HAVANA TIMES – Xiomara Castro, the first woman ever to govern Honduras, will assume her mandate this Thursday, January 27, in a country hit hard by poverty, emigration, drug trafficking and corruption. Meanwhile, she also must quench the crisis in the Honduran Parliament.
In a message on Twitter, the new Honduran president announced: “it’s the beginning of the Government of the People.”
“Twelve years of struggle and twelve years of resistance. Today begins the Government of the People. Good morning, Honduras!” tweeted 62-year-old Castro. Xiomara Castro is the wife of former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, whose government was overturned by a military coup on June 28, 2009.
The new leader will officially assume power at 12 noon local time, in a ceremony to be held at the remodeled Honduran National Stadium in Tegucigalpa. Stadium doors opened at 4 am. She’ll take the oath before 29,000 spectators, including guests of honor US Vice President Kamala Harris and Felipe VI, King of Spain.
Thousands of Hondurans from different regions of the country formed long lines beginning in the wee hours of the morning to witness Castro’s inauguration. Castro won a decisive victory last November 28 in Honduras’ eleventh consecutive general elections, following their return to Constitutional rule in 1980.
Castro will be the first woman in the country’s history to assume the Honduran presidency. In addition, her victory under the banner of the Libertad y Refundacion [“Freedom and Rededication”] or LIBRE Party, founded in 2011, marks the first time that a left-leaning party has won power in Honduras.
“God willing that Mrs. Xiomara makes the situation better for the poorest people. (…) Women are our mothers, and a conscientious mother will get the country moving forward,” stated Santos Barahona, a retired Honduran, in downtown Tegucigalpa.
Facing a rocky start in Congress
Castro won the presidency, but not a majority of seats in the 128-seat legislature. The Honduran Congress remains split between several factions, including the outgoing National Party. In order to move forward with her plans, Castro will need the support of Parliament.
However, her first attempts to cement a Congressional alliance met with disaster, when a group of deputies from her party split off. Two “Congresses” then met separately last weekend, each electing their own Parliamentary President.
Castro supported the candidacy of Luis Redondo from the Honduran Salvation Party (PSH). This had been part of a previous agreement, in order to forge an alliance with that party. The former PSH candidate for the presidency, Salvador Nasralla, had agreed to step down prior to the November election, in order to become Castro’s running mate and thus further assure her victory.
With 30 of the 50 LIBRE deputies supporting Castro’s choice, a reduced group of deputies and alternates met last weekend to ratify Redondo as Congressional Head. Castro then invited him to preside over the inauguration ceremony.
Meanwhile, on the same weekend of January 21–23, a dissenting group of 20 elected LIBRE deputies convened at an alternate site, along with deputies from the rival National Party and the Liberal Party. That group endorsed Jorge Calix, a LIBRE deputy, to lead the Congress.
Calix, who received support from over 70 of the 128 members of Congress, continues to insist that he, not Redondo, is the legally elected President of Congress.
In an attempt to put an end to the crisis, Castro has now offered Calix the position of Cabinet Leader in her new government, but he has yet to accept her offer.
On Friday, January 21, the new president expelled 18 dissident LIBRE deputies from the party, accusing them of allying with the National Party of outgoing president Juan Orlando Hernandez to block the transformations that Castro has promised. Hernandez has been accused by prosecutors in New York of maintaining ties to narcotrafficking. His brother, former Congressman “Tony” Hernandez is serving a life sentence in the United States for that crime. Both brothers deny the charges against them.
“It’s key that Castro be able to form a cabinet made up of those who have honest trajectories. There’s a long history of corruption and ties to organized crime within the outgoing party,” commented the National University professor and political analyst Eugenio Sosa.