TEGUCIGALPA: Leftist Xiomara Castro has a shot at profitable an election on Sunday, to turn out to be Honduras’ first feminine president and finish years of conservative rule marred by graft and ties to drug smugglers.
An alliance with former rival candidate Salvador Nasralla, a preferred tv host, gave a lift within the polls to Castro, 62.
She has stated that if she beats ruling-party candidate Nasry Asfura, she’s going to discover establishing diplomatic ties with China, which may trigger pressure with Washington.
However U.S. President Joe Biden, who sees weak rule of regulation in Central America as driving heavy migration to the US, could approve of her pledge to enlist U.N. assist to construct an anti-corruption company.
“We’re going to construct a good and aggressive Honduras that fights corruption and drug trafficking,” Castro said last week of her bid to make history as first woman president in the Central American nation, among the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and a leading source of migrants reaching the U.S. border at record levels.
Her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was deposed in a 2009 coup after aligning with late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a socialist. His successors, former president Porfirio Lobo and President Juan Orlando Hernandez, both of the National Party, have both been caught up in allegations of ties to drug smugglers. Zelaya also was accused of taking bribes from traffickers. They have all denied wrongdoing.
Last month, Castro allied with 2017 runner-up Nasralla. An opinion poll by Tegucigalpa-based democratic studies institute CESPAD after the tie-up showed her with a 17-point lead over Asfura, of the ruling National Party.
However, not all polls give her such a commanding lead; a rival survey on the same day from a local television station showed a tied race.
The contest promises to be the latest shake-up in the volatile politics of Central America, where democratic standards have eroded in recent years in Honduras and neighbors El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Throughout the region, increased migration has been tied to corruption turbo-charged by transnational drug gangs.
The United States has long played a defining role in Honduran politics, basing troops there since the Cold War and backing Hernandez even after claims of fraud in his reelection four years ago.
“We urge the U.S. government not to make this mistake again,” wrote Gustavo Irias, head of CESPAD, in a printed commentary this week.
Asfura, a two-term capital metropolis mayor, is widespread for native constructing initiatives. He has not issued a marketing campaign platform, in contrast to Castro.
Irrespective of which candidate is elected, Biden’s administration is prone to face a dilemma over find out how to re-calibrate relations with Tegucigalpa.
“We predict it’s going to be a extremely shut contest,” said Tiziano Breda, analyst with the International Crisis Group for Central America. He pointed out that opposition voters could be confused by Nasralla’s name, which remains on the ballot despite the tie up.
A robust presence of election observers is expected at Sunday’s election, in which the Honduran Congress and other local races are also up for grabs.
A close race would raise the risk of irregularities, observers fear. The National Party has a history of using state resources to mobilize voters.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a keen observer of Honduras, expressed unease about the likelihood of a fraud-free vote.
“I’m very worried about it,” he stated in a telephone interview, citing migration and drug trafficking amongst points fueled by corruption that made the way forward for Honduras vital for the US.
“We must pay extra consideration,” he said. “Our future destinies are going to be clearly linked to each other.”
On Wednesday, Kaine and Republican Senator Marco Rubio collectively signed a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning of “political instability and violence” if Honduran and foreign observers perceived the election results as illegitimate.
If Castro prevails, one of Washington’s main concerns will be whether she goes ahead with her pledge in September to switch Honduras’ decades-long diplomatic support for Taiwan to China, a senior Biden administration official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
A U.S. delegation has urged the Honduran candidates to keep ties with Taiwan. An aide of Castro said on Tuesday the issue was still undecided.
President Hernandez has also previously toyed with switching allegiances to China, but this month traveled to Taiwan to re-emphasize their ties. While a shift would irritate Washington, it could diversify and balance out Honduras’ superpower ties, Breda said, attracting more infrastructure finance.
If the 63-year-old Asfura wins, the U.S. administration is guardedly optimistic they could still make some inroads against corruption but is mindful that graft is so engrained in the National Party that it will take a long time to chip away at it, the U.S. official added.
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