By Gustavo Palencia TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Hondurans voted on Sunday in presidential, congressional, and local elections in which leftist candidate Xiomara Castro was headed for a landslide win as results rolled in on Monday. Castro, who would be the Central American nation’s first female president, has promised major changes in Honduras including a constitutional overhaul, […]
Factbox-Castro set for victory in Honduras election: cartels, poverty and China loom
By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Hondurans voted on Sunday in presidential, congressional, and local elections in which leftist candidate Xiomara Castro was headed for a landslide win as results rolled in on Monday.
Castro, who would be the Central American nation’s first female president, has promised major changes in Honduras including a constitutional overhaul, United Nations support in the fight against corruption, and looser abortion restrictions.
With just over half of ballots counted before a delay in the count set in, Castro held a nearly 20-point lead over conservative contender Nasry Asfura of the ruling National Party, which has been beset by graft scandals.
Here are some issues the winner will have to address:
Even during the worst moments of the coronavirus pandemic, corruption was the main concern for nearly 10 million Hondurans, according to a CID Gallup poll.
Castro has promised to institute a U.N.-backed anti-corruption commission.
Since Juan Orlando Hernandez took office for his second consecutive term, following a disputed poll in 2017, the fight against corruption in Honduras has weakened.
Hernandez’s eight years in power have been mired by of allegations of corruption which the president has rejected. He is a target of a narcotics investigation in the United States, though he has denied any links to the drug trade.
Under him, the National Party-controlled Congress passed laws to make investigations of white-collar crime more difficult and ousted an Organization of American States (OAS) anti-corruption commission that was investigating Hernandez.
The United States, Honduras’ main trading partner, is considering giving more than $4 billion in aid to Honduras and other Central American countries and creating a task force to help fight corruption in the region.
Violence and corruption have long hampered economic growth in Honduras. In 2020, GDP fell 9% after the country was pummeled by two hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Honduras has one of the highest rates of poverty in Latin America. In 2020, the number of Hondurans living below the poverty line likely went up to 55% and unemployment almost doubled, according to World Bank estimates.
In the fiscal year ending September, Hondurans represented almost half of all apprehensions of Central American migrants at the U.S. southwest border, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics.
Remittances from Hondurans in the United States represent 22% of Honduras’ gross domestic product (GDP), one of the highest rates in the region.
Violent protests like the ones after the 2017 elections could push even more Hondurans to leave the country, said Tiziano Breda, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.
In March, a U.S. federal judge gave a life sentence to Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, the president’s brother, for drug trafficking and arms possession.
No charges were filed against the president himself, but the U.S. Department of Justice reiterated after the verdict that evidence in the trial showed he received drug money https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-honduras-drugs-president-idUSKBN1WY03R for election campaigns, including from Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The president denies the allegations.
RELATIONS WITH CHINA AND TAIWAN
Castro made a campaign promise to open diplomatic relations with mainland China, and Hernandez made a surprise visit this month to Taiwan after Taipei showed concern.
Honduras is one of 15 countries, including several in Central America and the Caribbean, that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
China views democratically-ruled Taiwan as one of its provinces. Taiwan says it is an independent country called the Republic of China, its official name, and that Beijing has no right to speak for it.
In its quest to isolate the island internationally, China has in recent years opened relations with Taiwan’s historic allies Panama, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador, on the condition they break ties with Taiwan.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia and Diego Ore; Written by Jake Kincaid; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon and Nick Zieminski)