Sometimes it takes more than a decisive electoral victory to hold onto power.
In Honduras, that’s a lesson that recently-elected Democratic Socialist President Xiomara Castro has had to learn fast. In the past 36 hours, her newly-formed political “alliance against the dictatorship” has shown itself to be more fractured than ever.
The left-leaning Libre party’s leadership is supporti ng a Congressman from their allied Salvador de Honduras party (Luis Redondo)–but over 20 members of the Libre party (which holds 50 seats in Congress) have decided to go rogue, instead supporting a Congressman from their own party (Jorge Cálix) who, ironically, is backed by the more conservative Liberal and National parties, which have maintained steady control over the country for the past 12 years since the 2009 military coup.
How did we get here?
On Sunday, January 23rd, the Honduran Congress will vote on their future president. Much like with the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States, a decisive winner is typically declared well in advance, as the party–or alliance of parties–in control tends to vote as a block.
To win the November 28 election Xiomara Castro, herself a member of the Libre Party, (which was created after the coup against her husband, former President Mel Zelaya), had formed an alliance with the “Salvador de Honduras” party, headed by the popular political figure Salvador Nasralla.
The agreement had been that she would appoint a member of Nasralla’s party as President of Congress, so as to create a balanced coalition government.
But on Thursday, January 20th, at an internal party meeting, 20 members of the Libre party shockingly decided to look the other way.
Instead, they supported Congressman Jorge Cálix, who, while belonging in name to the leftist opposition Libre party, has close ties to Hilda Hernández, the sister of outgoing conservative nationalist president Juan Orlando (who many believe was illegitimately re-elected in 2017). To many Hondurans that are out in the street protesting (as I am writing), electing Cálix as President of Congress would be equivalent to continuing forward the “narco dictatorship” of the immediate past.
Interestingly Cálix also has close ties to Beatriz Valle, a Congresswoman and long-time supporter of women’s right to choose and the LGBTQ+ community.
On Friday, after the swearing in of new members, Cálix declared himself the President of Congress, having obtained 85 votes – made up of the conservative National Party, the Liberal Party, and the 20 “dissident” members of Libre.
President-elect Xiomara Castro declared the 20 members of her own party “traitors” on social media.
She’s set to be sworn-in on January 28th, at a ceremony that will be attended by world leaders including United States VP Kamala Harris, and Argentina’s VP Cristina Kirchner. But if Cálix is elected, she said she’d forgo the traditional swearing in before Congress, opting instead for a judge to carry out the ritual.
On Friday morning, an angry mob, which may have included members of Congress, stormed the capitol in Tegucigalpa and “threw out” Cálix onto the streets.
Shortly after Castro tweeted out “the traitors have been consumed!”
Now, people are out in the streets protesting. Chaos has ensued. Recently, the house of a “dissident” Libre Congressman, Dennis Chirinos, was violently set on fire.
An hour ago Castro announced the “expulsion” of the 20 dissidents from her own party.
Many believe that it was the doing of Juan Orlando Hernández (or just the corrupt National Party in general) – to “divide and conquer” the Honduran people by planting the seeds of an internal rebellion against Xiomara Castro’s new government with the candidacy of Cálix.
In fact, the leader of the Libre and Salvador party’s alliance, Pedro Barquero, announced that the Ficohsa Bank, one of Orland Hernández’s backers, was a big donor to Cálix’s campaign for Congress.