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Left party wins election in Honduras, 12/15/2021
by Otto Konig and Richard Detje
Xiomara Castro is the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted from office in 2009. She is supported by an alliance of the parties Libre, Salvador de Honduras, parts of the Liberal Party and the small party Pinu. Twelve years after the right-wing coup against then-President Manuel Zelaya, there is a change of power in one of the poorest countries in Latin America.
Left party wins election in Honduras
by Otto König and Richard Detje
[This article published on Dec 15, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, Socialism: Se fueron – They are gone (sozialismus.de)]

Se fueron – You're gone

»Se fueron« – this hashtag is used on social media to celebrate the election victory of the left-wing presidential candidate Xiomara Castro in Honduras. Twelve years after the right-wing coup against then-President Manuel Zelaya, there is a change of power in one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Castro will be the first woman to head Honduras and for the first time the left will lead the government. Around five million Hondurans were called upon to cast their votes for a new president, 128 deputies for the National Congress, 298 mayors and 20 members of the Central American parliament. After counting 98.8% of the votes, the left-wing candidate Xiomara Castro[1] of the libertad y Refundación (Libre) party clearly won the presidential election.

With around 50.6% of the vote, it is not only heading for an absolute majority, it is also 14.2 percentage points ahead of the strongest challenger Nasry Asfura of the right-wing conservative "Partido National" (PNH), which has been in power for twelve years, which currently comes to 36.4%. Far behind is the candidate of the »Liberal Party« (PLH), the banker Yani Rosenthal, who landed with 9.2% of the vote. Asfura has admitted defeat.

Xiomara Castro ran for the Libre party for the second time after 2013 as a presidential candidate. On election night, the winner promised an end to corruption, abuse of power and the rule of organized crime. She announced that she would introduce more direct forms of democracy.

For the Central American country, the election result is a historic turning point. Castro defeated the "narco-dictatorship" of the arch-conservative and corrupt Partido Nacional, which had taken power in 2009 after the coup against the democratically elected Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets for their president, who, among other things, wanted to initiate land reform for the destitute agricultural workers and indigenous peoples, in order to achieve a return to democracy.

The demonstrations were brutally suppressed. The coup was tolerated by the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Europeans, in the wake of the hegemonic power USA, only cautiously insisted on compliance with democratic rules.

Since then, the "Narco" dictator has controlled Juan Orlando Hernández first as president of parliament and then as president of the country. Hernández was not allowed to run again after two consecutive four consecutive terms. When he was re-elected in 2017, the opposition accused his government of electoral fraud. [2]

At the latest since the conviction of his brother Antonio Hernández in a New York court in 2019 for drug trafficking and money laundering on a grand scale has become clear how far politics and institutions in Honduras are involved in organized crime. [3] In the proceedings, the President was named by witnesses as an accomplice and participant in the criminal business, but has not yet been prosecuted (Telepolis, 1.12.2021).

In addition to the president, the deputies of the National Congress and the mayors were also newly elected. Major changes are emerging here: according to the current state of counting, Libre will receive 50 seats in parliament, 44 will be allocated to the National Party, 22 seats for the Liberal Party, ten for the PSH and one MP each to two other parties. Thus, although Libre is the strongest party in the National Congress, it would not form a majority together with the PSH.

According to previous counts, the PNH and the conservative Liberal Party (PLH) as a whole represent the majority of mayors: Of the 298 municipalities, 139 fall to the PNH, 93 to the Liberal Party (PLH) and Libre 50. These include the capital Tegucigalpa and the industrial and commercial city of San Pedro Sula. (America 21, 12/12/2021)

The election was a vote on the eight years of Juan Orlando Hernández's reign, in which he and his clique have largely turned the country into a Mecca of drug cartels. "The state powers are no longer independent; all power is de facto concentrated in the president. Ordinary people have almost no access to justice, human rights violations have increased," says Martha Dubón of the NGO Jueces por la democrácia (Judges for Democracy).

The high voter turnout of over 68% contributed to the deselection of the PNH. This was around ten percentage points higher than the voter turnout in 2017 and is proof that this election was seen by many Hondurans as a fateful election. "For me, this is another historic turning point. The ballot of a betrayed generation that failed twice in elections and the third time voted even more clearly for change and for democracy," emphasizes lawyer and human rights lawyer Joaquín Mejía.

Only a small elite has benefited from Juan Orlando Hernández's neoliberal course, while 70% of the population lives in poverty; one third is chronically malnourished. The official unemployment rate has risen to just over 10% – the actual number is much higher, as in Honduras, as in other Central American countries, large parts of the population are struggling to survive in the so-called informal sector.

The effects of climate change, such as droughts and the two successive hurricanes in 2019, further contributed to the impoverishment of the population and massive migration movements northwards. Every day, around 300 Hondurans leave the country for the USA because of poverty, unemployment, violence and lack of prospects. The migrant caravans set out in the hope that the change of government in the USA would make the borders a little more open to those seeking protection from Central America. The murder rate has risen to 41 per 100,000 inhabitants. There have been 61 politically motivated murders in the last twelve months alone.

The newly elected President Xiomara Castro and her party Libre, which was founded by parts of the resistance movement against the 2009 coup, campaigned for Honduras to be reshaped with a left-wing reform course. The aim is to reverse the neoliberal restructuring and privatizations of the past twelve years.

This also includes the elimination of the CEDAR, the "special zones for work and economic development". The companies that settle there are not only exempt from taxes, but they also take over political, police and judicial control. Existing water and mining concessions are to be reviewed and possibly renegotiated.

Libre is the acronym Libertad and Refundación – for freedom and refoundation. With Castro at the helm, the Central American country wants to take this path. The new president is determined to lead a government of "reparation, peace and justice." She wants to ensure a participatory democracy in which women should play an active role.

Social programs are to be activated, the rule of law restored, and, with the support of an international judicial commission, action is to be taken against corruption and organized crime. Furthermore, the newly elected president is aiming for a referendum on a constituent assembly after taking office in January.

However, analyst Elvin Hernández points out that the new government's room for maneuver is limited: "The problem is that the National Party is leaving behind completely shattered state finances." The public sector is indebted with 16 billion US dollars and the corruption networks would sabotage all reforms to the best of their ability." (NPLA, 1.12.2021) In other words, the reconstruction of the nation is a task that can only be fulfilled by uniting all progressive forces. The election of the left-wing President Xiomara Castro finally gives hope that this can be realized.

Notes

[1] Xiomara Castro is the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted from office in 2009. It is supported by an alliance of the parties Libre, Salvador de Honduras, parts of the Liberal Party and the small party Pinu.
[2] Otto König/Richard Detje: »El pueblo no lo permitirá!« Honduras – Opposition complains of electoral fraud in the presidential elections, Sozialimus.deAktuell
of 5.12.2017. [3] Nasry Asfura is associated with numerous corruption cases. In 2020, he was charged by the Special Prosecutor's Office against Corruption Networks (Uferco) with diverting 28 million Lempira (about 1 million euros) from public coffers. His name also appears in the recently published "Pandora Papers" as a co-owner of an offshore company in Panama. Presidential candidate Yani Rosenthal was convicted of money laundering drug money in the US in December 2017 and was imprisoned there until 2020 (America 21, 20/10/2021).
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