Xiomara Castro

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Xiomara Castro
Xiomara Castro 2023 (cropped).jpg
Castro in 2023
56th President of Honduras
Assumed office
27 January 2022
Vice PresidentSalvador Nasralla
Doris Gutiérrez
Renato Florentino
Preceded byJuan Orlando Hernández
Member of the National Popular Resistance Front
In office
28 June 2009 – 26 June 2011
Preceded byFront established
Succeeded byFront dissolved
First Lady of Honduras
In role
27 January 2006 – 28 June 2009
PresidentManuel Zelaya
Preceded byAguas Ocaña
Succeeded bySiomara Girón
Personal details
Iris Xiomara Castro Sarmiento

(1959-09-30) 30 September 1959 (age 63)
Santa Bárbara, Honduras
Political partyLiberal Party (until 2011)
Liberty and Refoundation (2011–present)
(m. 1976)
Children4, including Xiomara

Iris Xiomara Castro Sarmiento[1] (Spanish pronunciation: [ˌsjoˈmaɾa ˈkastɾo]; born 30 September 1959), also known as Xiomara Castro de Zelaya,[2] is a Honduran politician who is the 56th president of Honduras, in office since January 2022.[3] She is the country's first female president, having earlier served as first lady during the presidency of her husband Manuel Zelaya.

Castro grew up in Tegucigalpa and studied business administration. She married Manuel Zelaya in 1976 and became active in the women's section of the Liberal Party of Honduras. She became the country's first lady in 2006 following her husband's victory in the 2005 presidential election. Castro became involved in the National Popular Resistance Front after the 2009 coup d'état which resulted in the end of her husband's presidency.

She was nominated as the presidential candidate of the left-wing Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party at the 2013 election, finishing runner-up to National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández and outpolling Liberal candidate Mauricio Villeda. At the 2017 election she was Salvador Nasralla's running mate, with the ticket narrowly losing to Hernández amidst allegations of irregularities. Castro was ultimately elected to the presidency in 2021, defeating National candidate Nasry Asfura with Nasralla as her running mate. She is the first president from outside the country's two-party system since democracy was restored in 1982.[4]

Early life[edit]

The second of five children, Castro attended primary and secondary school in Tegucigalpa at the San José del Carmen Institute and the María Auxiliadora Institute.

In January 1976, Castro married Manuel Zelaya. Immediately after the wedding, they made their home in Catacamas, Olancho.

Castro played an active part in the Association of Spouses of Members of the Rotary Club of Catacamas, as well as the activities developed within the group to take care of children in need in the Olancho department. She took part in the creation of the Centro de Cuidado Diurno para Niños en Catacamas (Children's Daily Care Center in Catacamas), with the aim of offering assistance to single-parent families led by women, including through the creation of projects of basic cleaning, sowing of vegetables, and floriculture as important projects of job development.

Political career[edit]

Castro in August 2007

In Catacamas, Castro organized the women's branch of the Liberal Party of Honduras and conducted a strong campaign in favor of her husband in the internal elections of February 2005, an occasion in which she was in charge of sub-political coordination of Catacamas.

As First Lady of Honduras, she was in charge of social development programs, and she worked with the United Nations in coalition with other first ladies to address issues faced by women with HIV.[5]

Following the removal of her husband in the 28 June 2009 coup d'état, she led the movement resisting the coup d'état, repeatedly joining thousands of Hondurans in the streets calling for Zelaya's return.[6] This movement became known as the National Front of Popular Resistance (FNRP) and formed the basis for the political party Libre.[6] She joined her husband in the Brazilian embassy, where he had taken refuge after returning to Honduras before reaching a negotiation with the de facto regime.[5]

Presidential campaigns[edit]


On 1 July 2012, Castro officially launched her presidential campaign at an event in the department of Santa Barbara.[7] She then won her party's primary on 18 November 2012,[8] and on 16 June 2013, she was officially chosen to represent Libre in the 2013 presidential election.[6] She expressed opposition to neoliberalism and the militarization of society, and she campaigned for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution.[6]

Leading up to the election, she was first in the polls among all eight candidates during the months of March through October.[6][5][9] However, in the final poll before the election, she fell to second place, behind the President of the National Congress, Juan Orlando Hernández of the National Party of Honduras.[10][11] Castro and Hernández were widely seen as the two leading candidates going into the election.[12][11] She came in second behind Hernández with 896,498 votes (28.78%) to Hernández's 1,149,302 (36.89%).[13] Even though she didn't win the presidency, she was widely seen as provoking a rupture in Honduras's bipartite system, as the support for her Libre party eclipsed that of the Liberal Party, with Libre winning the second most seats in Congress.[14]


Castro in 2013

For the 2017 presidential election, Castro again sought to be Libre's nominee.[15] She easily won the primary,[16] but when Libre formed an alliance with the Innovation and Unity Party, she agreed to step aside and let Salvador Nasralla lead the alliance's presidential ticket.[17]

The Alliance won the election in the pre-election polls, and led in the preliminary results. However, a general blackout interrupted the publication of the count for 36 hours; when it was restarted, the trend was reversed and President Juan Orlando Hernández was re-elected, leading to accusations of fraud. The ensuing demonstrations were suppressed by the government, leaving 23 people dead, hundreds injured and more than 1,350 detained.[18]


Castro was chosen as the 2021 presidential candidate for Libre and represented her political party in the 2021 Honduran general election.[19][20] Salvador Nasralla, a presidential candidate for the Savior Party, later dropped out and became Castro's running mate.[21] Polls showed a tight race between Castro and her right-wing opponent Nasry Asfura, of the incumbent National Party, a two-term mayor plagued by allegations of corruption.[22][23] During her presidential campaign, she suggested the diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China in Beijing over the Republic of China on Taiwan (see One-China policy), the establishment of an anti-corruption commission backed by the United Nations similar to the one active in Guatemala and an update to the Honduran Constitution.[24][25] Castro has proposed a constituent assembly to rewrite the Constitution of Honduras.[26] She has also suggested easing the country's complete prohibition of abortion, under limited circumstances, and allow the use and distribution of emergency contraception.[27][28]

Following the release of the preliminary results of the election, Castro declared victory, and was described by international media as the apparent victor of the election, pending full results.[27][29] On 30 November, Asfura's party conceded defeat.[30][31] He then met with Castro and congratulated her. Castro became Honduras' first female president on 27 January 2022.[32]

2022 congressional leadership dispute[edit]

Before the 2021 election, Castro had promised Salvador Nasralla that his Savior party would hold the leadership of the national congress should they win the election. This promise was one of the conditions that persuaded Nasralla to end his presidential campaign and join Castro’s. However, on 21 January 2022, 20 deputies from Libre refused to follow suit. They voted for Libre deputy Jorge Cálix to be the congressional president. The rest of the Libre deputies and allied parties voted for Luis Redondo of the Savior party. A fight then broke out on the floor of Congress, and Castro refused to recognise Cálix's election. She subsequently denounced the 20 deputies (two of whom later retracted their support for Cálix) as "traitors" and expelled 18 from Libre. The following evening Castro held a vigil with Libre supporters outside congress; she stated that the purpose of the event was "...to prevent the kidnapping of the National Congress and to reject the bipartisanship led by the dictator Juan Orlando Hernández with the direct complicity of a few traitorous deputies, elected by the people under our banner".[33][34] The dispute ended when Calíx and the expelled Libre deputies agreed to support Redondo. Castro subsequently had their party membership restored.[35]

Presidency (2022–present)[edit]

Castro in her inauguration, January 2022

Castro was inaugurated as president on 27 January 2022.[36] She was sworn in at the Tegucigalpa National Soccer Stadium,[37] with thousands of individuals present. Among the attendees were King of Spain Felipe VI, Vice President of Taiwan Lai Ching-te, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Vice President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Vice President of Cuba Salvador Valdés Mesa and President of Costa Rica Carlos Alvarado Quesada.[38]

Castro is the first female President of Honduras and the first to not be a member of the National or Liberal parties since the restoration of democracy in 1982. During her inaugural address, Castro said, "the economic catastrophe that I'm inheriting is unparalleled in the history of our country." She also promised to combat corruption and inequality which she said was 'rampant' during the rule of the previous National government.[39][40][41]

Xiomara Castro inherited a deeply corrupt state apparatus, leading her to choose to extradite her predecessor Juan Orlando Hernández to the United States for his links to drug trafficking, rather than hand him over to the Honduran justice system. Her government asked for UN help in setting up an international commission to fight corruption.[42]

She is confronted with the strong vulnerability of Honduras to US pressure to keep Honduras within regional free trade regimes and the presence of the US military on its territory. In addition, the Supreme Court, whose members were appointed by previous governments, opposes some of her reform plans.[42]

Economic policy[edit]

In her inaugural speech, Castro vowed to re-found a democratic socialist state, stating she had a duty to restore an economic system based upon transparency, efficiency of production, social justice in the distribution of wealth and in national income, and that her vision of her world puts the human being before the rules of the market.[43][44]

In February 2022, she halted the eviction of indigenous families in dispute with a businessman over the ownership of a large piece of land south of the capital.[45]

She banned open-pit mining in March 2022 due to the extensive damage to the environment. The government also promised to intervene "immediately" to conserve areas of "high environmental value" for the benefit of the population.[46]

In May 2022, Castro signed a measure passed by Congress to abolish Honduras' special economic zones, which the previous National government implemented.[47]


In a bid to combat poverty, Castro announced during her inauguration that the poorest families in Honduras; those that consume under 150kWh per month of electricity, will no longer pay electricity bills, and that the additional cost of this policy will be paid for by the biggest consumers assuming an extra charge on their bills.[48] In addition, Castro also announced that her government would send a decree to the National Congress of Honduras to achieve a fuel subsidy, and vowed no more concessions in the exploitation of rivers, hydrographic basins and national parks.[49]

Fiscal policy[edit]

In her inaugural address, Castro announced to the nation that the largest base of the budget she will present to parliament is dedicated to salaries and wages.[50] In-addition, Castro stated that she had ordered her Minister of Finance and the Central Bank to take action to reduce interest rates for production.[43]

Security policy[edit]

On 25 November 2022, a state of emergency was declared to deal with crime. Honduras, along with Guatemala and El Salvador, belongs to the "triangle of death" in Central America, a region plagued by violence, poverty and corruption.[51]

Foreign policy[edit]

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[edit]

In February of 2022, Deputy Foreign Minister Gerardo Torres Zelaya held a meeting with Saharawi President Brahim Ghali, which concluded with an announcement that diplomatic relations between the peoples and governments of Honduras and the SADR had been restored and would be deepened.[52]

Taiwan and People's Republic of China[edit]

Castro and the Taiwanese vice-president Lai Ching-te in 2022

Castro had reassured that she has no plans of changing recognition from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People's Republic of China, and vowed to vice president Lai Ching-te to strengthen the relationship with Taiwan. Furthermore, a spokesperson for Castro said that she has "no immediate intention to change or shift the One-China policy."[53][54] However, on 14 March 2023, Castro instructed her foreign minister to move to cut ties with Taiwan in order to establish formal relations with the People's Republic of China as the sole Chinese state.[55]

Retired Taiwanese KMT opposition member, Tsai Cheng-yuan (Alex), posted on social media that this move was a result of Taiwan refusing to shelter Castro during the 2009 coup.[56][57][58] Castro was the first lady at the time, and the Taiwanese embassy only offered her pregnant daughter political protection on humanitarian grounds. Castro only found refuge at the Brazilian embassy. Lai Chien-chung, the Taiwanese ambassador to Honduras during that time, admitted the refusal stating that it was to spread the risk and disputed the opposition's narrative of indifference. She said that her office reached out to Castro and sheltered her husband and two daughters. Tsai claims that Taipei staff evicted the family and called in the military police to arrest them establishing a long term enmity between the left wing Libre party and Taiwan. The family finally settled down living in the Brazilian embassy.[59]

Other critics cite US support of the 2009 rightwing coup with America justifying their actions on the grounds that Manuel Zelaya was attempting to hold a referendum to change the constitution to allow a two-term limit rather than the existing single-term limit.[60] In 2013, the US then was silent when the rightwing president changed the constitution allowing him a second term in 2017. Following her election, she cited US interventionism and pressure especially in regards to Taiwan in Central America as motive to open diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.[61]


Shortly following Castro's inauguration, an event attended by representatives of the Nicolás Maduro government,[62] the Venezuelan embassy in Honduras's capital of Tegucigalpa was vacated by representatives of Juan Guaidó,[63] who had been recognised as the President of Venezuela by outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández since the Venezuelan presidential crisis.[64] As a result, the embassy was recovered by the Venezuelan delegation sent by the Maduro government.[65] Former President and First Gentleman Manuel Zelaya responded to the news by sending a tweet welcoming Maduro, Latin American unity and the Bolivarian Revolution.[66] Soon after, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Félix Plasencia and newly appointed Foreign Minister of Honduras Enrique Reina announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations for the first time since 2009,[67][68] when they were severed shortly after the coup.[69] The restoration of diplomatic relations was followed by Honduran accreditation of the Venezuelan ambassador Margaud Godoy by Foreign Minister Reina,[70] who said that if the United States had any uncertainty about Honduras' position, reestablishment of relations with Venezuela "for Honduras is a matter of sovereign foreign policy".[71]

See also[edit]


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  56. ^ 台宏斷交藏"新仇舊恨"?!昔曾冒險庇護"宏國總統家族" 蔡正元還原一手真相... @CtiNews, retrieved 30 March 2023
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  63. ^ "Venezuela restores relations with Honduras, reopens embassy". 29 January 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2022 – via Al Mayadeen.
  64. ^ "OAS Member States Issue Joint Statement on Venezuela". US Mission to the Organization of American States. United States State Department. 24 January 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019. The delegations of Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the United States, Honduras, Guatemala, Haiti, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic reaffirm the right to democracy enjoyed by the peoples of the Americas ... In this context, we recognize and express our full support to the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, who has assumed the role of President in charge of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in accordance with the constitutional norms and the illegitimacy of the Nicolás Maduro regime.
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  66. ^ @manuelzr (28 January 2022). "Bienvenida la Unidad Latinoamericana y la Revolución bolivariana. @NicolasMaduro" (Tweet). Retrieved 28 January 2022 – via Twitter.
  67. ^ @EnriqueReinaHN (29 January 2022). "Recibimos las copias de estilo de la Embajadora @MargaudGpsuv en compañía del Canciller @PlasenciaFelix para el restablecimiento de relaciones diplomáticas con la República Bolivariana de Venezuela" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 January 2022 – via Twitter.
  68. ^ @CancilleriaVE (28 January 2022). "#EnVideo 🎥 Desde Honduras el canciller de Venezuela, Félix Plasencia, anunció el restablecimiento de las relaciones diplomáticas entre ambas naciones y la recuperación de la sede diplomática" (Tweet). Retrieved 28 January 2022 – via Twitter.
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External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by First Lady of Honduras
Succeeded by
Party political offices
New political party Libre nominee for President of Honduras
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Juan Alberto Barahona
Libre nominee for First Vice President of Honduras
Preceded by
Salvador Nasralla
Libre nominee for President of Honduras
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by President of Honduras