In a letter sent to the US State Department Nov. 4, ousted President Manuel Zelaya asked the Obama administration why, after pressing for his reinstatement, it now says it will recognize upcoming Honduran elections even if he isn’t returned to power first. The letter calls upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to clarify to the Honduran people if the position condemning the coup d’etat has been changed or modified.” The request came after Washington’s top envoy to Latin America, Thomas Shannon, told CNN en Espanol that Washington will recognize the Nov. 29 elections even if the Honduran Congress votes against returning Zelaya to power.
The US-brokered deal leaves Zelaya’s reinstatement in the hands of Congress, but sets no deadline as to when lawmakers must decide. “Both leaders took a risk and put their trust in Congress, but at the end of the day the accord requires that both leaders accept its decision,” Shannon said.
The US has repeatedly pressed for Zelaya’s reinstatement, with President Barack Obama stating in a speech this summer: “America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected President of Honduras.”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in response to Zelaya’s letter: “We’ve made our position on President Zelaya and his restitution clear. We believe he should be restored to power. Our focus now is on implementing this process and creating an environment wherein Hondurans themselves can address the issue of restitution and resolve for themselves this Honduran problem.” (AP, Nov. 4)
Honduras’ congressional leadership has postponed the vote on Zelaya’s restitution by asking the country’s supreme court, attorney general and human rights ombudsman to give opinions in the matter. Congressman Antonio Rivera said that the entities might need up to two weeks to offer their views. “There’s no timetable in the agreement for when Congress has to vote,” Rivera said by telephone from Tegucigalpa.
Zelaya’s supporters fear the de facto government is stalling as the Nov. 29 elections approach. “We need to restore Zelaya to office now to bring back peace and tranquility to the country,” Victor Meza, an adviser to the ousted president, said by telephone from Tegucigalpa. “These delaying maneuvers by the president of Congress and Micheletti are deeply worrying.”
Some of Zelaya’s opponents continue to be blatant in their intransigence. “The general attitude here: We’re in terrible shape, but it would be worse if Zelaya returns,” said Adolfo Facusse, president of the National Association of Honduran Industry. “People here see dealing with Zelaya as like dealing with the devil.”
The cuation displayed by the 128 members of the unicameral Congress contrasts with the quick 122-6 vote to name Micheletti the country’s new president only hours after the military ousted Zelaya. (McClatchy Newspapers, Nov. 4)
Under the deal, formally known as the Tegucigalpa-San José Agreement, states that all differences of interpretation or implementation are to be submitted to the Commission of Verification, made up of former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar, US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís, and Honduran politicians Jorge Arturo Reina and Arturo Corrales. The Agreement sets a date of Nov. 5 for the formation of a Cabinet of National Unity. (Commission of Verification press release via Media Newswire, Nov. 4)
See our last post on Honduras.