Massive vote and overwhelming victory for Xiomara Castro and the opposition coalition. Reconciliation does not mean impunity.

When, on Sunday night, the electoral authorities released the first preliminary report showing the presidential candidate of the opposition alliance, Xiomara Castro, leading the race by almost twenty points over the ruling party’s Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura, Honduras exploded.

This time it wasn’t the murderous bullets, or blasts, or bombs, or stinging water trucks, or cars with tinted windows kidnapping people. This time it was the people screaming, exploding with happiness, bringing out all that was repressed inside them. It was a real racket.

The message was coming through loud and clear and it was irreversible: no more corrupt, no more looting, no more criminals, no more violators of rights, no more lies.

Natalie Roque Sandoval is a historian. At the time of the coup in June 2009, she was the director of the National Newspaper Archive, a body attached to the Ministry of Culture. Less than a month after the breakdown of constitutional order, she was fired by the usurpers.

She describes herself as a “Honduran woman in resistance, a feminist and a social activist”. Last year she accepted the challenge of accompanying Xiomara Castro as presidential designate (vice-president).

However, as a result of the political alliance reached in October between Castro (Libre), Salvador Nasralla (PSH) and Doris Gutiérrez (PINU), presidential nominees Natalie Roque and Lucky Medina resigned from the electoral authorities, ceding their posts to the new allies.

Incidentally, Roque never abandoned her militant commitment to continue contributing to building the popular victory that materialised this Sunday.

We spoke with her about Xiomara Castro’s victory, the importance of continuing to take care of the vote, as well as the challenges that await the future government.

– Did you expect such an overwhelming result and such a massive turnout?

– The scenario was very complex and it was difficult to foresee the turnout and the margin of victory, which we never doubted. Until the last day, the regime kept up its campaign of hatred, violence, terror, trying to sow fear and uncertainty so that people would not vote.

In the end it was surprising how overwhelming this vote was, especially because we were faced with fraud processes that were well mounted through coercion, the trafficking of credentials at the polling stations and the buying of votes with public money.

We knew that we were up against a criminal gang with international links, accustomed to usurping power, looting and using violence as a mechanism to impose themselves.

But the people broke through their fear, took ownership of this process and decided to exercise their right to vote. They understood that there was not going to be another chance.

It was also incredible how our people turned out to defend the vote. On Sunday night they went out for a while to celebrate, but they immediately returned to the polling stations and remained vigilant throughout the process.

We can’t get distracted, we can’t get complacent. We must remain vigilant until the last ballot paper is counted. Only then will we be able to assert the will of the people.

– Was it a punishment vote?

– Honduras has suffered profound tragedies. Corruption, misery, organised crime, violation of human rights, auctioning of territories, surrender of sovereignty, looting of the state, usurpation of power, criminalisation of social protest.

The population knew that this electoral process was the last hope for a way out of the abyss into which the regime has plunged us. And Xiomara said it very well: It’s now or never!

The people had two options: they could vote for the same pro-government project of death and destruction or for the change and hope embodied by the coalition that was created around Xiomara Castro’s candidacy.

This victory, then, is not simply about a political party or a coalition, but about a project to rescue the country.

– During her first speech, Xiomara Castro commemorated the many victims fallen in these twelve years of resistance and struggle.

– As we listened to the electoral authorities giving the first report, we embraced each other, in tears, for the people we are missing, for all the comrades we have lost in this process at the hands of the murderous regime. For Berta (Cáceres), Margarita (Murillo), for all those who have fallen.

But also, for all the families, for all the Honduran men and women who have been victims of plunder and misery. We said it yesterday: for our martyrs, for the bloodshed, we fought and we won.

– The victory seems irreversible and both the National Party and Nasry Asfura recognised Xiomara Castro’s victory. Are you afraid that they might still try to reverse the result?

– We know that the people have already made a decision. However, this is not the time for triumphalism, but we insist on the importance of continuing to take care of the process and the vote count. People have not forgotten what happened in 2017, the fraud, the repression and the deaths. There is a cautious joy.

Besides, it is not enough to win the presidency. We need to have a strong Congress to repeal all those harmful laws and move forward with the government’s plan. The fact that they recognise Xiomara’s presidential victory does not mean that they will not try to commit fraud at the legislative and municipal level.

We trust in the people, in the defence of the vote and in our representative in the electoral body to guarantee respect for the will of the people. The regime will have to accept defeat and open a dialogue that will allow a transition.

– Xiomara Castro called for reconciliation, peace and justice. Which government will be hers?

– Xiomara has said it clearly. They have sown so much hatred, so much fear, so much terror that it is essential to seek reconciliation among the Honduran people. But she has also said that justice will be done and that we will fight with all our strength against impunity. Reconciliation is not synonymous with impunity. This must be made very clear.

On Sunday we celebrated for a few minutes and then immediately got down to work. During the 60 days of transition before the inauguration (end of January) we will lay the foundations to respect the commitments made for the first 100 days of government.

– There is, a whole people who are desperate, who want real changes, a dignified life, a future without having to leave the country. Aren’t you afraid of popular pressure?

– Xiomara has a historic responsibility on her shoulders. Not only will she have to face a campaign of hatred and misogyny for being the first woman president in the history of our country, but she will also have to take the reins of a nation that is destroyed, bankrupt, plundered and heavily indebted.

It will be hard and it will be a titanic task, but we are strong enough to do it. Let’s not forget that this party (Libre) is the political-electoral expression of resistance and popular struggle. It does not have great economic resources, but at the point of volunteering it has won three elections. Two were stolen.

All of us who have participated in these campaigns have our economic capacities diminished. Even so, against all odds, it was spectacular to see so many people walking down from very poor areas to go and vote, to go and celebrate.

We know that we are on the right side and that we are fighting for the lives of the people, of our families. This gives us the strength to make the government that Honduras deserves and that Xiomara has committed to give it.