EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Hondurans living in Texas will be closely watching a Sunday presidential election they say could either improve economic conditions in their homeland or lead to additional migration into the United States.
Embattled President Juan Orlando Hernandez is stepping aside and two prominent candidates – one from the left and one from the right – are leading opinion polls. Xiomara Castro, wife of deposed former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is representing the left-wing coalition while the mayor of Tegucigalpa, Nasry Asfura, is the candidate of the ruling National Party.
Hernandez led Honduras through the last two migrant waves to the U.S. and faced allegations of corruption involving campaign financing. His family is also facing allegations of involvement in illegal activities such as money laundering. Allegations of electoral fraud plagued the last election in which he was reelected.
“We hope the elections are peaceful, that people go out to vote and that those who are in power respect their decision,” said Emma Valladares, coordinator of HonduTex, a nonprofit that assists Honduran citizens in Houston.
The organization assists new arrivals through legal referrals for their immigration cases and issues membership IDs so they can enroll their children in school, get vaccines and be able to identify themselves when stopped by police.
She said Hondurans in Houston and elsewhere in Texas are very much interested in Sunday’s election results. “A change of government is always healthy. People want a better way of life. That’s why so many people are migrating to the United States, because it’s the only way to (progress).”
Hondurans are in dire need of jobs and their children need better schools; the next president needs to provide those so his countrymen don’t feel the need to migrate, she said.
Concerns about possible electoral fraud prompted several members of Congress to send a letter to the State Department to urge monitoring to ensure a “clean and fair election” in Honduras.
“We believe it is essential that the United States be viewed as a neutral, credible, and impartial observer and support an outcome in Honduras that is genuinely democratic and inclusive,” the letter said.
The State Department responded by sending Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols to Tegucigalpa this week.