Rivals for Honduras presidency hold final rallies before vote eyed by Taiwan, China

FILE PHOTO: Xiomara Castro, presidential candidate for the opposition Libre Party, addresses supporters during the closing rally of her electoral campaign in San Pedro Sula, Honduras November 20, 2021. REUTERS/Yoseph Amaya

November 22, 2021

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA(Reuters) – The top two contenders to be the next president of Honduras held boisterous final rallies over the weekend, one week ahead of an election that could end diplomatic support for Taiwan in the Central American country if the leftist candidate wins.

Should poll leader Xiomara Castro, of the leftist opposition Libre Party, beat the ruling National Party’s Nasry Asfura and put an end to its dozen-year run in power, she would also become the first woman to be president in Honduras.

“We’re going to take out the dictatorship,” she thundered on Sunday, before thousands of supporters in downtown Tegucigalpa, in a nod to the bitterly disputed re-election of outgoing President Juan Orlando Herdandez in 2017.

Castro is running on an anti-corruption platform, while also favoring a partial legalization of abortion and a diplomatic opening to China, which would mark a major shift from country’s current embrace of Taiwan over Beijing.

“As a united opposition, we say enough to so much thieving, so much corruption and drug trafficking,” said Castro, who has also pointed to a the conviction of Hernandez’s younger brother on drug charges in the United States earlier this year.

In a visible reminder of the united opposition backing her, Castro’s crowd was also peppered with the white and yellow flags of the party of her running mate, popular television host Salavador Nasralla, the 2017 runner-up who describes his views as center-right.

Castro is the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed in a 2009 coup, after business and military leaders allied against him.

Presidential hopeful Asfura, a popular two-term mayor of the capital, held his own final rally on Sunday at a baseball stadium, projecting confidence despite trailing in a recent poll.

“We’re going to create jobs and opportunity,” he said. “We’re going to work hard on social programs that bring progress and development to the entire country.”

Unlike Castro, Asfura has not offered a detailed campaign platform.

A poll earlier this month showed Castro with a 17 point lead, but some analysts still expect a tight race.

(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by David Alire Garcia & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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