Columns / Politics

Xiomara Castro's Roadmap for Honduras

Friday, January 21, 2022
Dardo Justino Rodríguez

A few days after Xiomara Castro was elected President of Honduras, before the National Electoral Council (CNE) had officially confirmed her victory, the president-elect's staff unofficially released a 30-point plan for her first 100 days in office. The proposal offers a glimpse of the course being laid by a political and social sector that has been fighting since June 28, 2009 — the day Castro’s husband, President Manuel Zelaya, was deposed in a coup — against 12 years of National Party rule and the fraudulent 2017 re-election of former president Juan Orlando Hernández.

Several of the plan’s proposals are directed at the party’s base, at the alliance that supported Castro’s campaign, and at the populations most harmed by the neoliberal policies implemented in the country in recent years. Other elements send a message to the business sector, which largely promoted Castro’s bid for office, while some are directed toward the international community, particularly the United States. Among these latter proposals are measures aimed at demonstrating the new administration’s commitment to cooperating with the U.S. on issues of corruption and the economy — two major causes of increased irregular emigration — while others send less friendly signals, most notably, a proposal to establish diplomatic and economic relations with China.

According to statements from future vice president Salvador Nasralla and Congressman-elect Hugo Noé Pino, however, the administration will only pursue this last move after the question is first taken up by Congress. In reality, the proposal is a nod to Washington given prior to the election and signals the prudence with which the new government plans to conduct itself.

It took 12 years for Libre, as Castro’s Partido Libertad y Refundación (Freedom and Refoundation Party) is colloquially known, to win power. The party first began participating in the electoral process during the country’s 2013 general elections. Since then, the road has been long, torturous, and full of hard conversations, fierce internal conflict, and the defections of leaders, mid-level supporters, and some of the party’s grassroots base. Nevertheless, when this Nov. 28 election rolled around, Libre was viewed as the only political force capable of ousting the ruling National Party, a party worn down by 12 years of authoritarianism, popular resistance to some of its policies and, above all, by its corruption and ties to drug trafficking.

Vice President-elect Salvador Nasralla (center left), founder of the party Salvador de Honduras (
Vice President-elect Salvador Nasralla (center left), founder of the party Salvador de Honduras ('Savior of Honduras'), and President-elect Xiomara Castro (center right), of the party Libre, declared victory at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, while the vote count was still underway. The duo boasted a 20-point lead over the National Party, its closest competitor. Photo: Carlos Barrera/El Faro

In this context, the first aim of Castro’s proposed plan is to repeal the most controversial laws imposed by what she refers to as the “dictatorship.” Some of the laws to be scrapped: the Ley del Consejo de Seguridad y Defensa (Law of Security and Defense Council), the Ley de Secretos (State Secrets Law), the Ley de Escuchas (Eavesdropping Law), and the Ley de Zonas Empleo y Desarrollo Económico (Law of Employment and Economic Development Zones/ZEDEs), among other national security laws “aimed at consolidating the dictatorship.”

The second proposal, also hugely significant, may cause tensions among certain sectors of Honduran society as well as in Washington, by calling for a popular referendum on the question of a National Constituent Assembly. This was precisely one of the reasons used to justify the 2009 overthrow of Manuel Zelaya, Castro’s husband. This proposal, however, will also be postponed until consensus can be reached between political authorities and civil society representatives, according to the 30-point plan.

The aspects of the plan directed at the party’s grassroots base, along with other marginalized sectors of society, propose reducing the disproportionately high salaries of government officials, eliminating other excessive and superfluous government expenses, and selling off the presidential airplane and state-owned luxury vehicles. In addition, the proposal calls for a reduction in the cost of fuel and for the reorganization of state-owned businesses.

The plan also promises not to impose any new taxes on the Honduran people, on the country’s productive and commercial sectors, and “much less on the poor.” It indicates, moreover, that the government will cancel taxes that affect end consumers and the competitive capacity of the business sector, but also stipulates that the state will impose “contribution commitments on big finance capital,” and that said contributions will go toward funding scholarships and employment for the country’s youth.

One of the proposals most anticipated by the future president’s supporters is the decision to declare amnesty for all political prisoners, and to grant “a pardon to all those wrongly imprisoned for participating in protests in defense of human rights and natural resources.” Regarding the assassinations of environmental activists Berta Cáceres in 2016 and Margarita Murillo in 2014, the Castro government intends to continue pursuing charges in hopes of bringing the crimes’ intellectual authors to justice — a complicated undertaking, given the power weilded by the alleged perpetrators.

Along these same lines, the plan calls for protecting the natural environment and for the repeal of all mining, hydroelectric, and logging permits approved under questionable circumstances by the outgoing government. The proposal also states that the new government is committed to “working to provide reparations for violations against the victims of political violence, for those who were murdered during the 2017 electoral fraud, and for the victims of femicide.”

Within this part of the framework, and standing out as one the plan’s most significant proposals, is a call for the “establishment of an International Commission against Corruption and Impunity (CICIH). The commission,” the proposal states, “shall be created by the government of Honduras, with support from the United Nations.” Thus, Honduras seeks to resume the course abandoned by Guatemala by establishing an independent, international body, whose purpose will be to support state institutions in the investigation of crimes of corruption — investigations of the sort that, in the case of Guatemala, resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of former president Otto Pérez Molina and former vice president Roxana Baldetti.

Other points of the plan focus on migrants and the reunification of migrant families, as well as the demands of educators and a proposal to renegotiate the Estatuto del Docente, a national law regulating the rights and obligations of teachers. The plan also promises an increase in the national minimum wage, scholarships and grants for the poorest sectors of society, and the repeal of laws harmful to the interests of oppressed populations, such as the Ley Fundamental de Educación (Fundamental Law of Education), the Ley de Empleo Temporal (Law of Temporary Employment) and the Ley Marco de Seguridad Social (Law of the Social Security Framework) — laws regulating education, employment, and social security.

The points outlined in the incoming administration’s proposal suggest that the new government will pursue its mandate with strength and determination. The Honduran people expect these promises to be fulfilled efficiently and effectively, and hope that the country will embark down a new path, toward new horizons of progress and well-being.

*Translated by Max Granger

Dardo Justino Rodríguez is an analyst, journalist, and independent consultant for international bodies and organizations. He is the national director of Presagio Consulting Honduras.

This column first appeared in Latinoamerica21, a multi-media outlet committed to sharing critical opinions and accurate information about Latin America. Follow them on Twitter at @Latinoamerica21.

Support Independent Journalism in Central America
For the price of a coffee per month, help fund independent Central American journalism that monitors the powerful, exposes wrongdoing, and explains the most complex social phenomena, with the goal of building a better-informed public square.
Support Central American journalism.Cancel anytime.

Edificio Centro Colón, 5to Piso, Oficina 5-7, San José, Costa Rica.
El Faro is supported by:
FUNDACIÓN PERIÓDICA (San José, Costa Rica). All rights reserved. Copyright © 1998 - 2023. Founded on April 25, 1998.