Sunday, February 20, 2005


Porfirio Lobo takes lead in Honduras election


TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Honduras' congressional leader, a death penalty advocate, took the lead Sunday in presidential primary voting for the ruling National Party.

The country was seeking answers to raging gang violence as its two major political parties chose their candidates for presidential, congressional and local races ahead of November general elections.

Early results for the National Party nomination favored Porfirio Lobo Sosa, the president of Congress, ahead of Tegucigalpa Mayor Miguel Pastor. With 18 percent of ballots counted, Lobo Sosa had 69 percent of the votes; Pastor had about 28 percent.

The Liberal Party, Honduras' leading opposition party, was likely to back prominent rancher Manuel Zelaya, who had 55 percent of the votes counted. His closest rival had 18 percent.

Honduras is preparing to directly elect federal lawmakers in November, under reforms adopted after 2001 elections.

President Ricardo Maduro, whose own son was kidnapped and killed in 1997, took office in 2001 promising to eliminate violent youth gangs, known as maras. But the problem has come to resemble a pitched battle as his four-year term winds down.

On Dec. 23, alleged gang members opened fire on a public bus, killing 28 passengers. The assailants left a note cautioning against efforts to institute the death penalty.

Honduras already has outlawed gang membership. Lobo Sosa has suggested instituting the death penalty for severe crimes such as murder, rape and kidnapping. The country abolished the death penalty in the 1950s.

"I aspire that my countrymen will sleep with their doors and windows open, without fear of being attacked, robbed or killed," Lobo Sosa said.

Zelaya has emphasized his rural roots during the primary campaign. He does not support the death penalty. "I know the profound problems faced in the countryside because that's were I was born," Zelaya said.

At the government's request, the Organization of American States monitored the primaries.

Honduras has been governed by an elected, civilian government since 1982, when it ended decades of rule by mostly military regimes.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP - Latin America/Caribbean: Presidential hopefuls compete in Honduras

Update: Check out a great blog that focuses on Honduras and Latin American issues, HispaniCon


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