Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Left claims victory in Honduran vote, setting off showdown | NWN News

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (NWN) — Left-wing opposition candidate Xiomara Castro claimed victory in Honduras’ presidential election on Sunday, setting off a showdown with the National Party, which said its candidate had won a vote that rivaled that of the conservative party. Could have ended 12 years in power.

“We will win! We will win!” Castro, the former First Lady of Honduras, who is running her third presidential election, cheered Liberty and Re-Foundation Party supporters. “Today people have done justice. We have reversed authoritarianism.”

Honduras’ long-ruling National Party announced on its Twitter account that its candidate, Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasri Asafura, had won.

But preliminary results released by the Electoral Council late Sunday showed that with 40% of the vote, Castro received 53% and Asafura 34%. The council said the turnout was over 68%.

Thousands packed the capital’s Morzan Boulevard with car horns honking, Libre Party red flags waving and fireworks. Near midnight, the street filled with celebratory supporters of Castro.

Fearing vandalism, some businesses along the boulevard had their windows covered with wood or metal sheets, but the celebration appeared peaceful.

The National Party said it would hold a press conference on Monday.

The competing claims of victory came hours after the National Election Council reminded parties that such announcements are prohibited and violators will be fined. The claims sparked fears of street protests and violence.

In 2017, after a long election filled with irregularities, protesters filled the streets and the government imposed a curfew. Three weeks later now-incumbent President Orlando Hernandez was declared the winner despite the Organization of 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 The chief is recovering from the storm, 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 accompany her on stage.

Castro sparked a wave of discontent with the 12-year rule of the National Party. 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.

And many believe that Hernandez is not legitimately their president. A friendly court lifted the constitutional ban on re-election and Hernandez won a 2017 contest riddled with irregularities that were nonetheless quickly recognized by the US Trump administration.

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.

Earlier, in the capital’s violence-hit Riparto Abajo neighborhood, at least 200 voters queued around the block waiting for their chance as of Sunday evening. Voting was originally scheduled to close at 5 p.m., but the National Election Council and international observers called for all of them to be allowed to vote.

An increasingly animated crowd at the Republic of Chile school gate fought over whether voting should continue.

Some shouted: “We want to vote!” Others shouted: “Time to shut down!” The parties appeared to be partisan with the National Party militants who wanted to stop the voting and their rivals who wanted to continue it.

Throughout the day, election observers and candidates called for peaceful voting and respect for the process.

Luis Guillermo Solis, former President of Costa Rica and leader of the observation mission of the Organization of American States, said late on Sunday morning, “We’ve already been to different (polling) centers and we’re seeing more or less the same, long lines. People are exercising their civil rights.”

The council also confirmed in a statement that a webpage allowing voters to view it had been down and preliminary investigations suggested an attack on the server. The complaints about the site crashing started from Saturday.

Voting was going peacefully in the San Pablo neighborhood, not far from the tense scene at a Chilean school.

Emily Armijo was one of the last to cast her vote. She had come running knowing that her polling place had changed and she feared that she would lose her first opportunity to vote.

Armijo, who studies medicine and nutrition, said a party and family commitments kept her from voting until late at night.

“I think we need a change,” Armijo said. She said that often in Honduras only bad things are noticed. “So this voting action today will be an opportunity to change that.”

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Associated Press journalist Marlon Gonzalez in Tegucigalpa contributed to this report.

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