Salem Radio Network News Sunday, May 29, 2022

World

Leftist moves nearer victory in Honduras vote, EU criticizes outgoing government

By David Alire Garcia and Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) -Leftist Xiomara Castro inched toward victory in Honduras’ presidential election on Tuesday as a vote count that has so far given her a commanding lead sluggishly resumed after a 24-hour delay that has kept the Central American country in suspense.

Castro has managed a strong showing in Sunday’s election despite findings by the European Union vote observer mission that the ruling National Party of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez used state resources to boost its campaign.

After Castro racked up an almost 20-percentage-point lead over her nearest rival with more than half the vote tallied, the count was unexpectedly halted on Monday at around 7am local time (0800 ET).

The vote count resumed on Tuesday morning. Asked to explain the delay, electoral authorities said there had been problems transmitting the results in some areas.

At just over 52% of votes counted on Tuesday morning, Castro had 53.5% support, ahead of National Party candidate Nasry Asfura on 34%, with the gap between them having narrowed slightly from when the count was stopped.

If confirmed as the winner, Castro would be Honduras’ first woman president and would return the left to power after a 12-year hiatus that followed the ousting of her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, in a coup in 2009.

“I would hope there isn’t a hold-up of many days,” Luis Guillermo Solis, the chief of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) election observer mission, told Reuters.

The delay in the count stirred up memories of the 2017 election, when the opposition candidate’s lead suddenly began to evaporate after the electoral council restarted the tally following a lengthy suspension.

The interruption gave rise to accusations of fraud and deadly protests, but there has been no unrest so far this time, with voters seeing Castro’s much bigger lead this time as a guarantee of victory.

The EU observer mission said the smooth transmission of early election results had aided transparency and confidence. But it criticized pre-election political violence and “abuse of state resources”, such as a rise in handing out of welfare vouchers.

“The state media visibly favored the ruling party and its presidential candidate,” said the mission’s head, Ċ½eljana Zovko.

“RESOUNDING VICTORY”

The election in the impoverished country is the latest political showdown in Central America, where chronic joblessness, crime, corruption and the threat of transnational drug gangs has helped spur record migration to the United States.

After the early results, Castro celebrated a “resounding victory in the whole country” on Twitter and her supporters danced, cheered and waved flags to celebrate the imminent departure of two-term president Hernandez.

Hernandez, a conservative, is deeply unpopular and has been implicated in a drug trafficking case in a U.S. federal court. He denies wrongdoing, but could face an indictment when he leaves office.

Castro’s team is already preparing for government. Hugo Noe, head of the campaign’s policy platform, told Reuters she will seek to negotiate a new debt deal with the International Monetary Fund when she takes office in January.

OAS mission chief Solis, a former president of Costa Rica, said he expected the electoral council to clear up the count soon, and noted rural votes often take longer to tally.

He pointed to the historic turnout and Monday’s absence of political violence as positive developments, and said that early congratulations for Castro from sectors beyond her base of support, such as business leaders, were welcome developments.

“I’ve seen public statements from several key sectors who have recognized the triumph of Libre,” he said, referring to the lead amassed by Castro’s party.

“But I think we’re still missing documents and vote totals to scrutinize,” he said.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Drazen Jorgic and Sonya Hepinstall)

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