Clinton Sends Officials to Honduras to End Crisis
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is sending three U.S. officials to Honduras for talks with ousted President Manuel Zelaya and the interim head of the de facto Honduran government, Roberto Micheletti, to reflect the urgency in finding a resolution to the country's political crisis before elections scheduled for November.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said October 27 that the U.S. delegation, consisting of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly, and White House Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs Dan Restrepo, is expected to leave Washington for Honduras as soon as October 28.
The U.S. officials will discuss strategies to move forward on an accord crafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on behalf of the Organization of American States (OAS) to end Honduras' political stalemate. Zelaya was ousted in a June 28 coup and replaced by the de facto government. (See "United States Calls for Restoration of Honduran Civil Liberties ( http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2009/September/20090929145743dmslahrellek0.3372766.html ).
The officials "will urge both sides to show flexibility and redouble their efforts to bring the crisis to an end," Kelly said.
The Obama administration continues to support efforts by the OAS to broker a solution. Kelly said Clinton's decision to send the U.S. delegation came after talks between Zelaya and the de facto government broke down October 23.
"It was at that point that the secretary decided to get involved directly and called both Mr. Micheletti and President Zelaya," Kelly said. She decided October 26 that the time was right to send a delegation and have U.S. officials "more directly involved in the process."
The Honduran presidential election is scheduled for November 29, and "this is precisely why we see some urgency in this," he said.
The United States wants an election "to enjoy the kind of international legitimacy that the people of Honduras deserve for their government," Kelly said.
"In order for it to be seen as legitimate and for the authorities down there to conduct a completely open and transparent electoral process ... there needs to be some time."
A senior State Department official speaking on background said "the clock is ticking" on finding a solution to the political crisis that would not jeopardize the legitimacy of the coming election.
"We've really only got, I think, this week to try and resolve this," the official said. "If we can't get Zelaya returned to power, then we've got to figure how do we support the people of Honduras? They need to have a legitimate government and that's what I think is driving a lot of the urgency."
The official added that the two sides are still talking and making progress. "They were actually pretty close last night."
The outstanding differences come down to "really only one sentence. It's all about Zelaya's return," the official said.
In his remarks to reporters, spokesman Kelly also expressed condolences on behalf of the United States to Micheletti and his family over the death of his nephew, Enzo Micheletti, who reportedly was murdered over the weekend of October 24.
"As of now, we have no information about the motive of this violent act," Kelly said.