Xiomara Castro has been sworn in as Honduras’ first female president, taking office amid growing uncertainty about whether she will be able to govern in the face of an unfolding legislative crisis and other challenges.
Castro, the 62-year-old leader of the left-wing Libre Party, won the November 28 election by a healthy margin, but recent political manoeuvring in the run-up to her inauguration on Thursday has distracted from what observers hoped would be a new beginning in the troubled nation.
She was sworn in on Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at a national stadium in the capital, Tegucigalpa, amid thousands of Hondurans waving flags.
In her inauguration speech, Castro promised to tackle the corruption and inequality that she said ran rampant under the previous administration, and address poverty – all of which, she added, have been fuelling the massive flight of Hondurans north.
“I promise to be faithful to the Republic, to comply with and enforce the Constitution and its laws,” she said.
Castro is taking the reins as Honduras has been engulfed by a dispute about who will lead the newly elected Congress.
Two congressional leadership teams have been selected — neither legitimately, according to experts — and their standoff has threatened legislative paralysis at a time that Castro desperately needed to quickly get to work addressing systemic problems.
Honduras faces high unemployment, persistent violence, corruption, as well as troubled healthcare and educational systems – challenges that Castro had sworn to tackle.
But elected lawmakers from Castro’s own Libre Party backed one of their own to be the new legislative body’s president on Friday rather than support Castro’s choice, which had been agreed with her vice president to win his party’s support. Neither group backed down, leading to surreal simultaneous legislative sessions on Tuesday.
Reporting from Tegucigalpa on Thursday, said it is “an historic day for the people of Honduras”. About 80 international delegations were expected to attend Castro’s swearing-in ceremony.
“The sheer number of high-profile guests that are in attendance highlights the importance of this day,” he said ahead of the ceremony. “There are fireworks taking place here, a lot of excitement … on the streets.”
But despite that, Rapala stressed that Castro faces “a very tall order when it comes to addressing the many challenges and problems facing Honduras”, including violence, crippling poverty and an economic crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s still the question of immigration. This is one of the reasons that [US] Vice President Kamala Harris is here – again looking to strengthen that relationship between the US and Honduras, hoping to find a multilateral approach to addressing the root causes of migration from Central America.”
The United States, seeing an opportunity to gain an ally, has strongly backed Castro and said it stands ready to provide support. But in a possible sign of tensions in the region, the presidents of neighbouring El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua were not scheduled to attend Thursday’s ceremony.
Washington sees areas for cooperation on Castro’s priorities of battling corruption and increasing economic opportunities in her country, two areas that could affect decisions by Hondurans on whether to stay in the country, or try to migrate to the US.
Harris was scheduled to meet Castro privately, shortly after her inauguration, and the pair previously spoke by phone on December 10.
The vice president of Taiwan, William Lai, is also attending the inauguration in a bid to bolster ties with Honduras under Castro, who during her election campaign threatened to switch allegiance to Beijing from Taipei if elected president. After meeting Lai on Wednesday, Castro said Honduras is grateful for Taiwan’s support and hopes to maintain their relationship.
Meanwhile, Castro, who is taking over from right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernandez, has said she plans to formally invite the United Nations to set up an anti-corruption mission in Honduras.
“Honduras has been a very difficult partner for the United States, especially during the administration of Juan Orlando Hernandez for a number of reasons, including the consistent swirl of illegal activity around him and his family,” Jason Marczak, senior director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center at the Atlantic Council told The Associated Press news agency.
Hernandez has been accused in US courts of corruption and links to drug traffickers, but has repeatedly denied the allegations. A US judge last year sentenced his brother to life in prison, plus 30 years, for drug trafficking.
Translation: I am announcing to the country part of the team of women and men who will accompany me in the project of rebuilding Honduras.
Castro won on her third bid for the presidency. She was previously first lady during the presidency of her husband, Manuel Zelaya, which was cut short by a military coup in 2009.
On Thursday, just hours before her inauguration, Castro announced her cabinet picks via Twitter.
There were two women out of 16 announced positions. Her son, Hector Zelaya, will be her private secretary and Manuel Zelaya’s nephew, Jose Manuel Zelaya, is her choice for defence secretary. Ramon Sabillon, a former national police chief who recently returned to Honduras after living in exile in the US for years, was her pick for security minister.
President Kais Dissolves Top Judicial Watchdog
Tunisia’s president dissolves top judicial watchdog
Tunisian President Kais Saied has dissolved a judicial council that deals with the independence of judges.
Saied – who had dismissed the government and suspended parliament last July – said on Sunday that the Supreme Judicial Council was a “thing of the past”.
sassinations of left-wing activists in 2013.
His decision raises fears about the independence of the judiciary and caps months of his sharp criticism of Tunisia’s judges.
Last month, he revoked all financial privileges for members of the top judicial council, which was formed in 2016 and tasked with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, disciplining judges and granting them professional promotions.
“In this council, positions and appointments are sold according to loyalties. Their place is not the place where they sit now, but where the accused stand,” Saied said in a speech in the interior ministry.
“You cannot imagine the money that certain judges have been able to receive, billions and billions,” he added.
The council’s dissolution comes on the ninth anniversary of the assassination of secular politician Chokri Belaid, with parties and organizations, including the powerful UGTT union, preparing to hold demonstrations later in the day to pressure the judiciary to hold those involved in terrorism accountable.
It is expected that Saied’s supporters also will protest in a second demonstration against the Supreme Judicial Council.
“I tell Tunisians to demonstrate freely. It is your right and our right to dissolve the Supreme Judicial Council,” Saied said.
Saied’s approval of Sunday’s demonstrations comes even though a government decision to ban all demonstrations remains in effect.
Last month, police fired water cannons and beat protesters with sticks to break up an opposition protest against Saied, whose seizure of broad powers and declared plans to redraw the constitution have cast doubt on Tunisia’s decade-old democratic system and hindered its quest for an international rescue plan for public finances.
The president has initiated an online public consultation before drafting a new constitution that he says will be put to a referendum.
He has not brought major political or civil society players into the process.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Has Apologiseda To Prime Minister Scott Morrison
Australia PM Morrison’s deputy sorry for calling leader a ‘liar’
Morrison said in a statement on Saturday that he accepted Joyce’s apology.
In a leaked message, the deputy prime minister, who heads the junior partner in Morrison’s coalition government, said last year that he had never trusted Morrison.
“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time,” Joyce wrote to a former staffer of Morrison’s Liberal Party who had alleged sexual assault by a fellow staffer.
Joyce’s remarks further shake the political position of Morrison, who must call a federal election by May. His approval ratings have fallen over his handling of an Omicron-driven coronavirus outbreak.
“I want to apologise to the prime minister … I should have never written the text that I did,” Joyce told a news conference.
“My view from the backbench about the prime minister was based on assumption and commentary, not from a one-on-one working relationship.”
Joyce became deputy prime minister in 2021 as the leader of the National Party, not as Morrison’s appointee. Joyce’s party, which has the power to remove him as its leader, did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Morrison responded, “Relationships change over time. Politicians are human beings too. We all have our frailties and none of us are perfect.”
Joyce’s text message, first reported on Friday night by Nine Newspapers, was sent through a third party to former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins. She had alleged that she was sexually assaulted in Parliament House in March 2019.
The political commotion comes just days after a controversy about an alleged exchange between senior Liberal Party members making derogatory remarks about Morrison.
Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese said it was “untenable” for Joyce to continue as deputy prime minister.
“I couldn’t care less that the Liberal Party members all don’t like each other,” Albanese said at a briefing. “What I do care about is the consequences of a government that is dysfunctional.”
Trump ‘wrong’ to say 2020 election could be overturned
Trump ‘wrong’ to say 2020 election could be overturned
Former Vice President Mike Pence has directly rebutted Donald Trump’s false claims that he somehow could have overturned the results of the 2020 election in the United States, saying that the former president was simply “wrong”.
In a speech to a gathering of the conservative Federalist Society in Florida on Friday, Pence addressed Trump’s intensifying efforts this week to advance the false narrative that, as vice president, he had the unilateral power to prevent President Joe Biden from taking office.
“President Trump is wrong,” Pence said. “I had no right to overturn the election.”
Pence’s declaration marked his most forceful response yet to Trump, who has spent his post-presidency stoking the lie that the 2020 campaign was stolen from him. And it comes as Pence begins laying the groundwork for a potential run for president in 2024, which could put him in direct competition with his former boss, who is also teasing a comeback run.
The relationship between the two men took on a new dynamic this week as Trump escalated his attacks on Pence.
In a statement Tuesday, Trump said the committee investigating the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol should instead probe “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval”. And on Sunday, he blasted Pence, falsely declaring that “he could have overturned the Election!”
Vice presidents play only a ceremonial role in the counting of Electoral College votes, and any attempt to interfere in the count would have represented an extraordinary violation of the law and an assault on the democratic process.
Pence, in his remarks on Friday to the group of lawyers in Lake Buena Vista, described January 6, 2021, as “a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol” and framed his actions that day as in line with his duty as a constitutional conservative.
“The American people must know that we will always keep our oath to the Constitution, even when it would be politically expedient to do otherwise,” he told the group on Friday.
He noted that, under Article II Section One of the Constitution, “elections are conducted at the state level, not by the Congress” and that “the only role of Congress with respect to the Electoral College is to open and count votes submitted and certified by the states. No more, no less.”
He went on to call out those who have insisted that is not the case.
“Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president,” he added. “Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
The audience applauded Pence’s line about beating the Democrats in the upcoming presidential election, but remained silent when Pence said earlier that “Trump is wrong”.
Pence was inside the Capitol on January 6, presiding over the joint session of Congress to certify the presidential election, when a mob of Trump’s supporters violently smashed inside, assaulting police officers and hunting down legislators.
Pence, who released a letter moments before the session got underway that made clear he had no authority to overturn the will of the voters, was rushed to safety as some rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence!”
The former vice president, in his remarks Friday, acknowledged the lingering anger among many in Trump’s base, even as he said it was time “to focus on the future”.
“The truth is, there’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes,” he said. “Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections — we’ll lose our country.”
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