Honduras elections: the top three candidates

·4-min read

Thirteen candidates will contest Honduras's razor-tight presidential election on Sunday to see who will succeed scandal-tainted Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Here are short profiles of the top three challengers.

- Left -

Xiomara Castro was never meant to run for president, but she is the front runner to become her country's first female leader.

As the wife of Manuel Zelaya, she was first lady in 2009 when her husband was deposed in a coup supported by the military, business elites and the political right.

She made her name leading mass street protests against the coup and there began her own rise to presidential hopeful.

Tough but softly spoken, her popularity stems from her defense of the poor.

But in a deeply conservative and macho country, she faces the twin difficulties of opponents branding her a communist and a puppet for her husband.

"The shadow of Zelaya weighs heavily on her, and in Honduran society it can be assumed that Zelaya is the power behind the throne," sociologist Eugenio Castro told AFP.

The ruling party has also tried to discredit her proposals to legalize abortion and same-sex marriage -- touchy issues in much of Central America.

Often seen wearing denim jeans, and always with a white cowboy hat, the 62-year-old insists she stands for a "Honduran-style democratic socialism" and has tried to distance herself from the leftist models in Cuba and Venezuela that scare many voters.

Already an unsuccessful candidate in 2013, when she narrowly lost to Hernandez, Castro has some heavyweight backing this time -- not least in Salvador Nasralla, a television host who lost out to Hernandez in 2017 amidst accusations of fraud.

Castro was born into a middle-class Catholic family and married Zelaya aged just 16. The couple have four children.

Zelaya says the children have a mix of Spanish, Basque, indigenous, Arab and Senegalese blood.

- Right -

Tall, slim and always seen in jeans, a long-sleeved blue shirt and farming boots, Nasry Asfura likes to present himself as a rural worker allergic to offices.

The 63-year-old of Palestinian descent, the current mayor of Tegucigalpa, is the candidate for the ruling right-wing National Party (PN).

With that comes the benefit of the political machinery that has kept the PN in power for a dozen years, but also the stigma of being linked to drug trafficking and corruption.

"I have never spent a single day sat in my office in the town hall, every day I go out into the streets to serve and see where there are problems," he said, vowing to generate jobs if elected.

He is credited with improving the traffic congestion in Tegucigalpa by building many bridges, tunnels and roundabouts in the capital during his two four-year terms as mayor.

The father of three is a graduate in civil engineering and created a construction company that became one of the biggest in the country.

Although styled as the law-and-order candidate, Asfura has not escaped the accusations of corruption blighting many Honduran politicians.

"He has been accused not just in Honduras, (but also) the Pandora Papers and in Costa Rica. That's not a good sign," said Eugenio Sosa, a professor of sociology at the National University.

Asfura was accused in October 2020 by the public prosecutor of embezzling $700,000, while he was linked in the Pandora Papers to influence peddling in Costa Rica.

And while he has not been linked himself to drug trafficking, "he's been compromised by protecting Hernandez," said Sosa.

- Center -

The centrist candidate, Yani Rosenthal, is a convicted drug trafficker.

He spent three years in a US jail after admitting laundering drug trafficking money. He was released in August 2020, just in time to run for president.

He is the son of the late Jaime Rosenthal, one of the richest people in Honduras -- and prison time was tough on someone used to a silver spoon.

"I learned to wash myself from the waist up in the sink and from the waist down in the toilet," said the 56-year-old.

Despite his criminal record, in March he won the primaries to be the center-right Liberal Party's candidate.

The law graduate has his work cut out as his beaten rival, Luis Zelaya, refused to support him and is instead backing Castro.

He has presented himself as the centrist candidate against "left-wing extremism" and PN corruption.

"We don't want a radical leftist path, nor a corrupt right-wing one, we want a liberal path down the center," he said.

He claims to be the only candidate able to present "viable" economic solutions and has vowed to give every adult a $60 monthly voucher.

A father of four, he was minister of the presidency for two years under Zelaya and says he has a track record of creating jobs.

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