Honduras unveils candidate for president

Written by Staff Writer

Honduras’ ruling Liberal Party party picked Sen. Juan Hernandez to be the ruling party’s candidate for its presidential candidacy at the Liberal Party convention this weekend, an event that at once signals the potential return of freedom of expression and the rejection of violence and coup d’etat.

Hernandez, a Congresswoman and former interior minister, was given the party’s formal endorsement and is now expected to announce his candidacy and campaign as the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate sometime next week.

Political analysts have predicted that the return of Hernandez to the presidential palace and his ascent to president, which is widely expected, could signal a new generation of progressive leaders in Latin America.

Currently, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez — who seized power with the help of U.S. and U.N. forces in 2009 — is the only civilian president in office. The use of force that pushed ousted President Manuel Zelaya from office is condemned by international institutions, including the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and a recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

However, despite regular attempts by Zelaya supporters to return him to power, Hernandez has long brushed off calls for a direct return to power by Zelaya’s supporters.

Zelaya, who won the presidential election in 2009 and served a year in office, was forced to resign in 2009.

Meanwhile, strong opposition to Hernandez’s likely nomination shows the strength of the left in the country and the stagnant performance of the center-right Liberals, although last October’s unsuccessful recall of Honduras’ president provided a newfound level of political will for both parties and saw progressive parties combined with left-leaning groups for the first time to form a coalition — the Green Alliance.

“The progressive movement in Honduras will not stop with the Green Alliance, but they will have to work hand in hand with the Green Alliance to build a unified political force,” said Chris Evans, lead analyst for Latin America and the Caribbean at IHS Markit.

“The problem for Honduran political parties is that they are divided across ideological lines and generally restricted to a limited set of issues, causing parties to struggle to hold any kind of significant sway. Within this framework, a candidate such as Sen. Hernandez — a person perceived as committed to social inclusion and capable of pushing the Green Alliance in a direction more to the left — is seen as best placed to win the presidency,” Evans said.

The view that Hernandez is more progressive is echoed by Simon Ponce de Leon, director of the Honduras Institute for Democracy, who notes that former Sen. Xiomara Castro, the wife of billionaire sugar magnate Juan Ortiz, is “a much better candidate and someone who would be better placed to bring together both of these groups.”

Castro, the former First Lady, has also been nominated as the leftist candidate. Earlier this year, she pledged her allegiance to the Green Alliance, the main leftist coalition, and expressed her desire to be its presidential candidate.

Ponce de Leon’s claim of Castro’s candidacy being the best placed among the leftist and progressive parties was backed up by poll results released last week by the Ombudsman’s Office that found Castro to be the candidate of the Green Alliance, ahead of Hernandez and President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

The Ombudsman’s Office, which includes representatives from all parties in the country, polls for monthly atolls and surveys more than 30,000 Hondurans every two months.

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