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U.S. (Belatedly) Changes Course on Zelaya, Chávez Stays Quiet

The U.S. drops its support for Honduran former president Manuel Zelaya. Hugo Chávez says nothing, a development in itself.

by
Dan Miller

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November 10, 2009 - 12:43 am
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The October 30 Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord (translated here), under which the United States and other nations are to recognize the results of the November 29 Honduran elections, was hailed by the U.S. government and by the Organization of American States (OAS) as “as bringing an end to a months-long political crisis.”

It seems to have fizzled because former President Manuel Zelaya insisted that he be reinstated before the unity government took office. Under the accord, the unity government took office, as scheduled, on November 5. Zelaya refused to submit his list of participants since he had not been reinstated, and it appears that his partisans will try to disrupt the elections.

The National Congress is to decide the question of Zelaya’s reinstatement, but is under no significant pressure — other than protests by the “resistance” — to do so until after the Supreme Court has made its views known, which is consistent with the accord. As reported by Honduran newspaper el Heraldo, President Roberto Micheletti’s government “respectfully” called upon the National Congress to “continue its consultations and proceed with its decision on Item 5 of the executive branch of that agreement, whether or not Mr. Zelaya is restored.”

The article also reported that:

The Minister of Information and Press, Rene Zepeda, read a statement urging Zelaya to return [to] the agreement to achieve unity and national reconciliation. … The deadline was the weekend, according to Zepeda.

It was also reported that several corruption indictments have been brought against various members of the former Zelaya government. Later in the day on November 7, a negotiator for Zelaya said representatives from the two sides would meet on Saturday to continue the negotiating process:

“We’ve possibly found a road. There’s a pre-agreement, but I don’t want to give more details,” Jorge Reina, a negotiator for Zelaya, told a local radio station. “There’s a new path.”

“Micheletti ratified [that] he recognized the importance of a waiting period during the weekend to form the unity and reconciliation government,” his office said in a statement.

However, later in the day Zelaya rejected President Micheletti’s offer, saying he had “no desire to return to dialogue with those who do not want to talk and really appear [to have] intransigent positions and [be] dishonest.” He demanded the intervention of the OAS and observed: “I think he (Hugo Chávez) has made a great effort to help Honduras with PetroCaribe, with Alba and education and health projects. We are very grateful to him.”

Begging for some more help, perhaps?

Then, apparently late on the evening of November 7, former Honduran President Rafael Leonardo Callejas is reported to have said (Google translation) that the United States has recognized that the November 29 national election is the way forward to institutional legitimacy. He also said:

“We have seen how the U.S. government, which has been involved and very concerned about the situation in the country, now understands that the way to the institutional legitimacy is elections, and in the process the latest statements convince us it is very clear that the United States government will support elections, and that is something that should give satisfaction to the Honduran people.

“For me the most important [aspect] is to remember that the agreement is signed with the intention of the parties … [it] was signed and it must be implemented,” he said. [He] then said the National Party and his party have already determined a position, which is based on the Constitution and laws of the country.

“Obviously, Congress should listen to the different sectors and then act in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic and the laws.”

This seems to be a strong hint that since the U.S. government will recognize the elections regardless of whether Zelaya is reinstated, the pressure to reinstate Zelaya is off and two major parties have decided to vote against reinstatement. Unless the Honduran Constitution and laws have changed since June, and they have not, that is the only reading which makes sense to me.

Callejas seemed to be urging Zelaya’s faction to respect the accord and to proceed in accordance with it. I have found it interesting that the Honduran press is now quite often referring to “President” Micheletti and “former President” Zelaya.

It seems quite clear that the U.S. government at some point changed its position on the need for Zelaya to be reinstated for the November 29 elections to be recognized.

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