January 27 marks the first year of the Presidency of Xiomara Castro in Honduras. Castro won the elections in November 2021 with 51.1 percent of the votes, leading the People’s Alliance. Said electoral front was made up of Castro’s party (LIBRE) and the party of Salvador Nasralla (candidate for vice president), Salvador de Honduras (PSH).
This alliance, also known as the Bicentennial Agreement, allowed the historic National Party, whose candidate was Nasry Asfura (obtained 36.93 percent) and to which former President Juan Orlando Hernández belongs, to be removed from power. Asfura is the current leader of the opposition.
One year into the government, there are some elements to take into account to understand the current political situation:
The alliance between LIBRE and the PSH broke publicly in mid-October 2022, leaving the first presidential appointee (equivalent to a vice president) Nasralla as an opponent within the Executive, and the PSH congressmen as potential obstructors of bills.
The rupture, announced by the current presidential adviser and coordinator of LIBRE, Manuel Zelaya, was attributed by him to Nasralla’s constant public criticism of the president, her administration and the LIBRE party.
From the PSH they emphasize that the deterioration of the political alliance is the responsibility of LIBRE for not advancing in the Bicentennial agreements except for the Presidency of the Legislative Chamber, which remained for the PSH, and the excessive interference in the government of former President Zelaya.
The panorama in Congress is complex, because the ruling party, even still allied with the PSH, did not have enough votes for a simple majority. This would need 65 votes out of 128 (86 the qualified majority) and LIBRE only has 50 congressmen, of whom 20 stopped supporting the Government from the beginning of the mandate.
The PSH has 10, although in practice there are 9 votes because Luis Redondo is the president of Congress, while between the National Party and the Liberal Party there are 66 seats. Christian Democracy and the Anti-Corruption Party add two more, normally favorable to the Government.
In short, the government party does not have the capacity to have a simple majority and its former ally PSH did not always vote in favour, as with the law on the Defense and Security Council; on the other hand, the opposition Liberal Party has supported the 2023 Budget law.The great battle that will soon be fought in Congress, and in which the eyes of international organizations such as the OAS are also set, is the election of the 15 members of the Supreme Court. January 23 is the deadline for the Nominating Board to present the 45 applicants to fill those positions that have a duration of 7 years and of which 7 must be women.
The achievement of an independent and suitable Court is key to carrying out the fight against corruption, among other reasons because it has jurisdiction to judge congressmen and officials. It should be remembered that in 2009 the Supreme Court, made up of judges appointed by the majority parties, issued a statement endorsing the coup against Manuel Zelaya and that in 2015 it revoked the limit on re-election, allowing a new term for Juan Orlando Hernández, currently detained in the United States for drug trafficking. The attorney general and deputy attorney general must also be elected.
On December 15, the president signed a memorandum of understanding between the Honduran government and the UN for the installation of an International Commission against Corruption and Impunity (CICICH), although details about its scope and duration have not been disclosed.
The request has not been free of difficulties, since the UN proposes that the mechanism have powers to “carry out investigations independently, as well as establish itself as a private prosecutor”, and the Government proposes that the criminal accusation always correspond to the Public Ministry. Internally, the biggest dispute centers on the National Party’s request to guarantee that this commission investigates the management of former President Zelaya.
The latest surveys conducted in the country ERIC-SJ (July 2022), and CID Gallup (September 2022) show some relevant results on the current political perception of Hondurans:
i) 65 percent of those interviewed approve of government work (Gallup) and 66.7 percent consider that Xiomara Castro represents a positive change (ERIC-SJ);
ii) the main concerns of the population are unemployment, the high cost of living and insecurity (Gallup and ERIC-SJ); Y
iii) 71 percent of the population affirms that it is very or somewhat likely that, if they had the resources to do so, they would leave the country in search of better opportunities (Gallup).Among the main measures adopted by the president during her first year in office, the following stand out:
a) the rescue of the National Electric Power Company, which provides free energy to the most impoverished sectors and fuel subsidies;
b) the abolition of the Employment and Development Zones (Zedes), implemented by Hernández, which allowed the privatization of natural resources and strategic minerals;
c) the prohibition of open pit mining;
d) the establishment of a state of emergency for one month (recently extended for 45 more days) in 167 areas of the Central District (Tegucigalpa and Comayagüela) and San Pedro Sula due to the growth in crime rates and to fight against gangs; Y
e) the creation of different types of bonds, such as those of the Red Solidaria program and the Bono Esperanza for vulnerable populations.
Finally, in mid-January, Congress approved the 2023 Budget, aimed at executing projects in Health, Education, Agriculture, the Environment, and Gender Equity.