TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Hondurans on Sunday will vote to choose candidates for November elections to replace outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez, whose eight years in power have been increasingly mired by corruption allegations.
The winning candidates in the primaries will compete in Nov. 28 elections to succeed the two-term president. Hernandez has denied corruption accusations, including by prosecutors in a U.S. trial that he worked with drug traffickers to move large quantities of cocaine into the United States.
An incoming administration will likely be under pressure from U.S. President Joe Biden to address issues contributing to migration, including violence, graft and climate change.
Some Hondurans said they had little hope a new government would bring a clean slate to the Central American country, as they must now choose from several other scandal-ridden candidates in the primaries.
Among the candidates are two men being investigated for alleged corruption and an ex-convict previously sentenced for money laundering in the United States.
“With whoever remains as president, we will continue in the same way: us poor and them – the politicians – rich,” said Nestor Valle, a 47-year-old worker in Tegucigalpa.
“I am a nationalist (of the ruling National Party), but with what has come out that the candidates are accused of corruption, I am not going to vote,” Valle said.
Two candidates from Hernandez’s National Party, Congressional President Mauricio Oliva and Tegucigalpa Mayor Nasry Asfura, are under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds. They deny the accusations.
From the center-right Liberal Party is candidate Yani Rosenthal, a former minister who served three years in a U.S. prison for laundering drug money.
Rosenthal has said the accusation of money laundering was withdrawn and he was eventually convicted of “dealing with assets of illegitimate origin.”
The leftist Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) has four other candidates, including Xiomara Castro, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a June 2009 coup.
Results of the primary elections, in which 4.8 million Hondurans are eligible to vote, are expected next week.
Biden has allocated $4 billion in aid for Central America over the next four years, but will drastically limit direct funding to the region’s governments, top Biden aide Roberta Jacobson told the Los Angeles Times this week.
A new Honduran government will also be tasked with reviving the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, with the poverty rate expected to hit 70%.
(Reporting by Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Cassandra Garrison and Richard Chang)