Leftist candidate set for big win in Honduras election

A leftwing candidate is set to become Latin America’s only female leader after taking a substantial lead over the ruling party in Honduras’s presidential election with promises to tackle corruption and inequality.

With more than half the ballots counted, Xiomara Castro, 62, had won 53.6 per cent of the vote. The ruling National party’s candidate, Nasry Asfura, who is the mayor of the country’s capital Tegucigalpa, had 33.9 per cent, the country’s electoral authority said Monday.

Castro, the wife of a former president deposed in a coup, calls herself a democratic socialist and heads an alliance of opposition groups keen to see a change of power in the Central American nation of almost 10m people.

Her victory would end more than a decade of rule by the rightwing National party. Its incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, has been accused by US prosecutors of being involved in drug trafficking.

“Today the people have done justice, we turned back authoritarianism,” Castro told jubilant supporters on Sunday night. “We’re going to form a government of reconciliation, a government of peace and a government of justice.”

Castro’s Libre party was founded in the wake of protests in 2009 after the military ousted and exiled her husband, Manuel Zelaya, who was an ally of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Her supporters have dismissed suggestions she wants to set up a hard-left administration.

Honduras has the highest poverty rate in Central America, according to the World Bank, and one of the highest homicide rates in the world. That has resulted in mass emigration, mostly to the US.

During this fiscal year, almost 320,000 Hondurans had contact with US law enforcement at the southern border, equivalent to more than 3 per cent of the country’s population.

The campaign and run-up to Sunday’s vote had been tense, with memories of a disputed 2017 election that prompted widespread allegations of fraud and protests that were violently repressed by security forces. At least 29 people were killed in election-related violence this year.

Hernández, who first took office in 2014, has been named by prosecutors as an alleged co-conspirator in a US drug trafficking case in which his brother was jailed this year. He has not been charged and has denied the allegations.

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