The likely victory by Libre Party presidential candidate Xiomara Castro is a “triumph for democracy over corruption and election irregularities,” Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. With 51.45 percent of total votes cast, the National Electoral Council (CNE, for its Spanish initials) of Honduras shows Castro obtained 53.61 percent of the vote. Runner-up Nasry Asfura of the governing National Party received 33.87 percent, with Liberal Party candidate Yani Rosenthal at 9.21 percent, in this preliminary count. Voter participation was over 68 percent, according to the CNE.
“Xiomara Castro’s likely victory is a testament to the will of the Honduran people to have their voices heard and their votes counted,” Weisbrot said.
“Democracy remains very fragile in Honduras,” Weisbrot warned. “This is a country that saw the military kidnap the president at gunpoint and fly him out of the country just 12 years ago, and there was very strong evidence that the elections of 4 years ago were stolen.”
The results are not final yet, and as of 12:45 p.m. EST, the CNE had not updated the election results since 7:55 a.m. EST this morning. Asfura has yet to concede, and some National Party leaders had claimed victory, despite the early results. Considering that the National Party was ultimately declared the winner of the 2017 elections, despite the statistical near-impossibility of such an outcome, many observers urge vigilance ahead of the final, official results.
Observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States, as well as hundreds of observers from Honduras’s Center for Democracy Studies (CESPAD), Mexico-based Nuestra Red, and US-based Global Exchange were present to witness the electoral process. Observers reported many irregularities throughout Honduras on election day, some of which CEPR reported on its live blog on the elections.
Numerous media reports have described how many Hondurans are dissatisfied with the National Party after 12 years in power since the 2009 military coup that ousted Castro’s husband, the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. Family members of both former president Porfirio Lobo, who took office following military-run elections in 2009, and current president Juan Orlando Hernández, have been sentenced in US courts on drug trafficking charges. Hernández himself has been named in US courts as a drug trafficking suspect, and he purportedly claimed he wanted to “shove” cocaine “up the noses” of the US. There is speculation that Hernández will be indicted once he leaves office, and that the US may request his extradition.
National Party candidate Nasry Asfura has been accused of embezzling a million dollars, and Rosenthal was previously imprisoned for laundering money for a drug cartel. No such scandals surrounded Castro. Instead, the National Party, and some media outlets, attempted to scare voters away from Castro by linking her to “communism.”
A Castro presidency is expected to return Honduras to some of the economic policies that led to an increase in living standards — economic and social gains that were reversed following the coup. She has also called for partially decriminalizing abortion, among other reforms.
“The US government supported the 2009 military coup in various ways, and so it will be good if members of Congress who favor democracy will make sure that the executive branch here respects democracy in Honduras more than they have in the past,” Weisbrot said. “On the positive side, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have taken steps to hold the OAS accountable for its role in the 2019 military coup in Bolivia, so there are pro-democracy forces in Congress.
“The international community should be on guard and ready to defend Honduras’s democratic institutions, and the will of its people, against any extra-legal efforts to destabilize or overthrow the new government.”