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Deposed president’s wife leads polls as Honduras campaigns begin

June 19, 2013

Xiomara Castro began her presidential campaign in Honduras last Sunday, almost four years after husband and ex-President Manuel Zelaya was roused from his sleep and flown out of the Central American country in pajamas during a military coup.

Representing the Liberty and Reestablishment Party, known as Libre, Castro opened her campaign for November’s election with a speech that outlined plans to demilitarize the country, promote foreign and private investment, and create a constituent assembly to modify the constitution. Castro, 53, leads polls with 28 percent support, according to CID-Gallup, which surveyed 1,233 potential voters from May 2 to 8 and has a margin of error of five percentage points.

Castro’s plans to create a constituent assembly echo those of Zelaya, who sat behind his wife in his trademark white stetson cowboy hat at Sunday’s campaign opening in Tegucigalpa. During the final year of his presidency, Zelaya’s attempt to hold a referendum to form a constituent assembly led to his ouster by the armed forces on June 28, 2009, as some government officials presumed that he aimed to modify presidential term limitations to remain in power.

“There is a consensus among Honduran parties that something needs to be done to change some weaknesses within the Honduran constitution,” Heather Berkman, political risk analyst at New York-based Eurasia Group Ltd., said in a phone interview. “That was a key issue that was left unresolved after Zelaya was ousted and it is something that I think would be agreed to by both sides of the political spectrum.”

Clad in the red and black colors of the Libre party, Castro also criticized rises in crime and impunity during the current government of President Porfirio Lobo. Honduras has one of the world’s highest homicide rates, with 86 of every 100,000 citizens suffering a violent death in 2012, according to the Violence Observatory at Honduras’s National Autonomous University.

“Bipartisanship has converted the country into a stage for drug-traffickers and militiamen where justice is bought and sold,” Castro said to thousands of flag-waving supporters at the National Engineers Coliseum. “It has made Honduras into the most violent country in the world and created more ignorance, hunger, inequality and other calamities, which have left us with an unprecedented fiscal abyss.”

Honduras’s presidential elections will be held Nov. 24.

© 2013, Bloomberg News

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