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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.

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Those watching the political crisis in Honduras have expressed hope that this is a step forward. "It provides a path forward that did not exist 24 hours ago," says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. "But it will require a lot of work, and there are a lot of pieces that have to fall into place."

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There is no official timeline for when Congress must vote on Zelaya's return, for example, and if they stall, Zelaya's team could balk. But the US expressed optimism. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking from Pakistan, told reporters it was a "historic agreement," and that "this is a big step forward for the inter-American system."

With the rise of Brazil, the influence of China in the region, and US foreign policy priorities turned toward terrorism, US clout in its so-called backyard has dipped. But its weight in Honduras, which relies heavily on exports to the US and on remittances sent home from migrants abroad, is clear.

"I do think that this shows the continued relevance of US diplomacy in Latin America," says Mr. Farnsworth. He says that the two most important initiatives to bring an end to the crisis were supported by the US: the negotiations begun by Oscar Arias, the president of Costa Rica, who had the full backing of Mrs. Clinton, and the rush trip by Mr. Shannon, who fought to reignite the second major round of talks after they had stalled.

John Carey, a political analyst on Latin America at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., says that the US benefited from "good timing" and the hard work that other negotiators such as President Arias and diplomats from the Organization of American States (OAS) have put in. "When Oscar Arias was trying to arrange the deal, it was hard to imagine Zelaya being reinstated to the presidency.... There was too much time in the term, and there is almost no time left now," he says. "It must make it a more palatable solution to Micheletti."

Giving Honduran Congress final vote

Martinez says that the US-brokered deal, in allowing the Honduran Congress to have the final vote instead of demanding the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya, is an important concession on the part of the US and the OAS, which now promise to support elections. "The agreement allowed the US to recuperate its prestige, and is a sign of triumph of the international community backing down from its intransigence," he says.

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