Honduras’ first female president-elect passed a nationwide vote in November, promising to restore democracy and root out the rampant corruption and organized crime that has plagued the country’s compatriots. She spilled over to the US border.
But Xiomara Castro’s plan to overhaul Honduras met with a major setback on Friday. An uprising within her leftist Libre party stripped her allies of control of Parliament, threatening her ability to pass legislation and appoint officials even before she took office.
The schism could also complicate matters for the Biden administration, which increasingly sees Ms. Castro as an ally in tackling the root causes of Central American migration. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to attend the inauguration next week.
Ms. Castro’s party split after she tried to fulfill her campaign promise and named a member of her allied centrist party as speaker of parliament on Friday morning.
A group of 22 Libre lawmakers opposed the move. With the help of other major parties, they instead sworn in Jorge Cálix, a prominent Libre lawmaker, as speaker. His oath occurred between scuffle in parliament room and rallies from Castro loyalists, who broke out from the street into the building.
Mrs. Castro called uprising “Treason” and her husband and head of Libre, former President Manuel Zelaya, responded by expelling the rebels from the party. The expulsion, if still in effect, would reduce Libre’s parliamentary bloc to 38 of 128 lawmakers, although officials said it was likely some would return.
“A group emboldened by ambitions for power has decided to continue with a corrupt and punitive regime,” Libre said in a statement Friday. “This is an inflection point.”
Analysts say the split will make it much harder for Ms. Castro to find enough votes to meet campaign promises, such as bringing back international anti-corruption investigators and relaxing abortion laws. highly restrictive of Honduras and eliminate drug trafficking from the highest levels of government and security forces.
“What will change is the government, not the way the country is run,” said Lester Ramírez, program director at Transparency International Honduras. “She won’t be able to change anything if she has too little political support.”
Former Libre rebels on Friday allied themselves with traditional Honduras parties, which are too deeply involved in corruption and organized crime, to cooperate with Ms. Castro, Ramírez said. As long as it is held together, their coalition now controls Parliament.
Prosecutors in New York have accused the outgoing president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, of receiving money from drug cartels, and the head of the third largest Liberal Party, Yani Rosenthal, of serving time in prison for deal with drug traffickers.
If Ms. Castro fails to respond to Honduras’ widespread desire for change, even more citizens could flee to the US border because of violence and injustice, said Tiziano Breda, a Central America analyst at the International Crisis Group. political stability.
The uprising further complicates the Biden administration’s policy in northern Central America, which has suffered from a host of autocratic and corrupt leaders, on the right and on the left.
For the US, “Honduras is the only valid interlocutor to build a solid relationship with the region,” said Victor Meza, director of the Honduras Documentation Center, a think tank.
Washington insiders and administration officials have privately said that the strong democratic mandate that Ms. Castro won in November’s elections makes her the most promising potential partner in the region. This is despite Libre’s roots in anti-imperialist factions and among politicians who view the United States as cautious, if not hostile. In a show of support for the new president, Harris is expected to lead a high-level delegation of US officials to Honduras to attend Castro’s inauguration on January 27.
“What happens today will have consequences for America’s ability to work with a government that wants to tackle problems like corruption, but at the same time has very little power,” Breda said. to bring about change”.
Joan Suazo Reporting contributions from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and Natalie Kitroeff from Mexico City.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/world/americas/honduras-castro-congress-rebellion.html Xiomara Castro’s Party in Honduras Splits, Threatens Reform Program