elections unexpectedly stopped for hours on Monday.
Castro, who would be the first female president of the Central American nation, has promised major changes in Honduras, including constitutional reform, United Nations support in the fight against corruption, and looser restrictions on abortion.
He has also raised the idea of abandoning diplomatic support for Taiwan in favor of China, a political proposal that is being watched closely in Washington, Beijing and Taipei.
With just over half of the votes counted, Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, had an advantage of almost 20 points over the conservative Nasry Asfura, the mayor of the capital Tegucigalpa and candidate of the ruling National Party, who won the 34% according to a preliminary count. However, the count had not been updated for more than 10 hours as of Monday afternoon.
Former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís, head of the Organization of American States’ observation mission in the country, said he saw nothing wrong with the delay and hoped the electoral council would clarify the matter soon.
“If there is no explanation, people get a little nervous,” he told Reuters, noting that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the record turnout and the lack of political violence.
Celebrations erupted at Castro’s campaign headquarters Sunday night as his vote lead was maintained, with supporters dancing, waving flags and yelling “JOH out!” in reference to the two-term president Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party.
Hernández is deeply unpopular and has been implicated in a drug trafficking case in a US federal court. He denies wrongdoing, but could face indictment when he leaves office.
“We have reversed authoritarianism,” Castro told supporters late Sunday, surrounded by faithful, aides and family members of her Libre party, including her husband Zelaya, who was overthrown when business and military elites allied against him. , ushering in a dozen years of law. -Wing of government of the National Party.
Zelaya was also implicated by a witness in a United States court of having accepted a drug bribe. He denied the accusation.
A self-proclaimed democratic socialist in a country where the left has rarely been popular and few women hold public office, Castro has won the support of Hondurans weary of corruption and concentration of power since 2009.
“Everyone could not bear this government, too many years, too much corruption,” said Franklin Membreño, 42, who owns a small clothing store in Tegucigalpa. “I think the only people who supported the National Party were public employees.”
‘Peace and justice’
The results of the presidential elections initially came quickly, in contrast to four years ago, when a narrow result and delays in the count led to a controversial result and deadly protests after widespread accusations of cheating.
But the results for Congress, previously under the strict control of the National Party, have yet to be released. Poor performance in Congress could complicate the life of a Castro administration.
If Castro keeps his campaign promises, he could begin to reverse the weakening of the Honduran justice system that has benefited corrupt groups and criminals, a trend that has been seen in Central America in recent years.
His manifesto states that he will request help from the United Nations to build an agency to fight corruption, while also creating more independence for prosecutors.
Corporate leaders like Juan Carlos Sikaffy, head of the main business lobby COHEP, quickly offered their congratulations, calling Castro “president-elect” in a post on Twitter; Castro has promised to work “hand in hand” with the private sector.
Carlos Garcia, a 43-year-old store worker in Tegucigalpa, said Monday that he believed Castro’s seemingly wide margin of victory was controlling post-election violence.
“Their victory was overwhelming, so they couldn’t commit fraud,” he said, referring to the ruling conservatives.
Kayla Patricia Sánchez, a 30-year-old street food vendor, was relieved that the horrific consequences of the disputed 2017 vote were not repeated.
“Thank goodness there wasn’t a big mess so I was able to go out to work today,” he said, placing corn tortillas on a small grill.
Critics have painted Castro as a dangerous radical, recalling Zelaya’s closeness to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
A referendum planned by Zelaya on constitutional reform that included allowing the reelection of a president for a second term was a catalyst for the coup against him, with elites uncomfortable with their alliance with Chávez.
Despite such resistance to reelection, a high court packed with allies of President Hernández later changed the constitution to allow him a second term.
On Monday, Castro thanked Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Twitter for a congratulatory message.
The vote took place against a backdrop of poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, adding to anger fueled by the scandals, all of which helped fuel a record exodus of migrants bound for the United States.
Castro, who has run for the presidency twice before, including a short stint in 2017 before he retired to endorse another candidate, took advantage of the outgoing Hernández’s unpopularity.
The candidate of the National Party, Asfura, stayed away from the president during the electoral campaign.
Asfura urged voters to show patience in a social media post, but did not budge.