TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro saw her prospects of a successful administration take a hit on Friday even before she has been sworn in: A battle for leadership of the newly elected Congress devolved into shouting and shoving among her own allies.
The dispute threatens to split her own Liberty and Refoundation Party, as well as its alliance with the party of Vice President Salvador Nasralla — and raised suspicions that the outgoing government is trying to scuttle her administration before it can start.
Castro had promised to give leadership of the new Congress to an allied party she will depend upon to pass legislation after she takes office on Thursday.
Instead, 20 members of her own party broke ranks and chose one of their own members as leader — getting votes from anti-Castro parties to defeat the president-elect's candidate
It infuriated Castro, who tweeted, “The betrayal is complete."
Castro's party, known as Libre, won 50 seats in the 128-seat Congress in November elections and to pass legislation, it will need votes from allies such as Nasralla's Honduras Salvation Party.
Nasralla ended his own presidential campaign and endorsed Castro in October, creating a united front to remove the ruling National Party from power. As part of the deal, Nasralla got the vice presidency and his party was to lead the new Congress.
That leader was supposed to be Luis Redondo. But on Friday, 20 Libre lawmakers instead threw their support to one of their own, Jorge Cálix, and and other parties opposed to Castro backed him as well.
That set off shoving and shouting between loyalist and breakaway members of Libre inside the chamber. Outside, meanwhile, angry Libre supporters chained the doors of Congress so the lawmakers could not exit. Riot police moved in and eventually regained control.
Political analyst and former presidential candidate Olban Valladares said the dispute could be the result of interference from the outgoing administration of President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose National Party had controlled the previous Congress with its allies.
Valladares said the developments made it doubtful that Castro would be able to count on the full support of her party to resolve Honduras’ problems.
Former President Manuel Zelaya, Castro’s husband, said via Twitter that the selection of Cálix would not be recognized and traitors would be expelled.