Pepe Lobo wins presidency in Honduras, vows reconciliation

A cattle rancher and former congressman appeared headed for an easy victory Sunday in presidential elections that Hondurans hope would end the worst political crisis here in decades.

Early official poll results showed that conservative businessman Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo, 61, had received 52.09 percent of the votes, trouncing former Vice President Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party.

The preliminary count showed Santos with 34.4 percent.

The largely peaceful election was a boon for the acting Honduran government, which was under heavy criticism here and abroad for holding a regularly scheduled presidential election under controversial circumstances.

Lobo, a member of the opposition National Party, has kept a neutral position in the political crisis that has polarized Honduras since President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya was forced out of the country at gunpoint June 28.

Most regional leaders, who condemned the coup, have said they don't plan to recognize the election. The United States had said it would recognize the winner, then backtracked.

Zelaya supporters told registered voters to stay home, and some went as far as planting minor bombs throughout the capital to create a climate of fear.

The former president of congress, Lobo said his main objective would be to launch a national dialogue with all sides -- including church and even Zelaya. He refused to mention any proposals, saying his chief job will be to listen to the people.

"We have to do whatever it takes for peace," Lobo told The Miami Herald on Friday. "We need dialogue that's broad, with all sectors represented. It's the only way. Staying in conflict doesn't help."

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