World in View: What way will Xiomara Castro take Honduras?

March 15, 2022

From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters

The first woman president ever elected in Honduras, Xiomara Castro, has taken office after a 12-year rule by the corrupt, conservative National Party, which had engineered a coup against the presidency of her husband Mel Zelaya in 2009. That coup was planned with the tacit support of the U.S.

Demonstration on Jan. 27, 2018, in San Francisco in support of protestors in Honduras. Sign reads, “The people voted for change. Respect the people. JOH [Juan Orlando Hernandez] out.” Photo: Photo: Peg Hunter via Flickr.

The National Party destroyed social programs and increased military spending, while at the same time attacking human rights and the environment—including even the 2016 murder of Berta Cáceres, an Indigenous Lena leader and Honduran environmental activist. The Party’s last President, Juan Hernández, is facing extradition to the U.S. for drug trafficking.

OBSTRUCTION IN CONGRESS

Castro takes over a deeply broken country. Her Libre Party does not have a majority in Congress. While proclaiming a socialist program, and initially proposing a progressive social agenda, including drafting a new constitution and supporting abortion ban exceptions as well as sex and race education in schools, she modified these proposals in her campaign, saying they should be approved by a referendum.

The Biden administration is seeking to strongly influence President Castro. Its overriding concern is the hundreds of thousands of Hondurans who have left their poverty-stricken, ungovernable country for the U.S.

But the Biden administration’s strategies for change are always top-down, beginning with the business community and investment.

The real key for the future direction of Honduras lies in whether Castro will focus her attention on the powerful grassroots movement which brought her to the presidency. For more than a decade, that movement resisted and fought the coup-imposed regime. Will its voice and actions be a determining new beginning in Honduras for President Castro?

—Eugene Walker

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