Castro takes helm of crisis-ridden Honduras

Tegucigalpa, Jan 27 (EFE).- Xiomara Castro was sworn in here Thursday as the first female president of Honduras, a country mired in a severe economic crisis and plagued by the scourges of corruption and drug trafficking.

The new head of state also must deal with a rebellion within her own party, following a revolt last Friday by a large group of members of her leftist Libre party who refused to accept her attempt to install a member of an allied party as congressional speaker.

As a result of the schism within parliament, rival candidates are claiming to be head of Congress and Castro was forced to take the oath of office before Judge Karla Rivera at the National Stadium in Tegucigalp.

She was accompanied at the ceremony by her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup on June 28, 2009.

“The presidency of the republic has never been held by a woman in Honduras. Two-hundred years had to pass since our independence was proclaimed,” the 62-year-old said.

Castro also referred to the country’s 70 percent poverty rate and the corruption and lack of transparency that existed under previous administrations in Honduras, which has been led for the last eight years by Juan Orlando Hernandez of the conservative National Party.

She also pledged to provide the nation and the international community real, unembellished figures that reveal Honduras’ social and economic tragedy.

Stating her plans to refound the country as a “socialist and democratic state,” Castro said the “corruption of the last “12 years of dictatorship” must be uprooted.

According to various sources, in addition to the country’s gang violence, drug trafficking and deficient health and educational systems, more than 1 million Hondurans are unemployed and the country’s total debt amounts to $15 billion,

Castro, who has the support of the United States and the international community, was surrounded by thousands of her countrymen and leaders of the Latin American left.

The only heads of state or government present were Spanish King Felipe VI, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado and Belizean Prime Minister John Antonio Briceño.

But the vice presidents of the US, Kamala Harris; Argentina, Cristina Fernandez; Cuba, Salvador Valdes Mesa; the Dominican Republic, Raquel Peña; and Taiwan, William Lai, all attended the ceremony.

Harris was the first foreign leader Castro met with after being inaugurated.

A White House statement said the two women “discussed deepening our cooperation across a broad range of issues, including addressing the root causes of migration, combating corruption, and expanding economic opportunity.”

Castro said in her inauguration speech that the refounding of the country will begin with re-establishing “respect for the human being, the inviolability of life” and public safety.

“No more death squads, no more silence in the face of femicides (gender-based homicides), no more killings for hire, no more drug trafficking or organized crime,” she said.

The refounding of Honduras is a mission that will hold accountable those “who have been responsible for our country’s image being in tatters” while also “laying the foundation for an all-out fight against corruption so these shameful actions are never repeated.”

Castro also announced that she would enlist the support of the United Nations in establishing an international anti-corruption commission.

Despite her bold promises on Thursday, the big question mark going forward is to what extent the rebellion within her Libre party will undermine her agenda. EFE


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