Honduras inaugurates new president who promises to rehabilitate gangs | VailDaily.com

Honduras inaugurates new president who promises to rehabilitate gangs

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Manuel Zelaya was inaugurated Friday as Honduras’ new president with promises to fight corruption and help criminal and gang members become useful citizens.Zelaya – a tall, wealthy agricultural landowner widely recognized by his thick black mustache, cowboy boots and large, white Stetson – has railed against alleged government corruption and promised to do more for Hondurans with little resources.”Today, we start we start governing Honduras so that the poor have options,” he said.The 56-year-old Zelaya replaces outgoing President Ricardo Maduro, who led a government crackdown on the country’s flourishing gang problem, throwing thousands of gang members in overcrowded jails.The policy was both praised by Hondurans tired of rising crime and copied in neighboring El Salvador. But human rights groups criticized Maduro, saying he should do more to rehabilitate gang members.While Zelaya promoted keeping young people out of gangs and endorsed rehabilitating criminals and gang members. But he also said he won’t be soft on crime, supporting life sentences for violent criminals who are “beyond rehabilitation.”His voice breaking with emotion as he took office, Zelaya said he would help small businesses, improve agricultural production, and create 400,000 jobs in four years in Honduras. Zelaya also supports a free trade agreement with the United States.The former congressman and bank director was virtually tied with contender Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the ruling National Party in polls leading up to the Nov. 27 elections.Complicating matters were technical difficulties with a computer-based voting system that delayed the release of election results.Despite that, the country’s top elections official and member of Zelaya’s party declared him winner.The declaration sparked unrest as Lobo Sosa supporters protests in the streets, while Zelaya backers drove through the capital honking their horns.Lobo Sosa did not concede until Dec. 7, and it wasn’t until nearly a month after the election that the government finally released the total ballot count, giving Zelaya the official victory.Vail, Colorado

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