International pressure builds to reinstate Honduran president

The UN General Assembly condemned the coup Tuesday, but analysts say any peaceful resolution to the crisis would need to give a hearing to all sides.

Mike Segar /Reuters
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya addresses a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York Tuesday.

International pressure for a reversal of Sunday's coup in Honduras continued to build Tuesday afternoon, with several scenarios for a peaceful resolution of the crisis beginning to take shape.

But all those scenarios presuppose dialogue between the two sides in Honduras's inter-institutional confrontation, something both sides are so far refusing.

The United Nations General Assembly condemned the coup in a consensus vote that ousted Honduran President Miguel Zelaya called "historic." The nonbinding vote calls on the UN's 192 member states to recognize only Mr. Zelaya's government – and not, by implication, the government installed by the Honduran Congress following Zelaya's departure.

The Organization of American States (OAS), meeting in emergency session Tuesday afternoon in Washington, is expected to follow suit. The OAS's Permanent Council has already condemned the military action as drawing on "dark periods in the history of our continent."

The World Bank announced it has "paused" lending to Honduras for development projects in the wake of Sunday's military coup.

Fortified by backing extending from the US to Venezuela, Zelaya said he would return to Honduras Thursday, accompanied by OAS and Latin American leaders.

Zelaya said he would return "as president" and that he expected the military to switch back to supporting him.

With the new government of a poor Honduras under mounting pressure, most analysts do not foresee its long-term survival. But they do envision resolutions that take account of the political struggle that was building in Honduras before the coup took place.

"This crisis can be resolved through dialogue, but it will have to include those institutions and forces that opposed Zelaya being heard as well," says Jennifer McCoy, director of the Americas Program at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Ga. "Zelaya has been heard, he's had the international stage to get his point across. Those opposing him, in the Congress and the Supreme Court, will want the opportunity to make their case."

Possible solutions include a presidential plebiscite moved up from November, when Zelaya's successor was set to be elected. Another scenario foresees international arbitration of the bitter debate over presidential reelection – the idea, currently outlawed by the Honduras constitution, that started the crisis in the first place.

But OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, said the organization would only be open to dialogue after "the return of President Zelaya to his legitimate role."

Resolution of the crisis almost certainly includes Zelaya's return to office, but probably as a "figurehead … without the same credibility or respect he enjoyed before this action," says Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

The crisis is a result of democracy's growing pains in parts of Latin America, says the Carter Center's Ms. McCoy. Pointing to examples ranging from Nicaragua in 2005 to Venezuela in 2002, she says, "We've seen this kind of thing before, with presidents defying the rulings of other government branches and the other institutions pushing back."

In this case, the international community has come out strongly in favor of the deposed president, partly because the ousting came as a result of a traditional military coup, regional analysts say, but also perhaps because it was not preceded by any massive popular protest.

But with such constitutional "clashes" likely to pop up elsewhere in the region, McCoy says the international community "needs to be more attentive ... to offer its good offices in a timely manner to prevent these differences from becoming crises."

That may be easier said than done, says Dialogue's Mr. Hakim. "The OAS constantly talks about some sort of crisis prevention, but there are surprises that will happen."

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