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Xiomara Castro Edges Closer to Honduran Presidency as Opponent Concedes

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Fears that another bitterly disputed presidential election might plunge Honduras back into chaos and violence eased Tuesday night when the ruling party conceded defeat to the opposition candidate.

With that, it appeared that Honduras may not only enjoy a peaceful transition, but will also have its first female president, the leftist Xiomara Castro.

Nasry Asfura, the presidential candidate of the ruling National Party, said in a statement that he had personally congratulated Ms. Castro, meeting with her and her family.

“Now I want to say it publicly: that I congratulate her for her victory,” said Mr. Asfura, the conservative mayor of Tegucigalpa. “And as president-elect, I hope that God illuminates and guides her so that her administration does the best for the benefit of all of us Hondurans, to achieve development and the desire for democracy.”

Ms. Castro had 53 percent of the vote and Mr. Asfura 34 percent, with 52 percent of the ballots counted, according to the National Electoral Council. The council has 30 days from the election to declare a winner.

Even before the concession, Castro supporters had been celebrating.

Thousands of Hondurans poured into the streets the day after the vote Sunday to cheer what they believed was Ms. Castro’s insurmountable lead, shooting fireworks and singing “J.O.H., J.O.H., and away you go,” a reference to the deeply unpopular outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández.

The outcome appeared to be a stunning repudiation of the National Party’s 12-year rule, which was shaped by pervasive corruption, dismantling of democratic institutions and accusations of links with drug cartels.

Many voiced hopes that Ms. Castro, 62, would be able to cure the chronic ills that have mired the country in poverty and desperation for decades — widespread graft, violence, organized crime and mass migration.

Ms. Castro in some ways represents a break with Honduras’s traditional politics. Her commanding lead, in what has been a largely peaceful election so far, also appeared to present a democratic reprieve from a wave of authoritarianism sweeping Central America.

Yet, Ms. Castro is also deeply tied to Honduras’ political establishment. Her husband is Manuel Zelaya, a leftist former president deposed in a 2009 coup.

And Ms. Castro’s ability to meet campaign promises is likely to be severely challenged by opposition from the more conservative sectors in congress and within her own political coalition.

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