TEGUCHIGALPA, Honduras (NWN) – Honduras’ ruling party admitted defeat on Tuesday in the presidential elections held two days earlier, giving the victory to left-wing opposition candidate Xiomare Castro and allaying fears of a new contested vote and violent protests.
Tegucigalpa’s mayor Nasri Asfour, the National Party presidential candidate, said in a statement that he personally congratulated Castro despite only half of the vote counting in Sunday’s election.
According to the National Electoral Council, the former first lady received 53 percent of the vote, while Asfour received 34 percent, with 52 percent of the vote counted. To announce the winner, he has 30 days from the date of the election.
Asfura said he met with Castro and her family.
“Now I want to say it publicly,” said the conservative candidate. “I congratulate her on her victory and as President-elect, I hope God will enlighten and guide her so that her administration will do everything it can for the good of all of us Hondurans to achieve development and the pursuit of democracy.”
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A few minutes later, Castro was congratulated by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
“The United States congratulates the people of Honduras on their election and Xiomaru Castro on her historic victory as Honduras’ first female president,” Blinken said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the next Honduran government.”
Castro revealed via Twitter that Asfura acknowledged her triumph. “People, I won’t let you down!”
Asfura’s acceptance of the result came as a relief for many Hondurans, who feared contesting the elections following a fiasco in 2017 that led to street protests that killed 23 people. Following this vote, the government imposed a curfew and just three weeks later declared outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez the winner, despite the Organization of American States’ observer mission calling for a re-election.
Fearing a similar protracted electoral standoff and social unrest, many businesses in the Honduran capital closed their windows ahead of the election.
Mabel Plata, a 28-year-old nurse student, said she appreciates Asfura’s recognition of the outcome. “This is a sign that he is a professional and polite person and went to visit Xiomaru for the good of the country.”
Fee couldn’t remember another doing the same. “The majority always declare that they are winners and find it difficult to accept defeat.”
Luis Guillermo Solis, the former President of Costa Rica and head of the Organization of American States observation mission, said on Tuesday in a preliminary report from the regional body that Hondurans had overcome some technical difficulties to vote in large numbers.
“Honduran society voted with conviction, happiness and responsibility in the context of the pandemic and the violence, which was timely denounced by the mission,” Solis said. He said the mission had received no reports of other irregularities or fraud.
Castro straddled a wave of popular discontent over the 12 years of the National Party’s rule, which peaked in Hernandez’s second term.
She will face serious challenges as president of a Central American country. Unemployment is over 10%, northern Honduras was devastated by two severe hurricanes last year, and street gangs are destroying the economy with extortion and violence, leading to migration to the United States.
Veельká Josira Lopez was folding jeans at the stand of the huge street market Comayaguela on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old single mother of two said she did not vote but hopes for a change.
“How am I going to lose a day of work to vote?” Lopez said. “I don’t work, I don’t eat.”
When Lopez contracted COVID-19, she was unable to work for two months. During this time, she sold her bed, refrigerator, TV and mobile phone to buy food and diapers for her children aged 3 to 6.
Lopez makes 200 lempires, about $ 8.25 a day. Of that amount, she pays $ 1.60 just for travel to and from work each day. Her 6-year-old child has not gone to school for over a year.
Lopez hopes that when Castro becomes president, she will bring with her a better understanding of what it takes to raise a family.
“Hopefully with the advent of the woman, there will be a change,” Lopez said. “She has children and all that.”
The Castro government could create problems, but also opportunities for the Biden administration, which sought to keep Hernandez at arm’s length.
Many Castro supporters remember the initial sluggishness of the US government, calling Castro’s husband Manuel Zelaya’s resignation from the presidency in 2009 a coup, and then continuing to work closely with successive National Party presidents. And from the US perspective, Washington remembers how Castro and Zelaya were friends with then Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Analysts say Castro and the US government have common ground in at least three areas: immigration, drug trafficking, and corruption. And with tensions prevailing between Washington and the leaders of El Salvador and Guatemala, the US government could exploit a productive relationship with Honduras.
Despite attempts by opponents to portray Castro as a communist, experts expect her to rule like a centrist, seeking to improve the plight of the poor in Honduras by attracting foreign investment.
Castro’s speech, delivered at her Freedom and Recovery party in June, remains one of her most vivid expressions of how she will deal with the United States.
“In the first 100 days, we will implement and propose to the administration of President Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a plan to combat and address the true causes of migration,” Castro said.
Castro describes the emigration of Hondurans as an escape from inequality, corruption, poverty and violence. This is very similar to Harris’ assessment of the root causes on which the Biden administration wants to focus US aid.
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But Castro also places some of the blame on the US government.
“I believe the Biden administration has tremendous potential to tackle the migration problem,” Castro said in a June speech. “First, the recognition that they are part of the responsibility for what is happening in our country,” she added, noting the 2009 coup.
Castro accused the outgoing Hernandez administration of corruption. It was the Hernandez administration that allowed the Organization of American States’ anti-corruption mission in Honduras to expire in 2020 after its work affected some National Party lawmakers on charges of misusing public funds.
She said she was interested in the return of the international anti-corruption mission to Honduras. This, combined with a strong, independent attorney general, could begin to tackle one of the country’s most serious problems.
The US Federal Attorney’s Office is investigating corruption in drug trafficking cases that have reached senior Honduran politicians. Most notable was the conviction of Brother Hernandez, a former federal lawmaker, on drug trafficking charges for which he was sentenced to life in prison in the United States.
In a speech late Sunday night, Castro told his supporters, “Get out of the war! Get out of the hate! Get away from the death squads! Get out of corruption! Get away from drug trafficking and organized crime! “