Honduras in legislative crisis ahead of inauguration

January 25, 2022 GMT
Supporters of Honduras' President-elect Xiomara Castro gather outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Castro is facing a growing crisis when a sizable bloc of deputies from her own Liberty and Refoundation party rebelled against her attempt to build a legislative majority by promising leadership of Congress to an allied party. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)
Supporters of Honduras' President-elect Xiomara Castro gather outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Castro is facing a growing crisis when a sizable bloc of deputies from her own Liberty and Refoundation party rebelled against her attempt to build a legislative majority by promising leadership of Congress to an allied party. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)
Supporters of Honduras' President-elect Xiomara Castro gather outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Castro is facing a growing crisis when a sizable bloc of deputies from her own Liberty and Refoundation party rebelled against her attempt to build a legislative majority by promising leadership of Congress to an allied party. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)
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Supporters of Honduras' President-elect Xiomara Castro gather outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Castro is facing a growing crisis when a sizable bloc of deputies from her own Liberty and Refoundation party rebelled against her attempt to build a legislative majority by promising leadership of Congress to an allied party. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)
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Supporters of Honduras' President-elect Xiomara Castro gather outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. Castro is facing a growing crisis when a sizable bloc of deputies from her own Liberty and Refoundation party rebelled against her attempt to build a legislative majority by promising leadership of Congress to an allied party. (AP Photo/Elmer Martinez)

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Just two days from inaugurating its next president, Honduras was mired Tuesday in a legislative crisis bordering on the absurd.

Early in the morning, when the new Congress was scheduled to open its first session, rival congressional leadership teams convened two simultaneous, competing sessions.

One, loyal to President-elect Xiomara Castro, convened inside the National Congress chamber. The other, led by breakaway members of her own party, was carried out virtually, with the support of the party of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández and another opposition party.

The political schism has the potential to make it almost impossible for Castro to govern.

That would seem to be the primary objective for some of those involved. Hernández’s presentation of the results of his administration to the rebellious congressional leaders Tuesday bolstered the suspicions of many who see the situation as a move to spike Castro’s government before it even starts.

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Hernández’s interior minister presided over the initial meeting of the new Congress Friday and didn’t allow Castro’s party to propose its formal choice for congressional president. Instead, 20 breakaway members of Castro’s party proposed someone else and chaos ensued.

“It is a major, major distraction,” a former U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, said Tuesday in a talk hosted by the Atlantic Council. “It makes people wonder who’s in charge. It raises questions about to what extent is the government committed to rule of law and to separation of powers.”

She said the United States sees a tremendous opportunity in the region with Castro’s government. The Biden administration has not been getting on well with the governments in neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala, so a friendly administration in Tegucigalpa would be welcome in the region.

Vice President Kamala Harris is leading the U.S. delegation to Castro’s inauguration Thursday.

On Tuesday, the competing congressional presidents — Luis Redondo and Jorge Cálix — appeared set to carry forward leading parallel legislatures, despite questions about the legitimacy of both.

Political analyst and former Honduran lawmaker Efraín Díaz Arrivillaga saw the standoff as an effort to weaken the legislative branch and divide Castro’s Liberty and Refoundation Party, better known as Libre.

“Behind all of this is not only the National Party and Liberal Party, but also part of the important economic powers of Honduras that have benefitted under previous governments,” Díaz said.

Díaz suggested that a solution might be to choose a third person to preside over the Congress.

“What has to be guaranteed is a minimal governability so that Xiomara (Castro) can drive her plan of government,” he said.

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AP writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.