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From first lady to virtual winner of the elections: the challenges of Xiomara Castro in Honduras and her commitment to a democratic socialist state

Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, from the left-wing Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party, has virtually become the elected president of Honduras, in the elections held on Sunday, November 28.

According to the results of the National Electoral Council (CNE), with 61.83% of the acts transmitted, Castro obtains 51.88% of the votes and has an advantage of more than 16 points over his closest contender, the official candidate. Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura, from the National Party of Honduras (PNH), who has achieved 35.22%.

Although the victory is not yet final nor has it been declared by the CNE, the president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, has already recognized Castro’s triumph, through a message to the nation.

“I want to congratulate her on her electoral triumph,” said the president, who also indicated that his commitment “to achieve a peaceful and democratic transition” continued.

The victory was also recognized by Asfura. “I congratulate her on her triumph and as president-elect I hope that God enlightens her and guides her so that in her Administration she does the best for the benefit of all of us Hondurans,” said the official candidate in a video, in which he commented that he already gave the message personally to his contestant.

With his triumph, Castro, who in addition to Libre was presented for the alliance of this party with the National Opposition Union of Honduras (UNOH), becomes the first president of the Central American country.

Activism after the coup

Castro, 62, is the wife of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, overthrown in a coup in 2009, to whom she has been married since 1976. The couple have four children: Zoe, Héctor Manuel, Hortensia Xiomara and José Manuel; and five grandchildren.

This woman has a degree in business administration and, in the private sphere, was in charge of the businesses of family farming and livestock companies.

After the coup, Castro led the demonstrations for the restoration of constitutional order in Honduras. Although Zelaya’s return to the presidency was not achieved, that protest movement was transformed into the Libertad y Refundación (Libre) party in 2011, which her husband has presided over since its foundation.

Libre, since then and succeeding now, he sought to break with the bipartisanism that has prevailed in Honduras for more than 100 years, with the PNH and the Liberal Party (PLH), which have governed the country since the end of the 19th century.

In 2013, Castro participated for the first time as a presidential candidate, representing Libre, but lost against the now outgoing president.

In the 2017 elections, although she won the internal elections to be the candidate of the left, she gave up her place when the Opposition Alliance against the Dictatorship between Libre and the Innovation and Unity Party was formed, which chose Salvador Nasralla as a candidate for the Presidency . However, he lost to Hernández, who was reelected.

Main challenges

Poverty, inequality, informal jobs, corruption, violence and the covid-19 are some of the crises that affect Hondurans, who are forced to leave the country, in a forced migration, in search of opportunities.

The caravans of migrants to the US do not stop. According to the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) at the end of fiscal year 2021, last September, it was reported that 308,931 Hondurans were arrested, who tried to cross the southern border of the North American country in the last 12 months .

In 2019 Honduras registered a poverty rate of 59.3%, which increased in 2020 to 70% and which at the end of this year could reach 75%.

According to data from the World Bank, Honduras experienced between 2017 and 2019 the second highest economic growth rate in Central America, surpassed only by Panama; with 4.8% increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017, 3.7% in 2018 and 2.7% in 2019.

However, in 2020, like almost all countries in the world, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the Honduran economy contracted, reaching -9%, according to a bulletin from the Central Bank of Honduras.

Despite the sustained increase in the years leading up to the pandemic, the country faces high levels of poverty and inequality. According to a bulletin from the state National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH), in 2019 Honduras registered a poverty rate of 59.3%, which increased in 2020 to 70% and that at the end of this year could reach 75% .

In addition to this, close to the entire employed population, 81.4%, has informal employment, according to figures from the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Violence is another scourge that affects Hondurans. According to Bulletin 56 of the Observatory of Violence of the Autonomous University of Honduras, published in June 2021, throughout 2019 the following were recorded:

4,099 homicides in the country, 365 more than the previous year.An average of 11 homicides per dayThe national rate was 44.8 violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

All these situations are the cause of forced migration experienced by Hondurans. The Democracy, Peace and Security University Institute of the Autonomous University of Honduras, in a 2018 text, points out that this is also due to “deficits in democracy, development” and “is the result of exclusion and corruption.”

In the document they indicate that in the last four decades, those who have governed “sold state assets, some undervalued and others intentionally bankrupt to favor different power groups” and “privatized or disappeared state companies […] all dedicated to inclusive development. “Likewise, they mention the concessions to private companies of” airports, ports, highways, “companies to which a tax” exemption “regime was approved.

In relation to covid-19, according to official figures from the Ministry of Health, until November 17, 377,293 positive cases of coronavirus had been registered in this Central American country and until then there had been 10,373 people died from this cause.

Until the same date, in this country, of almost 10 million inhabitants, 7,743,055 doses of drugs against the coronavirus had been applied, but only 3,212,890 people had the complete scheme of the two vaccines.

“Construction of the democratic socialist state”

The arrival of Castro to power, in addition to breaking with bipartisanship, puts an end to the Hernández era, a president who is singled out in US courts for having alleged links to drug trafficking.

Castro has also said that with his triumph they will reverse “12 years of tears and pain”, which are counted from the 2009 coup.

“We are going to form a government of reconciliation in our country, a government of peace and justice, we are going to initiate a process with all of Honduras to guarantee a participatory democracy”

Sunday night heralded the beginning of an era of “prosperity” and “solidarity”, through the “dialogue with all sectors, without discrimination and without sectarianism “.

“We are going to form a government of reconciliation in our country, a government of peace and justice, we are going to initiate a process with all of Honduras to guarantee a participatory democracy, a direct democracy, because let’s go to the popular consultations. That will be a rule to govern, “he said.

In his government plan, presented for these elections, Castro proposes the “construction of a democratic socialist state.”

Although the document talks about the convocation of a National Constituent Assembly (ANC), in an interview with RT, ex-president Zelaya said this “is not a proposal that is in force”, since when they made alliances, with movements “of the center right and right”, it was indicated that at that time there were no conditions for develop said assembly.

Among other things, the government plan also proposes repealing laws such as those that facilitated the creation of Zones of Employment and Economic Development (ZEDE), considering that they give protection to corrupt and drug traffickers.

The laws under which the dictatorship operates must be repealed, and to restore lost civil rights, a purpose that others could share, “says the document.

It also proposes the creation of an International Commission against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras, under the advice of the United Nations.

“To combat corruption, it is necessary to change the system that reproduces it, re-found the basic functions of the State, justice and republican institutions, with whose breakdown and disaster began this drift in 2009,” he mentions in the text.

A US-controlled military base and a coup: a reminder of what happened in Honduras (and what is coming with Xiomara Castro)A US-controlled military base and a coup: a reminder of what happened in Honduras (and what is coming with Xiomara Castro)

Among other promises is the creation of an alternative economic model that is based on strengthening and growing the role of the state in the economy, especially in strategic areas and public services, and formulation and execution of public policies aimed at strengthening the different types of companies and property. In this same matter he will work for “no more monopolies or oligopolies, or tax exemptions or exemptions that constitute unnecessary privileges for development.”

It also raises the rescue and strengthening the public health system, substantially increasing the health budget, and ensuring vaccination against the coronavirus, accessing other providers such as mainland China and Cuba; transform the education system, orienting it towards a sustainable social development, in addition to guaranteeing free and universal education; in labor matters, a fair, decent and remunerative salary for all; and in terms of security, solve the structural socio-economic causes of crime and violence, ensuring study opportunities for young people and employment for all.

Edgar Romero G.

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Donna Miller

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