Pre-Castro inauguration crisis in Honduras

Gscreams, scuffles and aggressive men who must be restrained. The Honduran Congress was heated to and fro last Friday. The scenes even prompted the American Embassy to call for calm and dialogue. The parliamentarians should only have elected a new congress president.

But the election did not go as planned. President-elect Xiomara Castro had reached an agreement with MPs from her left-wing Freedom and Refoundation (Libre) party to elect a representative of her coalition partner to the post. However, some of Castro’s party comrades had apparently committed themselves elsewhere and decided to support a candidate from the conservative camp and the “National Party” of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández.

Castro called the dissenters “cheaters” and announced their expulsion from their party. On Sunday, both camps then elected their respective candidates for Parliament President in parallel. In the congress, which had been besieged by several hundred supporters of Castro since the previous day, the deputies loyal to her elected Luis Redondo as president of the congress. Virtually simultaneously, the conservatives and “apostates” met at a country club outside of the capital, Tegucigalpa, and elected Jorge Cálix.

Who will take the oath of office now?

This further intensifies the political crisis. Honduras has two Speakers of Parliament, just days before Castro’s inauguration, which is scheduled for Thursday. In a speech, Cálix promised that despite political differences, he would work with Castro and support their political agenda. But Castro took to social media to announce that she only recognized Redondo as Speaker of Parliament and threatened not to take Cálix’s oath. With a view to the deepening political crisis, the Honduran Business Council spoke of a serious threat to the rule of law and democracy and issued a statement calling for an immediate and frank dialogue.

Castro had won the presidential election in November, putting an end to the 12-year government of the National Party and President Hernández. They came to power in 2009 after the then President Manuel Zelaya was overthrown by the courts and with the help of the army in the course of a constitutional crisis. Zelaya is Castro’s husband and also the leader of the Libre party. Ironically, the internal party conflicts have now plunged the country into another political crisis.

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