Honduran elections could overthrow long-ruling national party

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) – Hondurans will choose a successor to deeply unpopular President Juan Orlando Hernández on Sunday in elections that could topple his National Party after 12 years in power.

The candidate most likely to do so is Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Freedom and Refoundation party. The former first lady is making her third run for president and is the only one of 13 opposition candidates to have a chance to beat Hernández’s hand-picked successor Nasry Asfura, a popular mayor of Tegucigalpa.

The level of distrust of Hondurans in the electoral process is such that many fear that there could be unrest in the streets, whoever wins.

After a protracted contest filled with irregularities in 2017, protesters took to the streets and the government imposed a curfew. Three weeks later, Hernández was declared the winner despite the Organization of American States observation mission calling for an overhaul. At least 23 people were killed.

This time, the companies located along the main axes of the capital are not taking any risks. Workers mounted sheets of plywood over their many windows on Saturday.

More than 5.1 million Hondurans are registered to vote at nearly 6,000 polling stations across the country. In addition to a new president, they will choose a new congress, new representatives in the Central American Parliament and a multitude of local races.

Experts say it will be a question of whether people dissatisfied with the National Party regime come forward in sufficient numbers to defeat the outgoing president’s powerful electoral apparatus. Hondurans have reported receiving phone calls from the National Party in recent days offering an assortment of payments or other government benefits and reminding them to vote. Some calls proposed to organize transport to the polling places.

In a world hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Honduras can count this as one of the crises that have ravaged it in recent years. Last year, the country also suffered the devastating effects of two major hurricanes. Unemployment was 10.9% last year while the economy shrank 9%. Powerful street gangs continue to terrorize Hondurans, leading, with economic factors, to tens of thousands of Hondurans to emigrate.

Corruption is practiced with such impunity that Hondurans have turned their hopes to US federal prosecutors in New York. They obtained a life sentence for Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, for drug trafficking, and accused the president of fueling his political rise with the proceeds of drugs, although they did not. have not charged. Juan Orlando Hernández has denied any wrongdoing.

The ground therefore seems favorable for Castro, but doubts remain as to the extent of the real changes it would bring. Her husband, José Manuel Zelaya, was ousted by the military in a coup in 2009. US prosecutors have also linked him to bribes from drug traffickers, which he denies also.

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