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Xiomara Castro was sworn in as Honduras’ first female president Thursday in the capital, Tegucigalpa.
Castro, a democratic socialist, won a landslide victory in last year’s presidential election after campaigning on a radical agenda to counter years of governance plagued by corruption and scandal. She promised to alleviate poverty and liberalize abortion laws.
“Two hundred years have passed since our independence was proclaimed. We’re breaking chains and we’re breaking traditions,” Castro said in her inauguration speech.
Castro’s party, the Freedom and Refoundation Party (Libre) won the November 2021 vote with a lead of more than 14 points over her nearest opponent, Nasry Asfura, the capital’s mayor and candidate for outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández’s National Party.
Winning 51% of the vote share and 1.7 million votes, Castro garnered the largest number of votes in the country’s history, underscoring the public’s appetite for change.
Castro, 62, dedicated her early years to family life, marrying businessman and politician Manuel Zelaya at the age of 19 and raising their four children while managing his businesses, according her Libre Party website.
Zelaya was elected president of Honduras but was ousted in a 2009 military coup. Castro’s political career began with her push to get her husband return to office, and in 2013 and 2017, she ran for president.
Castro’s promise to stamp out the systemic problems behind poverty, including economic insecurity, inequality, corruption and violence — some of the root causes of migration to the north — is not only popular with the electorate, but has made her an attractive ally for US President Joe Biden’s administration.
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is overseeing the White House’s efforts to stem the flow of migrants to the US southern border, was among those in attendance for the inauguration.
Harris publicly congratulated Castro on Thursday, and highlighted how the two countries can work together on bolstering economic prosperity and tackling corruption.
“I’d like to publicly congratulate you on your election,” Harris said during a bilateral meeting with the newly inaugurated president. “I look forward to many areas of partnership, including the work we can do to address the economic prosperity of Honduras.”
However, recent shakeup within Castro’s own party could stymie her ability to fulfill campaign promises.
On Sunday, a group of Libre lawmakers rebelled over Castro’s pick for congressional speaker, leading to a split in the newly elected Congress that could potentially see the National Party taking back control of the legislature.
That fracture means that Castro is facing a reality of now leading the country but without the support of her some of her party and its allies in Congress.