“We have turned back authoritarianism,” she told supporters late on Sunday, surrounded by her Libre Party faithful, aides and family, including her husband Zelaya, who was ousted when business and military elites allied against him, ushering in a dozen years of National Party rule.
‘Peace and justice’
Depending on her policy choices, Castro could reverse a weakening of the Honduran justice system that has benefited corrupt and criminal groups, a trend seen across Central America in recent years.
She has promised to enlist help from the United Nations to strengthen the fight against corruption. She vows to legalize abortion in some cases. She may establish diplomatic ties with Beijing, an issue of concern to Washington.
Business leaders quickly offered congratulations and Castro promised to work “hand in hand” with the private sector.
“We’re going to form a government of reconciliation, a government of peace and justice,” Castro added.
Egter, critics have painted her as a dangerous radical, recalling Zelaya’s closeness to late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
In haar toespraak, Castro vowed to strengthen direct democracy by holding referendums on key policies. Elsewhere in Latin America, that tool has sometimes in fact strengthened presidential power.
A planned referendum by Zelaya on constitutional reform including allowing a president to be reelected for a second term was a catalyst for the coup against him, with elites uncomfortable about his alliance with Chavez.
Despite such resistance to reelection, a top court packed with current President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s allies later changed the constitution to allow him a second term.
Early on Monday, Castro thanked Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Twitter for a message congratulating her.
The election took place against a backdrop of poverty exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, adding to anger fueled by scandals that helped pushed record numbers of migrants to leave for the United States.
Castro, who had run twice before for the presidency, seized on the unpopularity of outgoing Hernandez, who has been implicated in a drug trafficking case in a US federal court.
Hernandez has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, but his party’s candidate Asfura was at pains to keep his distance from the president during the election campaign. Castro’s husband Zelaya was also implicated by a witness in a US court of having taken a drug bribe. He denied the accusation.
Asfura urged voters to show patience in a social media post, but stopped short of conceding.
The fate of Honduras’ 128-member Congress remained in the air with no preliminary results published by the electoral council. If the National Party can keep control, it could complicate life for a Castro administration.