November 29, 2021 – Euphoria reigned in the streets of Honduras on the night of Sunday, November 28, 2021, as it appeared that massive turnout of voters propelled the opposition candidate, Xiomara Castro, to the presidency.
12 years after the National Party took power in the 2009 military coup, Hondurans resoundingly rejected them at the ballot box. Historic turnout appeared to overcome the ruling party’s vote buying and attempts to cling to power. With 51.45% of the vote counted as of Monday morning, Xiomara Castro led the ruling party candidate by nearly 20 points, with 53.61% of the vote.
Castro is slated to become Honduras’ first female President. She was presidential candidate of an opposition alliance that brought together her leftist party, LIBRE, as well as center and right parties and those who had grown weary of the ruling party’s widespread corruption. The election was a referendum on outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez, whose eight years in power have been marked by brutal state repression, militarization, massive corruption, and state-backed drug trafficking. His party claimed victory before the election even started and has not yet conceded. In 2017, a 5 point margin of victory for the opposition with over half the vote counted mysteriously evaporated during ‘technical failures’ and Hernandez used fraud, lethal military repression of demonstrators, and US support to retain power.
This time, however, the Honduran people turned out in historic numbers – with 68% of the population voting – and the 20 point margin of victory with over half of the vote counted led to massive celebrations around Honduras. Nevertheless, the final results of the election will not be known for several days as we await the transmission of results by the electoral authorities.
In her victory speech Sunday night, Castro spoke of the past 12 years of resistance by the Honduran people and lifted up the memory of the numerous martyrs who lost their lives opposing the coup and subsequent regimes. She also emphasized her plan to build a government of unity and reconciliation. As President, she would face huge challenges. Since the U.S.-backed coup, there has been a massive looting of Honduras, with the violent implementation of extreme right-wing neoliberal policies that have plundered both public institutions and natural resources. This has resulted in massive poverty, displacement, migration, and the criminalization and murders of those who have defended nature and human rights. The damage that was done will not be fixed overnight, but will take sustained organizing. As Bertha Zuniga, General Coordinator of COPINH, wrote on Twitter on Sunday night, ”Now we must rebuild our Honduras so that never again are people murdered or jailed for defending nature and the rights of Indigenous peoples. The Struggle Continues.”
As Hondurans embark on the struggle to rebuild, the U.S. must not interfere. We know too well that the U.S. bears significant responsibility for the destruction of Honduras over the past 12 years (and over the past century). We will not forget that it was U.S. recognition of Hernandez as President that enabled him to stay in power despite massive fraud in the 2017 elections. We will not forget the U.S. training, financing, and equipping of the military and police forces that shot and killed demonstrators in the streets. We will not forget the U.S. financing of the Hernandez regime in the name of fighting the drug war even as his brother was prosecuted by the U.S. for drug trafficking. We will not forget the U.S. training of those who carried out the 2009 coup at the School of the Americas. In the days ahead, as the votes continue to come in and Hondurans continue organizing, challenging extremely violent and entrenched powerful forces, we must remain vigilant against U.S. interference and demand respect for the will of the Honduran population.
While the road ahead is paved with challenges, at this moment we lift up the clear mandate of the Honduran people and what that represents after the past 12 years of repression and bloodshed. We also remember and honor all the martyrs of the Honduran resistance, from Isis Obed Murillo to Ramon Fiallos, and hope that in the days and months to come, there are no more martyrs on the long road to justice and liberation.