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, dancing and shouting.
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.
“The economic catastrophe that I’m inheriting is unparalleled in the history of our country,” Castro said, denouncing a seven-fold jump in debt under her two conservative predecessors. “My government will not continue the maelstrom of looting that has condemned generations of young people to pay the debt they incurred behind their back,” she added to thunderous applause.
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 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.