By Gustavo Palencia
TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Leftist Honduran presidential candidate Xiomara Castro, the wife of deposed former President Manuel Zelaya, appears to have a slight lead in the race to become the next head of the Central American country, according to a poll released on Wednesday.
Castro, the Liberty and Refoundation Party candidate who established her reputation while fighting for her husband's right to rule after his 2009 military-led ouster, would receive 29 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for National Party candidate Juan Hernandez, according to the CID Gallup poll.
The poll had a margin of error of two percentage points, which means the pair could be statistically tied ahead of the November 24 election.
The survey gave Hernandez, 45, who heads the country's Congress, a sizeable leg-up in the campaign. In a previous poll from May, CID Gallup put him in third place with 18 percent of the vote compared with 28 percent for Castro.
The election has centered on Honduras' perilous security situation, caused in part by Mexican drug cartels who use the country as a strategic drug smuggling point. Honduras now has the highest murder rate in the world.
Castro and her party, a coalition of leftist politicians, unions, agrarian and indigenous groups, say they would create a community police force to tackle the violence, while Hernandez favors the creation of a militarized police force working alongside the army.
Castro also has vowed to call a referendum to change the constitution, without giving specific details. A similar call by her husband, which critics said was aimed at allowing him to seek re-election beyond his single four-year term, triggered the coup that ended his presidency.
The winner of the election will take office in January 2014.
The poll surveyed 1,220 people nationally.
(This story has been corrected to removes reference to Castro calling for change to constitutional term limits in 7th paragraph )
(Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and Paul Simao)