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Honduras - 2021 Election

Honduras is a constitutional, multiparty republic. The country last held national and local elections in November 2017. Voters elected Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National Party as president for a four-year term beginning in January 2018. International observers generally recognized the elections as free but disputed the fairness and transparency of the results.

Members of the security forces committed some abuses. Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; killings of and threats to media members by criminal elements; criminalization of libel, although no cases were reported; serious acts of corruption including by high level officials; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; and threats and violence against indigenous, Afro-descendant communities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons.

Organized-crime groups, including local and transnational gangs and narcotics traffickers, were significant perpetrators of violent crimes and committed acts of homicide, torture, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, intimidation, and other threats and violence directed against human rights defenders, judicial authorities, lawyers, business community members, journalists, bloggers, women, and other vulnerable populations. Organized-crime organizations, such as drug traffickers and local and transnational gangs including MS-13 and the 18th Street gang, committed killings, extortion, kidnappings, human trafficking, and intimidation of police, prosecutors, journalists, women, and human rights defenders. Major urban centers and drug-trafficking routes experienced the highest rates of violence. Prison conditions were harsh and sometimes life-threatening due to pervasive gang-related violence and the government’s failure to control criminal activity within the prisons.

The government failed to control pervasive gang-related violence and criminal activity within the prisons. Many prisons lacked sufficient security personnel. Many prisoners had access to weapons and other contraband, inmates attacked other inmates with impunity, and inmates and their associates outside prison threatened prison officials and their families. These conditions contributed to an unstable, dangerous environment in the penitentiary system. Media reported prison riots and violent confrontations between gang members in prisons.

Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views without restriction. A small number of powerful business magnates with intersecting commercial, political, and family ties owned most of the major news media. Media members and NGOs stated the press self-censored due to fear of retaliation from organized-crime groups or corrupt government officials.

Some local and international civil society organizations, including students, agricultural workers groups, political parties, and indigenous rights groups, alleged that members of the security forces used excessive force to break up demonstrations. The IACHR reported the government at times used a policy of arbitrary detentions or arrests to inhibit protest. Under the national emergency and corresponding curfew, the government suspended the constitutional right to peaceful assembly. The curfew severely limited freedom of movement and banned large gatherings.

The most serious situation in Honduras is poverty, which is estimated to reach 70% of the population at the end of 2021, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Violence is added to this panorama, since the nation registered the highest homicide rate in Central America in 2020 and suffers the consequences of the action of gang groups, many of them dedicated to drug trafficking. These indicators, together with the 9% drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that was registered in 2020, as well as the food insecurity caused by the recent hurricanes Eta and Iota, have pushed more than ever a phenomenon that any of the winners will have to face in coming to power: irregular migration to the US.

Ahead of the upcoming electio, social networks were suddenly flooded by an online "water army" in support of the incumbent Honduran authorities. Behind the campaign, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities on the island of Taiwan are likely to have played a role. The ongoing disinformation campaign can be noticed in major media outlets. There have been clusters of Twitter accounts sharing identical rumors while claiming to be supporters of opposition candidate Xiomara Castro, as none of the posts were made by real people but are coordinated posts from fake accounts to deter citizens from voting. As part of the disinformation campaign, the coordinated fake network of at least 317 Twitter accounts uncovered by cybersecurity analysts focused on discouraging Hondurans from voting for Castro. Some 5.5 million citizens will vote for a new president, 3 vice presidents, 128 lawmakers, 298 mayorships, and 20 members of the Central American Parliament. On 28 May 2021, Honduras' National Electoral Council (CNE) officially opened the electoral process for the presidential elections to take place on 28 November 2021. CNE announcement came two days after the Parliament approved a new Electoral Law, which entered into force 28 May 2021. "The CNE is committed to guaranteeing political rights in a clean general election... I ratify my unwavering will for this new page in our electoral history," CNE president Ana Hall said.

The candidate lists of the political parties for the elections for the National Congress must include at least 40% women candidates. Candidate lists in single-member constituencies must include a female principal candidate and a male alternate, or vice versa. If a political party violates the gender balance, it will be charged a fine of 5% of the total state funding for the parties.

Xiomara CastroA total of 14 political parties ran in the elections set to replace President Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH), whose second-term mandate ends on Jan. 27, 2022. Two had emerged as favorites. On the one hand, the leftist candidate of Libertad y Refundación (Libre), Xiomara Castro, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed in a coup in 2009. On the other hand, Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura, of the ruling National Party, which is currently mayor of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Polls indicated that an alliance might be required among the strongest coalitions to oust the ruling National Party since a low turnout is expected to occur.

On June 28, 2009, the U.S. deployed its first 21st century's "soft coup d'état" in Latin America. Its victim was Castro's husband, a leftist president who had previously promoted reforms to foster development and reduce poverty in his country. On that day, the Honduran Armed Forces arrested Manuel Zelaya and transferred him to Costa Rica. “It was initially reported that Zelaya had resigned by letter, an assertion that he denied from Costa Rica to immediately call for civil disobedience. Later, Congress unanimously resolved his dismissal, considering that his government’s actions had violated the Constitution and the legal system of the country.

The presidential candidate of the opposition party Libertad y Refundación (LIBRE) of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, led the intention of the vote for the elections to be held on November 28, according to a 28 October 2021 survey by the Center for Studies for Democracy (Cespad). The poll carried out by Cespad pointed out that Xiomara Castro, who is running with Salvador Nasralla, leader of the Salvador Party of Honduras (PSH), is 17 percentage points ahead of the official candidate Nasry Asfura. If the elections were held today, Castro would be the virtual winner of the elections with 38 percent of the electoral preference, against 21 percent for Asfura, of the National Party, according to Cespad. Castro was riding a populist wave of discontent amid high unemployment, corruption among the country's elite, and irregularities in the last election. After trailing Asfura by several points in the polls for months, she got a boost when fellow candidate and former running mate Salvador Nasralla dropped out and endorsed her.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel congratulated the Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) candidate Xiomara Castro for her resounding victory in the Presidential elections. She will be the first female president of Honduras. She surpasses with at least 20 percentage points the National Party candidate Nasry Asfura, who represented the Honduran right-wing elites. "Congratulations to President-elect Xiomara Castro. Latin America and the Caribbean also celebrate with Honduras," Diaz-Canel said and recalled Castro's husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed by a coup d'etat backed by President Barack Obama's administration in 2009. "It took 12 years after the coup against Zelaya for the Honduran people to achieve a resounding victory at the polls," the Cuban President commented.

The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, celebrated the triumph of Xiomara Castro: “12 years after the coup against Brother Manuel Zelaya, the people of (Francisco) Morazán resume the path of hope, granting a historic victory to the president-elect, Xiomara Castro. The Great Homeland celebrates the triumph of democracy and peace in Honduras”. "I embrace the noble Honduran people from the soul," said the Minister of Industries and National Production of Venezuela, Jorge Arreaza, describing the electoral result as a fruit of resistance and perseverance. "Each country under its own circumstances. The popular backlash took a year in Bolivia and 12 years in Honduras,” Arreaza said.

Through its first electoral report, the National Electoral Council (CNE) acknowledged that the Leftist politician surpasses with at least 20 percentage points the National Party candidate Nasry Asfura, who represented the Honduran right-wing elites. Until 07:00 hours on Monday, Honduran electoral authorities had counted 51.45 percent of the votes in the presidential elections. While Castro had achieved 53.61 percent of the votes, Asfura had reached only 33.87 percent of the preferences, which generated a difference between the two candidates that had never been seen in the electoral political history of Honduras.

According to the National Electoral Council (CNE) of that country, at the close of the day, the candidate for the opposition alliance accumulated 554,000 votes, representing 53.61 percent of the total. With this figure, Castro surpassed by 205,000 votes the second place in these elections, the candidate of the ruling National Party, Nasry Asfura, with around 350,000 ballots in his favor, 33.95 percent. Third place went to the Liberal Party candidate, Yani Rosenthal, with a little more than 95,000 votes, barely nine percent.

In her private life, she has been an active entrepreneur in family, forestry and agricultural businesses, together with her husband Zelaya. She is the second of five siblings, she was born in Tegucigalpa on September 30, 1959. She is the daughter of Irene Castro and Olga Doris Sarmiento, who died in August 2020 and May 2021, respectively. In 1976 she married Manuel Zelaya, the son of a deceased timber businessman. Between January 27, 2006 and June 28, 2009, she served as the country's first lady, promoting various social programs with state funds and external collaboration. When she served as first lady, she promoted social programs that came to benefit various historically unprotected sectors of Honduras, emphasizing generating opportunities for women heads of households, peasants and indigenous women.

Libre's presidential candidate proposed as a government offer the re-founding of Honduras, combat poverty, corruption and lower the price of gasoline and electricity. In his campaign closing speech over the weekend, Castro exposed the need for a woman to come to power to manage the people's resources with transparency, and in that sense he said that "we are going to equal or exceed the government of the Citizen Power", which was the one that her husband promoted until before the coup in 2009.

Xiomara Castro vowed in September that she would "immediately open diplomatic and commercial relations" with the People's Republic of China if she wins. However, a close aid to Castro on Nov. 23 was cited by Reuters as saying that she had not yet finalized her decision on whether to recognize China over Taiwan. A senior U.S. State Department official on Nov. 24 told the news agency that the U.S. had made it clear to both major Honduran presidential candidates that it wants the country to retain diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Situated in the U.S.' backyard and with remittance payments comprising 23.4% of its economy, Honduran officials know they risk Washington's wrath over cozying up to its rival. A decade and a half ago, Taiwan enjoyed relations with all seven nations of the Central American isthmus. Then Costa Rica broke for China in 2007. Panama and El Salvador were next in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Her remarks threw Taiwan authorities into panic and made the US uncomfortable. Taiwan warned Honduras against "flashy and false" promises by the Chinese mainland after Honduran presidential candidate Xiomara Castro vowed to establish diplomatic relations with China if her party wins the election in November. In Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on November 29, 2021, he stated "the one-China principle is a widely recognized norm governing international relationsand an overwhelming consensus of the international community. Opposing “Taiwan independence” separatism and adhering to the one-China principle is an overriding trend with strong popular support. The attempt to create the false impression of “two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” leads nowhere. We are ready to grow friendly and cooperative relations with all countries on the basis of upholding the one-China principle."

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Page last modified: 10-12-2021 16:08:20 ZULU