On Sunday, January 23, the Honduran parliament, split into two separate blocs, held two separate ceremonies to ratify the new Congressional head. With four days remaining until the inauguration of president-elect Xiomara Castro, the move has generated tension and fears of a new political crisis.
On Friday, January 21, deputies opposed to the president-elect’s choice to head the parliament announced their Directive Board in a session. Then they called a session on Sunday at a private club some 30 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa. Protests from Castro supporters made it impossible for them to meet in the capital.
This Congressional leadership called their supporting deputies to a last-minute session at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 23. The call went unheeded by deputies supporting Castro, who have been occupying the Legislative Chamber in the capital since early Saturday morning.
The majority group ratified Jorge Calix as their choice for Congressional president. Calix was formerly a member of Castro’s Partido Libertad y Refundacion (LIBRE) which triumphed in the November 28 elections. However, since the electoral victory, Calix has drifted from that party; he currently garnered most of his support from the outgoing National Party of Honduras.
Calix was selected to preside over Congress on Friday, January 21, with support from 30 dissenting deputies from Castro’s party, 10 from the Partido Salvador de Honduras, and 44 from the National Party of outgoing president Juan Orlando Hernandez. This presents a new political crisis for the Central America country.
The new leader of Parliament explained that, based on the law, he was moving Sunday’s Congressional session to Zambrana, given the impossibility of holding the session in Tegucigalpa, where since Saturday, a large demonstration of Castro supporters has been occupying the grounds outside the Parliament.
These supporters of Xiomara Castro had mounted a vigil on Saturday, called in by the president-elect herself, so they could serve as witnesses to the election of the Parliamentary leaders taking place inside by a different group of elected Congressional representatives.
Alliances and power plays
In the November elections, Castro had won the elections, but failed to win a Congressional majority. Her LIBRE party won 50 of 128 congressional seats, while the National Party won 44. Most of the remaining seats were split between two smaller parties: the Liberal Party with 22 seats and the PSH with 10.
Then, on Friday, 20 of LIBRE’s 50 elected deputies opposed the choice of Luis Redondo as Congressional president. Redondo, Xiomara Castro’s preferred choice, is a member of the PSH, and his selection was part of an agreement that Castro had made in October, forming a de facto alliance to win the November elections and remove from power the National Party, which had been governing Honduras for 12 years.
While the majority group in Zambrano were seating their new tenured leadership, a different set of legislators were meeting at the official Congressional chambers in Tegucigalpa. The Tegucigalpa group, with 32 LIBRE deputies, 10 from the PSH and a few from the Liberal Party, approved the leadership board headed by Redondo.
Hence, the country now has two different leadership boards for the new Congress, with only four days remaining until Castro’s inauguration.
On Friday, Xiomara Castro announced the expulsion from the party of Calix and 17 other dissenting LIBRE deputies. She referred to this group as “traitors”.
Nevertheless, following his seating in Zambrana, Calix – elected “by 80 deputies” of the 128 total in Congress – assured that the directive board he heads “will be, from today on, at the service of President Xiomara Castro and all the Honduran people, with no distinction for political colors.” He stated that the new Parliament he would preside over, would be “free of interference, free of impositions.”
Calix highlighted his guarantee to remain, “watchful that the legislative agenda of our president Xiomara Castro be fulfilled” and stressed that the new directive board didn’t include any members of the outgoing National Party.
Calix also indicated that the Parliament he would preside over from that moment on would repeal the recent laws passed by the outgoing administration, because they’re harmful to Hondurans and to the country. This had been one of Xiomara Castro’s campaign promises.
Meanwhile, Luis Redondo, stated that the Parliament he would preside over would carry out a “true transformation” in the legislative body, and that corruption and impunity “have ended”.
Redondo thanked those who voted for him, including LIBRE, the PSH, the Liberals and the tiny party Anticorrupcion and Democracia Cristiana. Together, though, his 61 votes don’t meet the threshold needed to constitute a majority of the 128-member Congress.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times