Honduras: talks stall, election in doubt

On Oct. 23 negotiators for deposed Honduran president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales gave up on talks to end a four-month political crisis in Honduras. The negotiations had been “worn down” by the intransigence of de facto president Roberto Micheletti Bain’s government, Zelaya representative Mayra Mejía announced in Tegucigalpa.

Zelaya had already given up key points in the talks, which began on Oct. 7 with the support of the Organization of American States (OAS). His concessions included acceptance of a government of national reconciliation and the renunciation of calls for a national constituent assembly to rewrite the 1982 Constitution, a demand still strongly supported by grassroots organizations. But Micheletti’s representatives refused to negotiate seriously on Zelaya’s return to office before the scheduled Nov. 29 general elections, according to Zelaya’s representatives. Zelaya, who was deposed by a military coup on June 28, ends his four-year term on Jan. 27.

The de facto government’s intransigence was “a second coup d’état,” Zelaya said in an interview with the British network BBC on Oct. 25. He also charged that the military was subjecting him to “psychological torture” by playing loud music through the night outside the Brazilian embassy, where the deposed president has been living since slipping back into the country on Sept. 21. Supporters say the soldiers have also been shining stadium lights into the building. But in a interview with opposition radio station Radio Globo the same day, Zelaya said he still expected a solution: “I cannot give details of how this will be achieved, but Honduras cannot remain in this situation.” (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 24 from AFP, DPA, Reuters; Europa Press, Oct. 25 via Yahoo; Bloomberg, Oct. 23; Xinhua, Oct. 26)

The de facto government apparently hopes to end the crisis by getting the US to recognize the results of the November elections. There is pressure for this in US governing circles. In an op-ed in the Washington Post on Oct. 17, former US secretary of state James A. Baker III (1989-1992) argued that “a free and fair election in Honduras would go a long way toward resolving the constitutional crisis there.” The US government should support the elections, he said, just as the administration of President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) backed elections in Nicaragua under the leftist Sandinista government in 1990. (WP, Oct. 17)

However, on Oct. 23, the Carter Center—an influential election-monitoring organization founded by former US president Jimmy Carter (1977-1981)—indicated that it wouldn’t observe the November elections unless the coup was reversed. (LJ, Oct. 24 from AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Honduran opponents of the coup are calling for an election boycott. Independent presidential candidate Carlos H. Reyes and legislative deputy César Ham, presidential candidate of the small leftist Democratic Unification (UD), announced on Sept. 9 that they would refuse to participate in elections held under the coup regime. Most candidates of the two traditional parties, the National Party (PN) and the Liberal Party (PL), continue to campaign, but on Oct. 24 some 300 Liberal candidates for the National Congress and municipal posts, announced that they would boycott the election. Both Zelaya and Micheletti are members of the generally conservative PL.

The Nov. 29 elections are mandated to fill 2,896 positions, including the presidency, all 128 deputies in the National Congress, 20 deputies to represent Honduras in the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), 298 mayors and some 2,000 municipal officials. (El Tiempo, San Pedro Sula, Oct. 24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 25

See our last posts on Honduras.