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Honduran Election May Oust Nat'l Party 11/28 08:40

   

   TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- Hondurans will choose a successor to deeply 
unpopular President Juan Orlando Hernndez on Sunday in elections that could 
oust his National Party after 12 years in power.

   The candidate most likely to do this is Xiomara Castro of the leftist 
Liberty and Re-foundation party. The former first lady is making her third bid 
for the presidency and is the only one of 13 opposition candidates with a 
chance to beat Hernndez's handpicked successor, Nasry Asfura, a folksy 
Tegucigalpa mayor.

   Such is the level of mistrust among Hondurans in the electoral process that 
many fear there could be disturbances in the streets no matter who wins.

   After a protracted contest filled with irregularities in 2017, protesters 
filled the streets and the government imposed a curfew. Three weeks later 
Hernndez was declared the winner despite the Organization of American States 
observation mission calling for an election re-do. At least 23 people were 
killed.

   This time businesses along major thoroughfares in the capital are taking no 
chances. Workers mounted sheets of plywood over their many of their windows on 
Saturday.

   More than 5.1 million Hondurans are registered to vote at nearly 6,000 
polling sites across the country. In addition to a new president, they will 
choose a new congress, new representatives to the Central American Parliament 
and a bevy of local races.

   Experts say it will come down to whether those dissatisfied with National 
Party rule will turn out in sufficient numbers to overcome the incumbent's 
potent electoral machinery. Hondurans have reported receiving phone calls from 
the National Party in recent days offering an assortment of payments or other 
government benefits and reminding them to vote. Some calls offered to arrange 
transportation to polling sites.

   In a world hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Honduras can count that as 
just one of the crises that have ravaged it in recent years. Last year, the 
country also suffered the devastating effects of two major hurricanes. 
Unemployment was 10.9% last year as the economy shrank 9%. Powerful street 
gangs continue to terrorize Hondurans, driving, along with economic factors, 
tens of thousands of Hondurans to emigrate.

   Corruption is carried out with such impunity that Hondurans have turned 
their hopes to U.S. federal prosecutors in New York. They won a life sentence 
for Hernndez's brother, Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernndez, for drug trafficking, 
and have accused the president of fueling his political rise with drug 
proceeds, though they have not charged him. Juan Orlando Hernndez has denied 
any wrongdoing.

   So the ground would appear favorable for Castro, but there are doubts about 
how much real change she would bring. Her husband, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was 
ousted by the military in a coup in 2009. U.S. prosecutors have tied him too to 
bribes from drug traffickers, which he also denies.

 
 
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