Child support petition to Luis Redondo in U.S. court: A reflection of unfulfilled promises to protect women’s rights in Honduras

Luis Redondo, president of National Congress, is facing several denunciations of violence by his former partner, who also filed a child support petition in the U.S. She affirms that she received threats on social media and her reputation was damaged when personal photos were leaked in retaliation for filing the petition. This is one of many cases affecting women in Honduras that remain in impunity, and the government still has much work to do to stop female violence.

Text: Vienna Herrera
Photography: Fernando Destephen and Jorge Cabrera

Translation: José Rivera


In late 2021, Alejandra Bustillo, who was 27 years old and five months pregnant at the time, illegally migrated to the U.S. with her 5-year-old son. Her decision to leave Honduras was heavily influenced by her then partner and the father of the daughter she was expecting, Luis Redondo, the current president of Congress.


At the time, Redondo was married to another woman and had recently won a congressional reelection with the Salvador de Honduras Party (PSH). According to Bustillo, the Zelaya-Castro family promised Redondo if the party wins the 2021 presidential elections, he would be appointed as president of Congress. To avoid a scandal that could affect his political career, Redondo told Bustillo that she should stay away.


“He told me, ‘If the girl is born here and news breaks out, it’s going to be a scandal,’ ” Bustillo said. Appointments to request a visa to travel to the U.S. and give birth there were not available, so Redondo asked her to illegally migrate with a contact and promised that the journey would be safe. She left San Pedro Sula with her son on November 5, halfway through her pregnancy. After traveling on different means of transportation, they finally arrived on November 25, when she turned herself over to U.S. migration authorities.


Although they were much safer than other migrants who had taken the same route, she said it was tough because of what they saw on the road. After turning herself over to authorities, she spent nine days in a “freezing cell,” known for its low temperatures, under custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. During that time, her prenatal vitamins were taken away, she did not eat well and lost 28 pounds, and her son got pneumonia. After her release, she had to undergo a complex treatment because undernutrition had affected her pregnancy.


In May 2023, Bustillo decided to end her relationship with Redondo, who had been “a good, responsible father, who always took care of us.” Since then, Redondo has not provided financial support to her daughter.


In October 2023, Bustillo filed a child support petition in Virginia, U.S., demanding Redondo $1,648.06 per year. Although a register of such petitions is not available to the public, Bustillo has posted documentation of the case, number 0005605419, and pictures of Redondo and their daughter on social media.


According to Bustillo, Redondo was summoned by a judge between November 10 and November 30, 2023, but he did not appear before court. Bustillo said she not only wrote to Redondo but to his mother and personal assistant, Edson Argueta. “I did not want to make this case public, but I had no choice,” she said.


Contracorriente tried to get in touch with Argueta to understand his version of the events and request an interview with Redondo, but by the time this piece was published, he had not replied. The close relationship between Argueta and Redondo is known in Honduras. They have used credit cards issued to National Congress for personal expenses in restaurants, hotels, flights, supermarkets and delivery services without any accountability.


Although Bustillo’s case was made public by social media and news outlets around the country, she says Redondo has not contacted her directly but through a third party to let her know if she files a claim against him, there will be legal repercussions and “it’s pointless because he’s in a position of power.”


According to Jessica Sánchez, feminist and analyst, it’s concerning that the president of Congress does not meet his familial obligations, “If they want to lead the country, they should first provide for their children. A person who steals millions is just as guilty as a parent who doesn’t take care of his children. It should be easy for him; it’s not like he doesn’t have a job or money. It’s a matter of feeling power over the woman who has custody of his daughter, and supporting her if he wants to.”


In addition to the economic violence Bustillo has endured, when she made the case public, anonymous social media accounts launched a smear campaign against her. Those accounts are linked to pro-government content and show patterns of fake and coordinated campaigns that Contracorriente and IT experts have previously investigated. “He has countless social media accounts at his disposal to denigrate anyone who disagrees with his ideology and actions. All of a sudden, those accounts posted photos I had sent him when we were together and messages saying I used to date a drug trafficker. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be in this situation,” Bustillo said.

Police crack down on feminist movements as they demand justice for murdered women in Honduras. Photo CC/Fernando Destephen.

Sánchez pointed out that there should be legislation to protect women from cyber violence, but there’s no political will in Congress. “The only law passed to protect women is a health and safety labor law pushed by the Honduran Women’s Collective (Colectiva de Mujeres Hondureñas – Codemuh) and Silvia Ayala. Other laws such as a law against female violence, a women’s shelter law, and a law to promptly search for disappeared women have been shelved by Congress,” she said.


Bustillo said Redondo has called her relatives to intimidate her which is why she filed a denunciation against him at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR). She also started a funding campaign to cover $6,000 in legal expenses for the child support claim, a naturalization process her daughter needs to go through to be recognized as a Honduran citizen and a non-voluntary acknowledgement of paternity before a Honduran court.


She’s also collecting $8,000 to regularize her migration status. “I was supposed to return to Honduras for a certain period of time and start a migration process at the U.S. embassy and the foreign ministry, but I can’t go back now,” Bustillo regretfully explained and added that the process is more expensive in the U.S.


On January 31, the Technical Agency for Women’s Access to Justice (Mesa Técnica para el Acceso a la Justicia para las Mujeres), which is led by the the Gender Equality Commission in Congress (Comisión de Equidad de Género) and the judicial branch, met with feminist organizations to discuss a draft of regulations for the Registry of Unpaid Child Support Debtors. Some of the sanctions that would be imposed if Supreme Court magistrates approve the regulations are: inability to acquire or renew a driver’s license or passport, create bank accounts, and request credit cards or any kind of loan.


Sánchez was present in the meeting, which was broadcast on Congress’ own TV channels, and asked during the round of questions, “I know that all of us present have a commitment, but everyone knows that a child support claim was filed against Luis Redondo. He’s a man with a lot of power. Does this project really have the political will and everyone’s support behind it?” But authorities did not address her question, and the broadcast was stopped after a few minutes.


Sánchez explained, “Female congressional representatives who were in the meeting have been committed to fight for gender rights, and we always say that it’s important to do a background check on people who run for office. For instance, to determine that individuals were not involved in domestic violence, violence in general, sexual violence or did not fulfill their child support obligations. But these issues have not been taken into account.”

Feminist groups protest on Women’s Day in Tegucigalpa, Honduras’ capital. Photo CC/Fernando Destephen.

An unfulfilled obligation to women


In 2023, a very violent year for Honduran women, 386 femicides were counted, a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Early 2024 saw a high rate of femicides, 22 violent female deaths registered by January 25, according to the Center for Women’s Rights (Centro de Derechos de Mujeres). Several organizations protested demanding decisive actions to address the wave of violence against women.


On January 25, as Honduras celebrated Women’s Day and President Castro’s third year in office began, her administration issued a report detailing their achievements. However, neither Castro nor Redondo talked about the violence and femicides in the country. In fact, police cracked down on women protesting a few meters away. Chief Justice Rebeca Ráquel Obando mentioned figures but did not give a detailed account of concrete actions by the administration.


Ana Cruz, director at Asociación Calidad de Vida, stressed that 2023 was more violent for women than previous years because in addition to an increase in femicides, her organization saw cases in which more hate was aimed at women. “911 services were down, so our organization had to take more cases, and the women who came to us had experienced more violence and viciousness. We now have permanent helplines, provide assistance outside the organization, and our shelters are crowded,” she said.


She also stressed that since there was no response to address the violence against women, forced displacements increased. In 2023, 911 services counted 34,221 domestic violence and 52,327 domestic abuse denunciations. However, according to data provided by the Supreme Court, only 16.62 percent of those cases made it to a court.


Ley de Casas Refugio, a law to fund and oversee women’s shelters was presented to Congress five years ago, but it has not been passed. The bill proposes, among other things, to provide state funding to the existing ten shelters, which were established by non-governmental organizations. Initially, the bill proposed 10 million lempiras in funding each year, but proponents have been consistently demanding more funding.


However, the government has focused on building sports complexes or soccer fields which were inaugurated by President Castro. On January 13, she inaugurated a sports complex in Talanga, in the department of Francisco Morazán, that cost $840,000 to build.

“It’s laughable that last year 30 million lempiras were allocated for women’s shelters, but all they did was sign an agreement with the mayor’s office to build one shelter, for which only the location was determined. No resources were allocated to support the existing shelters. The 2024 budget remained the same; 10 million lempiras were allocated for prevention but nothing was done,” Cruz said.


Furthermore, on January 31, the family of Angie Peña—a Honduran woman who disappeared in Roatan on January 1, 2022—asked the president and the Attorney General’s Office at a press conference to create a commission to intervene since individuals assigned to the case have not provided any answers. A prosecutor even blocked Angie’s relatives so they cannot get in touch with her.

Feminist movements protest in front of the Supreme Court. Photo CC/ Fernando Destephen.

“Angie trusted Xiomara Castro and voted for her. But the government has not provided any answers as to her whereabouts,” Ericka Melgares, Angie’s mother, said. Likewise, Angie’s father, Walter Peña, asked the government to stop the violence against women and to investigate all cases, not just those that get media attention. Finally, Angie’s family had a meeting with acting Attorney General Johel Zelaya, who expressed his commitment to appoint new prosecutors and analyze Angie’s case to open new lines of investigation.


Lara Bohórquez, investigator at the Center for Women’s Rights, says the president has not commented on gender issues since November 25, 2023. “We’re worried because there’s no interest in addressing the issues women are facing which in the end affect all of us on a daily basis. It’s important to us that the president shows her political commitment.”


Cruz demands a real commitment from the government to protect women’s rights, especially because her organization received information that points to the administration’s intention to sweep gender violence cases linked to public officials under the rug.


“It’s not fair because women’s lives are at stake. We will continue pushing until the government lives up to promises. It’s concerning that they have failed to deliver on 10 or 15 percent of promises but have already launched their campaign for the coming elections. We are tired of the same rhetoric, promising things will be better for us,” Cruz said.

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Multimedia reporter. She focuses on extractivism, the environment, power structures, gender and sexual and reproductive rights.

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