Honduran parties pick presidential candidates as corruption allegations swirl

Gustavo Palencia
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Honduras' President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks during a joint message with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acting Secretary Chad Wolf (not pictured), in Tegucigalpa

By Gustavo Palencia

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras' three main political parties hold primaries on Sunday to elect candidates for the Nov. 28 presidential election to replace Juan Orlando Hernandez, the outgoing president who has been tainted by accusations of corruption.

Among candidates competing are two men being investigated for alleged corruption and an ex-convict previously sentenced for money laundering in the United States.

U.S. prosecutors alleged on Tuesday that Honduras had become a "narco state" with security forces and politicians, including Hernandez, working with traffickers to move large quantities of cocaine into the United States.

Hernandez, who has dismissed allegations against him as smears by enemies, has been in power for eight years.

The two candidates from his ruling National Party are the president of the Congress, Mauricio Oliva, and the mayor of Tegucigalpa, Nasry Asfura, both of whom are under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds. They deny the allegations.

Competing for the center-right Liberal Party are Luis Zelaya, a former contender in the 2017 presidential race; congressman Dario Banegas, a journalist; and a former minister of the presidency Yani Rosenthal, who served three years in prison in the United States for laundering drug money.

The United States is Honduras' top trade partner and home to the largest community of Honduran immigrants.

The candidates "reflect the deterioration of democracy and weakness of the institutional framework in Honduras," said Eugenio Sosa, analyst and professor of Sociology at the National Autonomous University of Honduras.

The leftist Partido Libertad y Refundacion, led by former president Manuel Zelaya, will pick its candidate from among four contenders including Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro.

Many analysts say the opposition parties need an alliance to beat the National Party, which has governed since 2010 in spite of multiple accusations of corruption and drug trafficking.

(Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Bill Berkrot)