Former Honduran first lady Xiomara Castro of the leftist Libre Party held a commanding lead Monday over ruling National Party candidate Nasry Asfura as votes were counted in Sunday's presidential election. The conservative National Party has held power in Honduras since a 2009 military coup deposed Castro's husband, Mel Zelaya.
Castro declared victory with only a fraction of the vote in, as did the National Party on behalf of Asfura, the mayor of Tegucigalpa, the capital. But Castro's declaration was more plausible. With 45 percent of polling stations reporting, Castro held on to a 53 percent lead to Asfura's 33 percent, according to a preliminary count by the National Electoral Council. Turnout was 68 percent, the council said, or 10 points higher than the messy 2017 election.
"We win! We win!" Castro told supporters. "Today the people have obtained justice. We have reversed authoritarianism."
Outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández was declared victor in 2017, three weeks after an election so riddled with irregularities the Organization of American States observer mission called for a do-over. A crackdown on protesters left at least 23 people dead. The OAS said Sunday's election appeared to be "appropriate and peaceful."
Honduras is reeling from two major hurricanes as well as endemic corruption, poverty, and gang violence that have gotten worse under the National Party's 12 years of uninterrupted rule. "Hernández became a national embarrassment with U.S. federal prosecutors in New York accusing him of running a narco state and fueling his own political rise with drug money," The Associated Press reports. He has denied the charges, but his chances of avoiding possible extradition will become slimmer if Castro is elected president.
Along with president, Hondurans voted Sunday for a new congress and local races.