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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Hondurans will choose a successor to deeply unpopular President Juan Orlando Hernández on Sunday in elections that could oust his National Party after 12 years in power.

The candidate most likely to do this is Xiomara Castro of the leftist Liberty and Re-foundation party.

The former first lady is making her third bid for the presidency and is the only one of 13 opposition candidates with a chance to beat Hernández’s handpicked successor, Nasry Asfura, a folksy Tegucigalpa mayor.

Such is the level of mistrust among Hondurans in the electoral process that many fear there could be disturbances in the streets no matter who wins.

After a protracted contest filled with irregularities in 2017, protesters filled the streets and the government imposed a curfew. Three weeks later Hernández was declared the winner despite the Organization of American States observation mission calling for an election re-do. At least 23 people were killed.

This time businesses along major thoroughfares in the capital are taking no chances. Workers mounted sheets of plywood over their many of their windows on Saturday.

More than 5.1 million Hondurans are registered to vote at nearly 6,000 polling sites across the country. In addition to a new president, they will choose a new congress, new representatives to the Central American Parliament and a bevy of local races.

Experts say it will come down to whether those dissatisfied with National Party rule will turn out in sufficient numbers to overcome the incumbent’s potent electoral machinery. Hondurans have reported receiving phone calls from the National Party in recent days offering an assortment of payments or other government benefits and reminding them to vote. Some calls offered to arrange transportation to polling sites.

In a world hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Honduras can count that as just one of the crises that have ravaged it in recent years. Last year, the country also suffered the devastating effects of two major hurricanes. Unemployment was 10.9% last year as the economy shrank 9%. Powerful street gangs continue to terrorize Hondurans, driving, along with economic factors, tens of thousands of Hondurans to emigrate.

Corruption is carried out with such impunity that Hondurans have turned their hopes to U.S. federal prosecutors in New York. They won a life sentence for Hernández’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández, for drug trafficking, and have accused the president of fueling his political rise with drug proceeds, though they have not charged him. Juan Orlando Hernández has denied any wrongdoing.

So the ground would appear favorable for Castro, but there are doubts about how much real change she would bring. Her husband, Jose Manuel Zelaya, was ousted by the military in a coup in 2009. U.S. prosecutors have tied him too to bribes from drug traffickers, which he also denies.

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National Insurance hike is unnecessary – Boris could avoid tax rise if he did these eight cost-savings to fix the NHS

WHY is it that every time a public service comes under pressure, politicians always want to dip further into our pockets?

We all know that staff in the NHS performed heroically during the pandemic and are now facing a backlog, including crucial cancer appointments.

6Eight cost-savings in the NHS that could see Boris Johnson scrap the planned National Insurance hike

And we value the tireless work of care home staff, pulling together in a social care system that needs fixing.

But a National Insurance rise — as planned for this April by the Government — is no sustainable way to solve these two problems. Instead of increasing National Insurance, the answer is to make better use of the money we have. 

If we want to spend without picking the pockets of the poor to pay for it, we need to save money first.

How to properly fund social care is a question most politicians have dodged. That’s because, with more people living longer, costs are going up.

 But the current model — tax rises to cover costs — just papers over the cracks.

So how can the Government save that money from what it already spends? 

Here I highlight areas where costs could be saved . . . 

Invest in automation 6Estimates suggest the £12billion funding the Government plans to pump in with the National Insurance rise could be found through increased automation of services, i.e. robots

Improving the use of technology can help. 

Our research — backed by former health secretary Matt Hancock — showed it could free up staff time to focus on patient care and save billions in the process. 

Estimates suggest the £12billion funding the Government plans to pump in with the National Insurance rise could be found through increased automation of services, i.e. robots. 

That can be anything from booking appointments and managerial tasks to processing prescriptions — freeing up time for one-to-one care. Pathology costs alone could be cut by £1.1billion a year.

 There may be upfront costs, but longer-term savings would outweigh them. 

Savings £12billion

Most read in NewsHERE IT COMES Winter storm Kenan bringing 'bomb cyclone BLIZZARD' to New York this weekendHOME HORROR 'Dad shoots and kills wife and daughters, 13 and 6' before turning gun on selfWAR ON HEROES Horror rise in cop murders as 7 shot in 48 hours after 60% surge in killingsLAST HOURS Oklahoma inmate gets death penalty as Alabama prisoner given lethal injection Rein in extravagance 6Buying the likes of Dyson fans and a £5,000 hot tub are just two examples of squandered cash

FROM buying snazzy Dyson fans at numerous NHS trusts to the £5,000 on a hot tub from a personal health budget issued by NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, the NHS has squandered money on dubious purchases. 

The TaxPayers Alliance has uncovered other profligacy, including the £579 spent by NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG on a PlayStation 4 with VR package. 

And the £3,000 from NHS West Sussex CCG for a National Trust membership, Merlin Pass and Chelsea season ticket.

There is more . . . a company owned by the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Trust lost £360,000 when a music festival featuring Rita Ora and Rudimental — planned as a fundraiser — was cancelled.

Savings £360,000+

Scale back test and trace 6Eye-watering sums, with billions handed out to private contractors and consultants working on the test and trace programme

A staggering £37billion was allocated to the test and trace programme over two years. 

That breaks down as £22billion for 2020-21 and £15billion for 2021-22. 

Eye-watering sums, with billions handed out to private contractors and consultants.

The central objective of the test and trace system was to prevent lockdowns and by this measure it has failed. 

Savings up to £15billion

Fair price for essentials 6Some items purchased for the NHS, such as toilet rolls, were found to cost almost twice as much depending on who they were bought from

IN his 2016 report on NHS productivity, Lord Carter discovered that in a sample of 22 trusts covering approximately 16 per cent of NHS spending, in one year alone they used 30,000 suppliers and 20,000 different product brands. 

As a result, prices varied wildly – with some items, such as toilet rolls, costing almost twice as much depending on who they were bought from. 

Lord Carter suggested a smarter procurement strategy could save £700million. 

Savings £700million

End health tourism

HEALTH tourism — where overseas patients use NHS services for free when they are not entitled to — costs the Government millions every year. 

In 2013, a landmark government report put this figure at £388million a year — with only around 16 per cent recovered.

Our own research in 2020 reveals unpaid bills for foreign patients still running at £55million. 

Savings £55million

Cull agency and outside staff 6The NHS could free up £480million to reinvest in services by cutting back on agency workers, according to one report

THE NHS is a huge employer of agency staff, often at inflated fees. 

A report in August 2018 showed that the NHS could free up £480million to reinvest in services by cutting back on agency workers. 

Savings £480million

Reduce quangos

OUR research shows that reducing the number of NHS quangos from 19 to seven could save more than £750million. Cutting the number of quangos needing management, care and communications could save a further £40million per year.

Savings £790million

Stop missing appointments

WE patients can do our bit too — missed appointments (assuming you can actually get one) cost the NHS hundreds of millions a year. 

If you think your GP sends too many reminder texts, remember they’re actually trying to save taxpayers’ cash by getting people there on time. 

 In 2018, the cost to the taxpayer of no-shows was a staggering £350million.

Savings £350million

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