Since Zelaya’s ouster, Honduras has slipped deeper into economic and social disarray. The country is a prime transit corridor for drug cartels moving U.S.-bound cocaine north, and its homicide rate is the world’s highest. It remains one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere and was the third-largest source of illegal migrants to the United States last year after Mexico and Guatemala.
Opponents of the couple say Castro’s candidacy will upend the delicate stability they’ve worked to establish since the coup and could bring new waves of political violence. They depict Castro, who has never held public office, as a puppet of her power-hungry husband.
In an interview, Zelaya said that if his wife is elected, “I'll do whatever she tells me.”
“She is the most popular woman in Honduras, and it’s not because she’s my wife,” he said. “It’s because she took to the streets in protest [after the 2009 coup] and became the leader of a social movement.”
Zelaya said his wife was not available for an interview because she was recovering from knee surgery. But in a recent speech to supporters, she said Honduras had become “a sanctuary of paramilitaries and drug traffickers, where justice is bought and sold,” and described the country as stricken by “debt, poverty, death, systematic human rights violations and the murder of journalists, peasants, lawyers, students and businessmen.”
Castro and Zelaya say they want to wrest power from the military and wealthy elites and give it to the people through greater “participation.”
“Xiomara is going to give Honduran women a place in society that has always been denied to them,” Zelaya said.
‘Out for revenge’
Castro is running as the candidate of the new Free Party, which she and her husband formed after members of Zelaya’s Liberal party backed the 2009 coup against him.
The Liberal party and the right-leaning National Party have alternated in power here for the past century, but the latest surveys have both parties trailing behind Castro and another breakaway candidate, Salvador Nasralla, a popular sports commentator who has launched his own group, the Anti-Corruption Party.
There are eight candidates in the race, and since Honduras doesn’t have a runoff vote, a simple majority will be enough to win. A Gallup survey in May showed Castro leading the polls with 28 percent support.
If elected, she would be Honduras’s first female president.