By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA – Honduras’ main left-wing opposition party, led by ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, said on Sunday that if it wins November’s presidential election it will seek to “readjust” the country’s debt and establish diplomatic relations with China.
Zelaya’s Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) is for the second time fielding his wife, Xiomara Castro, as candidate, who set out her plans at a news conference in a Tegucigalpa hotel.
“I will order an international audit on the internal and external debt, and the readjustment of it,” Castro, 61, said without elaborating on what steps that would entail.
Honduras currently has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but if victorious, Castro said she would “immediately open diplomatic and commercial relations with mainland China.”
At the end of 2020, Honduras had public debt of more than $13 billion, a sum equivalent to 55 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to finance ministry data.
Of that, $8.45 billion is foreign debt, and over 30 percent of the national budget is allocated to paying off debt.
No reliable polling has yet been published for the election, in which Castro and several other candidates will face Nasry Asfura, the mayor of Tegucigalpa, who has been backed by outgoing president Juan Orlando Hernandez, a conservative.
Hernandez’s rule has been dogged by allegations of vote-rigging in his 2017 re-election and accusations raised in U.S. courts – which he denies – of his links to drug traffickers.
But he remains an influential figure and his National Party is still the strongest force in Honduran politics.
Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, suffered a 9% decline in GDP last year during the coronavirus pandemic, and was badly mauled by a pair of major hurricanes that ravaged Central America last November.
This year, the central bank of Honduras has forecast the economy will grow by between 3.2% and 5.2%.