Twelve years of right-wing rule have come to an end for Honduras, following the election of socialist Xiomara Castro as president last week. The incumbent National Party lost the presidency to Castro, candidate for the Liberty and Refoundation Party (Libre), having ruled the country since the 2009 US-backed coup. This victory marks a clear departure from the neoliberalism of the last decade, with Libre seeking to establish a “new economic model”, and see a “refounding of the state”.
Last week’s election followed plummeting approval ratings for the existing administration of Juan Orlando Hernández, a government rife with corruption. In March of this year, Hernández was declared by a US court a co-conspirator in the cocaine smuggling operations of drug lord Geovanny Fuentes. The National government had even passed laws to hide their corruption, with one such act, nicknamed the “law of secrets”, making state purchases classified.
Castro has commited to repealing such a law, working towards a more transparent government. The new president elect has also pushed to take on the corruption left by the National government, meeting with United Nations officials to arrange an anti-corruption mission to come to Honduras.
One of the key commitments from Castro is to now decriminalise abortion. Abortion has been illegal in Honduras under any circumstance since 1985. Them in January 2021, congress put forward a bill to enshrine such restrictions in the nation’s constitution. Upon the passing of the bill, it was made incredibly difficult to remove the abortion ban from the constitution, the law requiring a three-quaters majority in congress to do so.
Castro is also set to undo the establishment of Special Economic Development Zones, semi-autonomous areas omtended to incentivise corporate investment. Not only have these areas served to prioritise private business interests over the good of the workers there, but they have provided refuge for people fleeing extradition.
Xiomara Castro is also married to Manuel Zelaya, Honduran president for the Liberal party from 2005 until the 2009 coup against them. Zeleya had introduced progressive reforms such as raising the minimum wage, introducing free school dinners, and subsidising transport. What was of greater concern to both the domestic right and the US state, was Zelaya’s attempt to organise an assembly for a new constitution. This would have replaced the existing 1982 constitution, written under US-backed dictator Policarpo Paz Garcia.
Castro’s victory makes her the first female president of Honduras. Following her win, Castro said “For 12 years the people resisted, and those 12 years were not in vain. God takes time but doesn’t forget. Today the people have made justice”.
Philip English, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch