The First Female President of Honduras Just Vowed to End Narco-Corruption

Xiomara Castro declared herself the winner of this weekend's presidential election. The official results of the vote are yet to be announced.
November 29, 2021, 5:26pm
Xiomara Castro Honduras President
Opposition candidate Xiomara Castro has declared that she won Honduras' presidential election. (Photo by: D'lmer Membre'o/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

After one of the most dramatic elections in Honduran history, Xiomara Castro has declared herself the winner, making her the first female president in the country's history. Then she made her first promise: to end the narco-corruption that plagued the reign of her predecessor.

While the Central American nation’s election institute has not formally declared her the victor, the available results Monday morning showed her winning with a commanding 20 percent of the vote ahead of the other candidates.

Advertisement

Castro told supporters when declaring victory that “we have turned back authoritarianism,” according to the New York Times.

Her triumph at the polls would end the control of the country's incumbent National Party that has held power for over a decade. The win is also extremely personal for Castro. Her husband, leftist Manuel Zelaya, previously served as president until he was deposed in a 2009 coup. When the dust settled, the right-wing National Party took control of the presidency.

“Out with corruption, out with drug trafficking, out with organized crime,” said Castro, taking aim at current President Juan Orlando Hernández, who has been dogged by accusations of involvement in the illegal drug trade. Due to Honduras' election laws, Hernández did not run for re-election and his proposed successor, Nasry Asfura, has yet to concede.

During Hernández's controversial presidency, which he's held since 2013, he's been accused numerous times in two U.S. trials of connections to the drug business. Hernández allegedly said that he wanted to “shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos,” according to court documents from the case of convicted trafficker Geovanny Fuentes. 

His brother, Tony Hernández, was convicted on drug trafficking charges by a New York court and sentenced to life in prison in March. The president was also implicated repeatedly during that trial.

Advertisement

Castro supporters took to the streets of the capital of Tegucigalpa in celebration Sunday night, chanting “[Hernández], you're off to New York!”, referencing the trials of Fuentes and Tony Hernández. President Hernández has repeatedly denounced allegations against him and claimed they are a smear campaign from drug traffickers looking to lighten their sentences. 

But if Castro is serious about cleaning up Honduras' political corruption, it will be an uphill battle, especially if her Liberty and Refoundation Party does not hold a majority in the National Congress after the election results are final.

“The National Party will be an obstacle to the new government and could generate a crisis to democratic governance, because the National Congress is key to combating corruption and impunity,” said Joaquín Mejía, the deputy coordinator for a Honduras law firm called the Legal Team for Human Rights.

Mejía noted that in 2022, Congress will choose a new Supreme Court consisting of 15 magistrates, along with the country's Attorney General. If the National Party still maintains a majority, who Congress chooses will greatly affect Castro's “fight against impunity and the political connections to drug trafficking.”

While Castro herself has never been accused of being complicit in the drug trade, a trafficker claimed during the Fuentes trial that he also bribed her husband Manuel Zelaya during his presidency.

At the time, Zelaya offered to travel to New York with Hernández, to “clear up” the situation and said that “we’ll see who comes back.”