Leftist presidential candidate Xiomara Castro took a decisive lead in Honduras\u0026#039; election on Sunday, setting her up to defeat the right-wing incumbent party\u0026#039;s candidate—though progressive observers stressed the need to remain vigilant as ballots continue to be counted and reactionary\u0026nbsp;forces ramp up misinformation following an apparently unsuccessful attempt\u0026nbsp;to suppress voting.\r\n\r\n\u0022Xiomara Castro\u0026#039;s likely victory is a testament to the will of the Honduran people to have their voices heard and their votes counted.\u0022\r\n\r\nA victory by Castro would represent a repudiation of U.S. intervention in Central America. Honduras\u0026#039; potential next president is the wife of Manuel Zelaya, the country\u0026#039;s former progressive president who was deposed in a Washington-backed coup in 2009—after which narco-violence surged under the watch of an authoritarian neoliberal regime installed by the Obama administration and supported by subsequent administrations.\r\n\r\nIf she wins, Castro would be the first Honduran president to be democratically elected on a socialist platform, as well as the first woman to lead the country. With just over half of ballots processed, the Libre Party\u0026#039;s Castro had garnered\u0026nbsp;53.6% of the vote, compared with 34% for\u0026nbsp;Nasry Asfura, the candidate from the right-wing National Party, which has ruled the country for the past dozen years.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nPreliminary results from Honduras\u0026#039; National Electoral Council show leftist candidate Xiomara Castro winning by nearly 20%\r\n\r\nThere\u0026#039;s still a lot left to count though, so now is time to be vigilant, because the US-backed coup regime stole the last 3 electionshttps://t.co/xMUIrpjfUC\r\n— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 29, 2021\r\n\r\n\r\nCastro \u0022hopes to restore diplomatic relations with China, legalize abortion and same-sex marriage, and defend the\u0026nbsp;interests of the poor and working class,\u0022 according to Telesur.\r\n\r\nCalling the 62-year-old democratic socialist\u0026#039;s solid performance a \u0022triumph for democracy over corruption and election irregularities,\u0022 Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the\u0026nbsp;Center for Economic and Policy Research, said in a statement that \u0022Xiomara Castro\u0026#039;s likely victory is a testament to the will of the Honduran people to have their voices heard and their votes counted.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022The international community should be on guard and ready to defend Honduras\u0026#039; democratic institutions, and the will of its people, against any extra-legal efforts to destabilize or overthrow the new government.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022Democracy remains very fragile in Honduras,\u0022 Weisbrot warned. \u0022This is a country that saw the military kidnap the president at gunpoint and fly him out of the country just 12 years ago, and there was very\u0026nbsp;strong evidence\u0026nbsp;that the elections of four years ago were stolen\u0022 by the ruling National Party.\r\n\r\nIndeed, Castro\u0026#039;s current lead materialized despite the best efforts of the incumbent right-wing government to suppress participation.\r\n\r\nProgressive International (PI), whose new observatory to protect democracy sent delegates\u0026nbsp;to Honduras to monitor the electoral process, drew attention to reports that the ruling National Party was attempting to buy votes.\r\n\r\nOn Sunday morning,\u0026nbsp;Salvador Nasralla—a former presidential candidate who\u0026nbsp;led\u0026nbsp;Honduras\u0026#039; 2017 election by 5 percentage points with 57% of votes counted before a 30-hour delay and other \u0022technical failures\u0022 ultimately resulted in a National Party victory—said that the website of\u0026nbsp;the\u0026nbsp;National Electoral Council (CNE) had been \u0022intentionally taken down\u0022 and that right-wing officials were giving voters inaccurate information about polling places.\r\n\r\nHours later, CNE\u0026nbsp;announced that its server had been attacked, which PI said \u0022has prevented voters from locating their polling station,\u0022 causing\u0026nbsp;long lines to form.\r\n\r\nWith polls still open and before a single ballot had been counted, the incumbent right-wing government said on Sunday afternoon that Asfura had won—in violation, Telesur\u0026nbsp;reported, of \u0022national electoral law prohibiting\u0026nbsp;the premature claiming of victory before the competent\u0026nbsp;authorities release their preliminary results... which the CNE did just after 8:00 pm local time.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nJournalist Denis Rogatyuk warned that \u0022the party that turned Honduras into a narco-state will be unlikely to relinquish power peacefully.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe ruling National Party\u0026#039;s alleged vote-buying and premature victory claims, along with the yet-to-be-resolved attacks on the CNE\u0026#039;s website, weren\u0026#039;t enough to deter hundreds of thousands of Honduran voters from casting ballots for the opposition Libre Party. Turnout was over 60%.\r\n\r\n\u0022Hondurans flocked to the polls in near-record numbers to decide the successor of the deeply unpopular current president, Juan Orlando Hernández,\u0022 the New York Times reported. \u0022Hernández\u0026#039;s presence was palpable at the polls after his government spent the past eight years dismantling the country\u0026#039;s democratic institutions and allowing corruption and organized crime to permeate the highest levels of power.\u0022\r\n\r\nAs the election progressed, Castro also declared victory. Once the preliminary tally showed Asfura falling behind by a significant margin, she told \u0022jubilant supporters at her campaign headquarters on Sunday night that she would begin forming a government of national reconciliation starting on Monday,\u0022 the Times reported.\u0026nbsp;\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\u0022We have turned back authoritarianism,\u0022 Castro told the crowd in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. \u0022Out with corruption, out with drug trafficking, out with organized crime.\u0022\r\n\r\nAlthough Castro has taken a commanding lead, it could take days for results to be finalized. In the meantime, electoral observers have emphasized the need to remain vigilant in the coming hours.\r\n\r\nEarlier this morning, for instance, a Honduran newspaper shared a misleading graph that suggests Asfura is winning even as he trails Castro by roughly 20 percentage points. Jumping at the chance to use a pun, PI general coordinator David Adler described the chart as an example of \u0022graphic violence.\u0022\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nWhile Castro\u0026#039;s advantage is much larger than the opposition\u0026#039;s early lead\u0026nbsp;in 2017, making it more difficult for right-wing forces to subvert the election,\u0026nbsp;The Guardian\u0026nbsp;noted that a close outcome four years ago \u0022led to a contested result and deadly protests after widespread allegations of irregularities.\u0022\r\n\r\nAccording to Telesur, \u0022Fears of the military and business elite repeating a similar scenario to the one from 2017 in which\u0026nbsp;electoral fraud and manipulation stole the presidency from liberal candidate Salvador Nasralla\u0026nbsp;(who has backed Castro) and gave it to the right-wing narco-dictator Juan Orlando Hernández\u0026nbsp;have, until now, not materialized, with Honduras proving\u0026nbsp;ready to fight for the integrity of their\u0026nbsp;democratic process in the streets and\u0026nbsp;with their life, if necessary, as recent\u0026nbsp;history has shown.\u0022\r\n\r\nAs Weisbrot noted, \u0022The U.S. government\u0026nbsp;supported\u0026nbsp;the 2009 military coup in\u0026nbsp;various\u0026nbsp;ways, and so it will be good if members of Congress who favor democracy will make sure that the executive branch here respects democracy in Honduras more than they have in the past.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022On the positive side,\u0022 said Weisbrot, \u0022members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus\u0026nbsp;have taken steps\u0026nbsp;to\u0026nbsp;hold the OAS accountable\u0026nbsp;for its role in the 2019 military coup in Bolivia, so there are pro-democracy forces in Congress.\u0022\r\n\r\n\u0022The international community,\u0022 he added, \u0022should be on guard and ready to defend Honduras\u0026#039; democratic institutions, and the will of its people, against any extra-legal efforts to destabilize or overthrow the new government.\u0022\r\n\r\nThis story has been updated with comments from Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.