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Honduras deal a boost for US influence in Latin America

The Honduras deal, which calls for national unity government and agreement on Nov. 29 elections, pushes back against the dominant narrative of waning US clout in region.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 30, 2009

Supporters of Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya hold a US flag and a flag representing Zelaya's Liberal party as they gather outside Congress in Tegucigalpa Friday.

Arnulfo Franco/AP

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Mexico City

Hondurans on both sides of the political spectrum are expressing cautious optimism that their fourmonthold political crisis has come to an end.

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Negotiators for ousted President Manuel Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti have come to an agreement that could return Mr. Zelaya to the presidency, after he was arrested and deposed June 28.

But it is also a foreign-policy victory for the United States, which sent a diplomatic mission this week to the Central American nation and can return home claiming to have made headway where others had thus far failed.

Under the terms, the Honduran Congress, with prior authorization by the Supreme Court, will have the ultimate say on whether Mr. Zelaya sets up office again in the presidential palace – a scenario with no clear outcome. But a fresh path to solution has opened, after Thomas Shannon, the US top envoy for the Americas, traveled to Tegucigalpa and got both sides back to the negotiating table.

Mr. Shannon reiterated that there is still a lot of work to be done. Congress will be deciding "when, if, and how" Zelaya returns, he said. "That is going to be the issue that is most provocative internally and probably where we in the international community are going to have to pay the closest attention."

Still, in getting to this point, the US fights back against the dominant narrative of its waning influence in Latin America. "This is a triumph, above all, for the United States. It ratifies the weight that the United States has in the region," says Juan Ramon Martinez, a political analyst in Honduras.

It remains to be seen if this is a triumph for Zelaya or Mr. Micheletti.

Zelaya has already laid claim to victory. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras," he said on the local station Radio Globo. He told the Associated Press that he expects Congress to vote within a week on his fate.

But negotiators for Micheletti issued a statement underlining that, although the agreement represents a "significant concession" on their part, the signing of the agreement does not mean the automatic restoration to power of Zelaya. In fact, Zelaya does not enjoy widespread support in the Congress, which backed his ouster. Mr. Martinez, for one, says he does not believe Zelaya will ever return to office. "Never," he says emphatically.

Guaymuras Accord

The "Guaymuras Accord," as the agreement is named, also calls for a national unity government, a truth commission, and binding promises that both sides will respect presidential elections slated for Nov. 29.

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