Hugo Chávez boycotts Madrid summit over Honduras president

The EU-Latin America summit opened in Madrid today without Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who is protesting the attendance of Honduras President Porfirio Lobo. Mr. Lobo was elected following the controversial ouster of Manuel Zelaya.

By , Staff writer

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    Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez smiles during his weekly broadcast in the central state of Cojedes, south of Caracas, Sunday. Chávez is skipping the EU-Latin America summit held today and tomorrow in Madrid to protest the attendance of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, who was elected following the ouster of Manuel Zelaya in June 2009.
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Nearly one year on, the ouster of Manuel Zelaya continues to divide the region.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is skipping the EU-Latin America summit held today and tomorrow in Madrid to protest the attendance of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, who was elected following the ouster of Mr. Zelaya in June 2009. Venezuela and several other South American governments do not recognize Mr. Lobo as the new leader of Honduras because of the way Zelaya was forced out of office.

And Honduras also continues to see internal division, despite the creation of a truth commission set up to help heal a divided nation.

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The commission itself – which was inaugurated this month – now looks to be the latest victim of the country's polarization.

Those on the far right, who supported Zelaya's removal from office, say the commission will be manipulated by a partisan international community. Those on the far left say it's a mere epilogue to a coup and have refused to participate.

Jorge Aguilar, president of the Innovation and Unity Party (PINU), says he supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and that "it's going to shed some light on the facts of what happened, but I don't think the result of the commission will really bring reconciliation, as is expected."

Composed of five members, both from abroad and Honduras, the commission is part of a compromise backed by the US after Zelaya was forced out of the country. His detractors say he was trying to rewrite the Constitution to end term limits for presidents.

The ideals of the commission have been praised abroad. But foreign influence may mean bias, says Martha Lorena Casco, who was deputy foreign minister under Roberto Micheletti (sworn in as president after Zelaya's ouster).

"There are many pressures [on the commission] from human rights NGOs and the international community, because at the end of the day they want to make the case that in Honduras there was a coup d'état," she says.

The commission's mandate is also to examine human rights violations, including the street protests by both sides. Many of the claims of abuse come from Zelaya supporters, and tensions remain high in the country. Seven journalists have been reported killed in the past six weeks.

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