Mediation stalls in Honduras as leaders refuse Zelaya's return
One month after Costa Rica's president arrived to negotiate an end to the standoff, most of Honduras's top leaders are steadfastly opposed to the return of deposed president Zelaya.
The month-old mediation effort by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias to resolve Honduras's political crisis is foundering under the near-universal opposition of Honduras's top leaders to permitting deposed President Manuel Zelaya to return to power.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Political, business, church, and media leaders say they can't trust Mr. Zelaya to keep the commitments that would limit his authority under the Arias plan because, they say, Zelaya repeatedly violated the Constitution in the days that led up to his June 28 ouster over a proposed public vote that they think was aimed at extending his stay in office.
They also say that Zelaya has proved himself untrustworthy by failing to submit a budget to Congress last year and by shifting left in the middle of his term and allying himself with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a fierce critic of the United States, traditionally Honduras' most important political and economic ally.
These officials say they prefer that de facto President Roberto Micheletti — or perhaps another senior government official who'd replace him — lead the country through the regularly scheduled Nov. 29 presidential elections and let the newly elected president take over as scheduled Jan. 27.
Opposition to the Arias plan runs so deep that Honduras's decision-makers favor holding tight even in the face of international sanctions and threats that other countries won't recognize the presidential election result.
"The president put himself above the law," said Oswaldo Canales, who heads the 9,000-strong Evangelical Fraternity of Honduras, the country's biggest Protestant organization. "No one is above the law. He cannot return."
Zelaya's supporters scoff at the notion that he's untrustworthy and say those blocking his return are protecting powerful political and business interests. They say there's no evidence that Zelaya intended to benefit personally from the referendum.
Mr. Arias hasn't given up on his efforts, although swine flu has sidelined him for the past several days.
The team representing Honduras in the Arias negotiations remains active. It met Thursday in Washington with Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, to discuss rescheduling a trip to Honduras by foreign ministers and the OAS that the Micheletti government has delayed.
Powerful players in Honduras also would benefit from the Arias plan.
Honduras' military leaders, for example, favor an amnesty that Arias has proposed for all actions through the day Zelaya was forced from the country at gunpoint.
While many people say the military correctly carried out the Supreme Court's order to arrest Zelaya on charges of violating the Constitution, they also say it went too far by forcing him from Honduras. Deputy federal prosecutor Roy Urtecho said his office was investigating whether the military leaders committed a crime.
Senior officials in Zelaya's Liberty Party who supported his ouster want to find a way to resolve the crisis before the election. Without a resolution, they fear divisions over what happened could send party candidate Elvir Santos to defeat.
The power struggle has disrupted commerce throughout Honduras and scared away tourists.
Most trade is flowing freely, however, after the country's Central American neighbors declined to impose an embargo. The Obama administration also has declined to take punitive measures against Honduras's economy.