Honduran Congress begins term mired in factional fighting

Tegucigalpa, Jan 25 (EFE).- The 2022-2026 Honduran Congress convened Tuesday under the shadow of a split in the largest party that saw two different people claim the speakership on the eve of the inauguration of Xiomara Castro as president of the Central American nation.

Luis Redondo, leader of the majority in the congressional bloc of Castro’s leftist Libre party, was installed as speaker in a ceremony at the capitol in Tegucigalpa.

While rival Jorge Calix, at the head of a breakaway faction of Libre, proclaimed himself speaker during a Zoom call with the roughly 60 lawmakers who supported him.

Redondo said that the new Congress will pass legislation to ensure the “restoration of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.”

A priority will be strengthening anti-corruption laws and drafting a bill to define an attempt by a president to seek re-election as “treason to the homeland,” Redondo said, receiving a standing ovation from the members present.

The outgoing head of state, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the rightist National Party, was in power for eight years even though the Honduran Constitution expressly prohibits a president from serving consecutive terms.

His brother, Tony Hernandez, was sentenced in March in the United States to life in prison after being convicted of smuggling nearly 204 tons of cocaine into the country over the course of 15 years.

The court heard testimony that Tony funneled millions of dollars in bribes to President Hernandez, who denies the accusations of drug links and denounced his brother’s sentence as “outrageous.”

Redondo’s candidacy for congressional speaker was part of a pact between Libre and the PSH party of Salvador Nasralla, who lost the 2017 presidential contest to Hernandez amid widespread allegations of fraud.

In line with that accord, Nasralla will be sworn-in Thursday as Castro’s vice president.

Last weekend, 17 of the 50 people elected to the 128-seat Congress on the Libre ticket refused to vote for Redondo as speaker, instead backing Jorge Calix, who is also supported by the 44 Nationalist members.

The Honduran people “are sick and tired of sterile confrontations,” Calix said Tuesday, calling for “democratic governability through inclusive, unconditional, frank political dialogue, thinking of the well-being of the Honduran people.”

Police closed the streets around the capitol to vehicles on Tuesday as supporters of President-elect Castro continued to gather ahead of Thursday’s inauguration.

Castro is the wife of former President Mel Zelaya, whose ouster in a June 28, 2009, military coup ushered in 12 years of National Party rule. EFE ac/dr

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