Diplomats urge return of ousted Honduran president

Diplomats from across the hemisphere on Wednesday told Honduras’ interim government to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya during at-times confrontational talks aimed at ending a standoff that has paralyzed this impoverished Central American nation.

Delegations from about a dozen countries met with representatives of Zelaya and the coup-installed government behind closed doors in Honduras’ capital, then later held talks with interim President Roberto Micheletti in a confrontation broadcast on local television.

Micheletti, his voice at-times bristling with rage, scolded the diplomats for refusing to recognize what he insisted was the lawful removal of Zelaya under the Honduran constitution and for isolating his country and suspending aid to one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere.

“You don’t know the truth and you don’t want to know it,” Micheletti said, imploring the visitors to “reflect on the damage you are doing to a country that has done nothing to you.”

The diplomats sat stone-faced, a few rubbing their eyes in apparent fatigue during his outburst. Canada’s minister of state for the Americas, Peter Kent, then told Micheletti that the international community respects the Honduran Constitution, but it oppose the military’s ouster of Zelaya.

“However it happened, a mistake was made on June 28,” Kent told the interim president. “A democratically elected leader, whatever his behaviour in recent years, was undemocratically removed.”

The diplomats took turns urging Micheletti and his ministers to reconsider their position, but no breakthroughs were announced. The delegates, brought to Honduras by the Organization of American States, were scheduled to leave Thursday.

“Today we saw Hondurans sitting together, working on a Honduran solution,” Ronald Robinson, a Jamaican representing the Caribbean Community, said during the meeting. “For me, I thought it was a good step in the right direction.”

After the talks with Micheletti, the delegation was expected to speak with Zelaya in the Brazilian Embassy, where the ousted president has been holed up with dozens of supporters since sneaking back into the country from his forced exile.

Tensions rose before Wednesday’s meeting, with riot police firing tear gas to disperse about 200 Zelaya supporters protesting near the U.S. and Brazilian embassies.

Micheletti and his supporters say Zelaya’s military-backed ouster was legal because it was sanctioned by Honduras’ Supreme Court after he defied of a court order that he drop a referendum on changing the constitution. Most of the international community maintains the coup was illegal and must be reversed.

“We are not here to create a debate. We are here to find concrete solutions to a situation that cannot be prolonged,” OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said before the round of meetings started.

Insulza presented a proposal to restore Zelaya as head of a unity government until his term ends in January and offer amnesty to both the coup leaders and the deposed president, who faces abuse of power and other charges in Honduras.

The proposal, which also would require Zelaya to abandon any ambitions to change the constitution, is very similar to one proposed months ago by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, known as the San Jose Accord, and rejected by the interim government.

Zelaya gave negotiators an ultimatum, calling for the postponement of upcoming presidential election if he is not restored to office before Oct. 15. The interim government wants to go ahead with the election -- scheduled before Zelaya’s overthrow -- and move past the crisis.

The Canadian minister said it was imperative for an agreement to be reached before the Nov. 29 election, which many countries in the Americas have warned would not be recognized if Zelaya remains out of the power.

“I sense that everybody involved understands that we are nearly out of time and this crisis needs to be resolved now,” Kent said.

Interim Vice President Marta Lorena Alvarado, however, said she did not expect an agreement Wednesday.

“It would be fantastic, but the problem is difficult and there are a lot of players. I don’t think it will be today,” she said.

She insisted the world was too quick to condemn Zelaya ouster. Still, she said, the two sides were “initiating conversations that had not occurred before and expectations are positive” for an eventual resolution.

Zelaya warned that the interim government would seek to persuade the delegates to pursue a new plan that would prevent his return to office.

“We warn the ministers that the de facto regime is planning to stay in power longer and to deepen the crisis by preventing the return of the elected president and continuing the repression of the people,” Zelaya said in a statement.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 8:56:29 PM |

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