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The polls closed in Honduras: an uncertain ending between a former first lady and the ruling party

Honduras voted this Sunday to elect a new president to replace Juan Orlando Hernández, who ends his designated term of drug trafficking in the United States, amid fears of confrontation if a candidate rejects the result.

The electoral authorities and the main candidates called for calm in these elections with an uncertain ending.

I wish to make the call “so that [el proceso] we can develop it in peace, tranquility, without fear and without violence, “said the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Kelvin Aguirre, at the beginning of the vote.

More than five million citizens were able to vote until 17 local hours (20 in Argentina). The results will begin to be known about three hours later.

The opposition candidate of the leftist Libre, Xiomara Castro, is a favorite, like Nasry Asfura of the ruling National Party (PN, right), current mayor of Tegucigalpa who has benefited from timely government bond deliveries to vulnerable families.

The candidates

Fears of fraud, something that the opposition already denounced in the previous elections of 2017, and the death of at least 31 people linked to the elections during this campaign fuels tensions.

Castro, 62, was the first to vote. “We want it to be a civic party, in peace, in tranquility“said Castro in the El Espino neighborhood, in Catacamas, 170 km east of Tegucigalpa.

“They are going to try to provoke the people, we understand that there is despair, especially of those who have been ruling these 12 years, but the people must come out with confidence,” he said.

Before casting his vote, the 63-year-old official Asfura, known as “Papi a la Orden”, He promised to respect the results.

“We must, as gentlemen, and as men, accept things, but until the last vote is counted,” he said. “Peace and tranquility is priceless and listen to me well: not a drop of blood has a price,” he declared at the National Pedagogical University of Tegucigalpa.

The first hours of the elections were developing normally. “Everything is very quiet, (there is) a lot of control,” said architect Carlos Aguilar, 44, who was lining up to vote at the Vida Abundante church voting center, east of Tegucigalpa.

Citizen comments highlighted the broad participation, with lines of 200 meters in some enclosures.

The candidates.  AFP

The candidates. AFP

“If the PN wins the elections, even if it is legitimately, there will be a worrying level of violence“Analyst Raúl Pineda, a lawyer and former legislator of that formation, told AFP.

In 2017, President Hernández managed to get reelected amid accusations of fraud by the opposition and international observers. That unleashed a wave of protests and state repression that left some thirty dead.

“A kind of paranoia has developed, people are preparing for war“And there are citizens who in recent days have supplied themselves with food and water for fear of not being able to go out later to buy, said Pineda.

All this in a country already hit by gang violence, drug trafficking and several hurricanes, where 59% of its 10 million inhabitants live in poverty.

Against

For Pineda, “the people will not vote for Xiomara, but against Juan Orlando Hernández and what he represents“. Castro’s party considers that the candidate has an advantage of more than 12 percentage points over Asfura.

The analyst insisted that Washington is extremely attentive to what happens in Honduras. He does not want a new crisis to further fuel the waves of migration that constantly go from Central America to the United States.

That is why he recently sent the head of his diplomacy for Latin America, Brian Nichols, to meet with the candidates, while international observers seek to guarantee transparent elections.

“We are deployed to guarantee the Honduran people that there will be security and peace, so that they can go and exercise their right,” said the head of the Armed Forces, Tito Livio Moreno. There are 18,000 soldiers deployed in these elections.

The PN has been in power since former president Manuel Zelaya, Castro’s husband, was overthrown in 2009 in an army-backed coup, the business elites and the right wing, due to their closeness to Chavismo.

But a series of corruption and drug trafficking scandals have plagued Hernández. Tony, his brother, is serving a life sentence in a US prison for drug trafficking. The drug traffickers the president helped extradite to the United States – and the prosecutors who prosecuted his brother – accused him of being involved in drug trafficking.

Asfura, meanwhile, was indicted in 2020 of embezzling public funds, named in the Pandora Papers and linked to influence peddling in Costa Rica.

The third candidate in preferences of the 13 in career, Yani Rosenthal (Liberal Party), spent three years in a United States jail for laundering drug money.

“Honduras is internationally known Like a narco-state, but there are no narco-states, only narco-governments“, considered Pineda.

For many voters, the main problem is the lack of work. Unemployment jumped from 5.7% in 2019 to 10.9% in 2020, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Hondurans too elected 128 deputies and 20 representatives of the Central American Parliament.

Source: AFP and EFE

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