We previously commented on the relative lack of reporting in Honduran media of LIBRE's actual positions, and Xiomara's campaign events. We have hesitated to give more space to the odd way she is being covered, but it is time, now.
Proceso Digital, an online Honduran news outlet, published a piece on Friday about the fragmented voter landscape in Honduras. In the third paragraph, after noting that LIBRE is in the lead in all the presidential polls, they describe the presidential candidate as "keeping herself practically unknown, sheltered behind the figure of her husband, ex-president Manuel Zelaya". (We will return to some of the more outrageous parts of this "news article" in another post.)
What caught our attention was the phrase "casi anonimo" (practically unknown)-- an active link in the story. We followed it, and landed on a previous Proceso Digital story, published July 16, headlined "Xiomara Castro Newly Absent from Public Events".
The "public event" in July was the selection, by lottery, of places on the ballot for each party. Proceso Digital noted in passing that Salvador Nasralla also absented himself from this political show; but it was the LIBRE party candidate who came in for criticism for not being there. Both of the new parties sent delegates, so it wasn't a boycott of this step in the process. The story tried to make it seem like evidence of a pattern of hiding Xiomara to avoid public scrutiny, so that she remains "practically unknown".
Which is kind of amazing, when you think about it, since Xiomara became visible as a political actor through the most public political events of Honduras' recent history: the overthrow of the legally elected government of Honduras in 2009, and the sustained public protest that followed and was brutally suppressed by the de facto regime. Video footage shows her, in early July 2009, declaring that she couldn't stay safely in refuge while the people were giving their lives to the cause. By October 2009, public polling was showing Xiomara Castro de Zelaya with the highest approval rating of any public figure in Honduras.
So, she is hardly anonymous, unknown, or simply standing in the shadow of her husband. She is representing the positions of LIBRE, which are continuations (or extensions) of policy directions of the Zelaya administration. And despite the claim that she is not appearing in public, even with the Honduran press being less than fair and balanced, we can reconstruct a clear record of regular public events where she has announced or discussed LIBRE policy directions.
In fact, the same article complaining about her (scheduled) absence from a formal event (at which her party was suitably represented) reported that Xiomara Castro issued a position statement the same week: that she would send the military back to their quarters if elected. Cholusat Sur covered her statement on July 16:
in her government, the military would return to their quarters because their function is not to go out in the streets to patrol, their function is to protect national sovereignty, combat drug trafficking, and prevent contraband arms traffic, what should be done, asserted Xiomara, is to make it possible for the National Police to really dedicate themselves to the security of the people.
On August 4, Tiempo, in coverage of a campaign event in Tocoa in the Department of Colon, noted that she reiterated to supporters there her plan to demilitarize policing and send the armed forces to guard the border. At a campaign event in early September held in Siguatepeque, Department of Comayagua, she announced a plan to form a new national advisory body on culture, and received a formal statement in support of her campaign from a coalition of Honduran writers and artists.
In recent campaign appearances, Xiomara Castro has emphasized the need for support of the rural agrarian population. On September 9, she called for extension of credit at low interest to rural farmers and small businesses, while also restating her intent to remove the military from civilian policing. This was during a tour of small towns in the state dominated by San Pedro Sula, the Department of Cortes, Santa Cruz de Yojoa, San Francisco de Yojoa, San Antonio and Potrerillos.
What is notable in these campaign events is not just the kinds of audiences she is addressing: the venues are places outside the two major cities, including locations (Tocoa, Siguatepeque) that are centers of rural organizing.
So where is Xiomara anonymous and invisible, as Proceso Digital claims? In addition to the lottery for ballot position, the Honduran press reported her declining to attend events of the Chamber of Commerce in Tegucigalpa, and other events planned by the Consejo Hondureña de la Empresa Privada (COHEP).
The actual story here, then, is that a candidate running for president on a ticket emphasizing social justice and seeking popular support, who has no reason to think the business community will back her, is choosing events where her message may motivate voters. And she is using those appearances to publicize a consistent set of policy positions. Pretty outrageous, isn't it?