Honduras Agreement: An Important Example
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington - The agreement in Honduras between President Manuel Zelaya and the head of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, is a victory for negotiation and dialogue in resolving political conflicts and sets a historic example for the Latin American region, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said October 30.
In a statement released before she concluded her visit to Pakistan, Clinton congratulated both sides on the "breakthrough," as well as Costa Rican President Oscar Arias for his role in the negotiation process.
"This is a big step forward for the inter-American system and its commitment to democracy as embodied in the Inter-American Democratic Charter," the secretary said, adding that she is especially proud of "the people of Honduras who have worked very hard to have this matter resolved peacefully."
"I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that, having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order, overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue," she said.
Zelaya was ousted in a June 28 coup and replaced by a government headed by Micheletti. The United States has been supporting efforts by the Organization of American States (OAS) to broker a solution to the political crisis through the mediation of President Arias.
Clinton dispatched Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Tom Shannon, along with 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, to Tegucigalpa October 28 to help the two sides overcome the remaining obstacles to a political solution. (See "Clinton Sends U.S. Officials to Honduras to Urge End to Crisis: http://www.america.gov/st/peacesec-english/2009/October/20091027154434esnamfuak0.2594416.html .)
According to news reports, Zelaya and Micheletti have agreed to allow the Honduran Congress, with authorization from the country's Supreme Court, to decide whether Zelaya should be allowed to return to power and whether to allow him to serve until his term ends on January 27, 2010. It also calls for a commission to investigate the events that led to the coup.
Speaking to reporters from Tegucigalpa, Shannon said the agreement "effectively opens a pathway to resolve Honduras' current political crisis and that will allow the international community to support Honduras' elections on November 29th."
The agreement is a "huge accomplishment for the Hondurans," as well as for the OAS, he said. With international help, the country was able to find a way out of the "rupture of democratic and constitutional order" resulting from the June 28 coup and repair it "peacefully, without violence and without an imposition of a solution from outside."
It is now up to the Honduran Congress, "in consultation with the Supreme Court and other organisms of the Honduran state," to determine "when, if and how President Zelaya returns to office," Shannon said.
Both sides realized that the decision on Zelaya's restitution had to made in a political body, as opposed to a legal body, and "more importantly, they were looking for a way to root the agreement" in a democratically elected institution. "They wanted it to be more than just an agreement between two political leaders," he said.
The assistant secretary described the restitution issue as being "up for grabs" in the legislature.
"I can assure you that both sides are reaching out to members of [the Honduran] Congress right now and trying to build levels of political support that will favor the outcome that each of them would prefer. But I think what's important here is there is broad expectation that they will abide by whatever that decision is," he said.
DESIRE FOR ELECTION TO BE SEEN AS LEGITIMATE
Restrepo said part of the impetus for reaching an agreement was a widespread recognition throughout Honduras, "regardless of where people find themselves on the political spectrum," that if their country was to "move forward in a sustainable way, it needed to do so accompanied by the international community." That message was reflected back to the political leaders, he said.
Shannon said that Micheletti recognized that without international support, "the elections were actually going to deepen the political crisis and make Honduras' relationship with the international community more problematic."
"It was worth a political risk in order to ensure that on November 29 there were international observers on the ground and broad recognition in the OAS and elsewhere that the results of that election were going to be free, fair and legitimate and that the president who takes power on January 27 was going to be in a position to petition for Honduras' reintegration into the inter-American community and to get access again to international financial institutions," Shannon said.
The U.S. delegation also told both sides that "with this agreement we could begin to move immediately on electoral observation support, and that we would mobilize an electoral observation support within the OAS and elsewhere," he said. Shannon added that Honduran leaders understand that the agreement also "open[s] a space for us to begin to discuss normalization of our relationship," including diplomatic ties and U.S. assistance to Honduras.
The full text of Clinton's statement ( http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2009/October/20091030113230eaifas0.531109.html ) is available on America.gov.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)