The second return of the Zelaya | International

When last Sunday night the results of the presidency of Honduras were known, the ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, the scrutiny at his home in Tegucigalpa was still astonished: “the results have come quickly, the street is at peace, the opponents recognize defeat… please pinch me, ”he told his children. Just a few hours earlier, Honduras was walking on the razor’s edge at the possibility of being blown up again by the most tense and violent elections in its history. “This looks like Costa Rica,” he said.

At that time, his wife Xiomara Castro had just won the elections and after 12 years of conservative rule, the Central American country, the second poorest on the continent after Haiti, was consummating the turn to the left led by a woman. The electoral process left several historical data with a list of five million voters: they were the most voted elections in the history of Honduras (69.2%), Castro receives more votes than any other president before (about 1.7 million) The eternal bipartisanship was put to an end with the emergence of Libre and they were the most violent elections, with 23 candidates assassinated during the campaign. Added to the above is a no less important issue: a woman came to power in the country with the highest number of femicides in Latin America.

Born in Tegucigalpa 62 years ago, the first time that most Hondurans heard about Xiomara Castro was in 2009. That summer she mobilized in the streets to defend the government of her husband, expelled after a civil-military agreement for flirting with Chávez and Cuba and breaking a good number of laws. Until that day, Castro had been an impeccable first lady according to the protocol that Central America imposes for them: smile, inaugurate hospitals and visit the poor, who in Honduras make up 74% of the population. During those troubled days, she was harassed on many occasions by the coup soldiers and she faced all provocations peacefully with great dignity and firmness, accompanied by her daughter. Twelve years after that she is president and the teenager who accompanied her in the protests will be a deputy in Congress.

Affable, soft-spoken and headstrong, Xiomara Castro has won the elections without the need to give a single in-depth interview. The sources consulted indicate that it was during the exile in the Dominican Republic (2010-2012), when the couple learned that they would never regain power and began to prepare for her to be in charge of doing so. The idea of ​​founding the new Libertad y Refundación (Free) party came up in Santo Domingo and there she began to study Business Administration and public speaking, which have helped her to present herself to thousands of people without the shyness of yesteryear. The result is a winning binomial: Xiomel (Xiomara + Mel), as read on some walls of Tegucigalpa, which will take office on January 27 with the challenge of facing the current “humanitarian crisis that Honduras is going through,” explains Zelaya in an interview with EL PAÍS.

The new government will receive a country that is economically bankrupt and penetrated to the core by drug trafficking. A country with enormous possibilities but with 74% of the population living in poverty and 53% in extreme poverty. Where the health system or the electricity company (ENEE), which charges the population almost European rates in the second poorest country on the continent, are practically bankrupt and where experts foresee that a fiscal adjustment will be necessary due to the fall by the income from the pandemic and the impact of two hurricanes in a row in one year. “When they took me (from Honduras) they owed $ 3 billion and now $ 17 billion. There has been a significant looting of the accounts of the country, which also has the highest tax rate in Central America, ”explains the former president.

In this context of crisis, Zelaya has asked all sectors for a “social and economic pact” to move forward a country that, in recent years, has been present in the news around the world due to the caravans of thousands of people who, almost every month, they leave San Pedro Sula. “We are living a humanitarian crisis for which a national agreement is necessary to address the economic, environmental or Human Rights lags to dismantle the dictatorship of Juan Orlando,” says the former president.

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The front pages of the local newspapers about the victory of Xiomara Castro in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.REUTERS (Getty Images)

The conciliatory tone of Zelaya, who in the future government will be “only adviser,” he insists, is that of a new stage away from the Bolivarian axis of yesteryear to enter a more practical dimension. “Xiomara has shown great ability to reach agreements and consensus both nationally and internationally,” he explains in one of his first interviews after the victory. “Currently, there is no hegemonic axis in the world and that is an advantage. Xiomara is having good relations with the United States and Europe and traditionally we have a good traditional relationship with the Latin American left. That allows making balances. In our government we have managed to unite the moderate left of Libre and the right of Salvador Nasralla and that opening also includes the international field, ”he says.

Zelaya was overthrown in June 2009 after a civil-military coup in which businessmen and the army joined forces to remove the president who embraced the Bolivarian cause in exchange for cheap gasoline and raised the minimum wage, which gave him high popularity ratings. Grown in his possibilities, he even proposed a constitutional reform (known as the Fourth Ballot Box) that provoked the military reaction to prevent an illegality from being committed, according to the official version of the time. Twelve years later, the idea of ​​re-founding the country through a Constituent Assembly, one of Xiomara Castro’s central proposals, has been parked. “Currently, there are no conditions for a Constituent Assembly. The conservative sectors are too afraid of it and there are no conditions, ”Zelaya responds.

In this new stage the word “maturity” is the one most repeated by all. According to Eduardo Facussé, employer leader in the department of Cortés, the industrial heart of the country, “The two sectors that confronted each other in 2009 have matured and are not going to let the mistake of the coup repeat itself. Both failed and have understood that they need to collaborate to move the country forward. It is a well learned lesson and we need all sectors ”, he explains. “So far the attitude of the Xiomara Castro team has been very positive. Only 24 hours after their victory, they summoned us to set up commissions that can face the country’s problems as soon as possible ”. “Ideology takes a secondary role given the urgency we face. It is necessary to contribute as much as possible and we will do everything possible to do so, “he says. For the employer’s leader, the most urgent challenge is “to rescue the rule of law, since during the government of Juan Orlando, rampant corruption and legal insecurity weighed down investment. The second urgency is to reduce poverty. We have 74% of the population living in poverty and 53% in extreme poverty. The health system is broken and children have not been to school for two years due to the pandemic. The urgent rescue of the country is necessary ”, points out Facussé. In that direction, the future president confirmed her “approach” to the United Nations to achieve the installation of an International Commission Against Impunity to help fight corruption.

According to Carlos Mauricio Flores, director of the newspaper El Heraldo “This country is a time bomb with many young people who cannot take it anymore. The elections were a pressure cooker that, fortunately, ended well, “he explains in the newspaper’s office. According to the director of the most important newspaper in the country, the most urgent thing right now “is to rescue ethics in the country after a black stage in which organized crime has dangerously infiltrated all State structures.”

To handle Libre’s landing in power, Xioamara Castro has surrounded himself with his own. She will be the president, her husband, with whom she has been a presidential advisor for 40 years, her son Héctor Zelaya manages the party and leads the transition, her daughter Hortensia, la Pichu, will be a deputy and Manuel’s brother, Carlon Zelaya, repeats as deputy. With the landing of the Zelaya surname in the institutions, some see the danger of a speech of ‘peace and love’ in the hands of a handful of relatives like the Ortegas in Nicaragua.

At the international level, Castro’s victory shakes the “backyard” of the United States. Honduras is one of the 15 countries in the world that, in exchange for money and aid, maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, dispensing with China, but the new government announced that it would reestablish relations with China, which aroused concern in Washington. During a visit to Honduras the week before the elections, a delegation from the United States made clear its hope that the country would maintain its current relationship with Taiwan, an attitude that the Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced as “behavior of pressure and intimidation. ”. In an attempt to salvage the relationship, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen congratulated Castro on his victory on Wednesday and reminded him of their bilateral ties. “I look forward to working with you and strengthening the long-standing partnership between Taiwan and Honduras,” Ing-wen said on Twitter. Honduras’s need for cash, however, makes China too attractive a temptation.

With the Bolivarian turn parked momentarily, the sectors that supported it will soon begin to demand advances in rights such as abortion or homosexual unions in one of the countries with the most restrictive legislation in the world. At the same time, there are many voices that demand an investigation into the crimes of the past after the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández, was summoned in a New York court during the trial of his brother Tony for drug trafficking. In this sense, Manuel Zelaya made it clear that “we believe in an independent justice” and Juan Orlando’s problem “is with the gringos”, implying that he will not promote any criminal case against the ex-president that shakes up the political life of the country and serves of legal excuse to stop a possible extradition.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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