After losing elections in 2013 and 2017, Xiomara Castro has officially been inaugurated as Honduras’s first female president, reports CNN. Castro first rose to political prominence in 2009, when she led a march through the nation’s capital demanding that her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, be reinstated as president following a military coup. Castro, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist brings an end to 12 years of right-wing leadership, BBC News adds. At her inauguration, she emphasized that she seeks to “refound” the nation on “citizen values, ”The New York Times reports.
A member of the Libre party, which was founded in 2009 by her husband following the military coup, Castro’s campaign was based largely on her promises to alleviate poverty, battle corruption, and decriminalize abortion in instances of rape, fetal impairment, and to save the life of the mother, CNN continues. Despite winning 51 percent of the vote and the most votes of any presidential candidate in the country’s history, Castro faces much animosity and division, both domestically and internationally.
Even before officially taking office, Castro was met with a crisis in her own party when she backed centrist Luis Redonda to be the head of congress rather than a fellow Libre party member, BBC News continues. The Washington Post reports that this led the Libre party to pick its own congressional head in protest, and for several weeks, two legislative bodies ran simultaneously, both claiming to be legitimate. The dispute has since been resolved, but it remains an important reminder of the deep issues within the Honduran government.
The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua did not attend Castro’s inauguration, hinting at possible tensions with her neighboring countries, reports Al Jazeera. The New York Times adds that Castro seems to have ruffled the diplomatic feathers of the United States, as she has stated a desire to strengthen Honduras’s diplomatic ties with China, rather than maintain its current relationship with Taiwan. While this does not align with the United States’ interests, Castro could still be essential to relations between the U.S. and Central America.
The relationship between the U.S. and Honduras had been strained due to the controversy surrounding Castro’s predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has been accused of corruption and linked to drug trafficking in U.S. courts, according to Reuters. Though he denies these claims, his administration remains shrouded in controversy. Castro, however, is seen as a figure who could act to aid the interest of the United States.
CNN adds that the Biden administration sees Castro as an important potential ally, partly due to the strained nature of its relationship with other Central American nations , and partly because of Castro’s emphasis on solving issues such as poverty and corruption. If Castro can successfully attack the root causes of poverty, it may help to deter the flow of migrants out of Honduras, an issue of great importance to the United States.
Despite the promise of potential diplomatic relations and much of the change that Castro represents, the fact remains that Honduras is one of Central America’s most conservative countries. After 12 years under a virtual dictatorship, Castro is likely to face much opposition both within her own borders and internationally to achieve her lofty goals, added The New York Times. While the kind of change she hopes to enact could benefit Hondurans and Americans alike, it will likely be an uphill battle. As demonstrated by the dispute over a congressional head, Castro faces division not just from strong opposition, but within her own party. If she is to be successful, she must overcome this division, and while many world leaders such as Kamala Harris certainly believes in her leadership potential , there are clearly many obstacles in her path. The world must wait and see if Castro is up to the challenge.