After four months of failed talks and false hopes, is the Honduran crisis finally coming to an end?
Late Thursday, after a group of US diplomats rushed to Honduras this week to restart negotiations that had broken down – yet again – interim President Roberto Micheletti announced that his negotiators will sign a deal as early as Friday that could include the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya to the presidency.
After months of accusations by the international community that the Micheletti administration – which assumed office just hours after Mr. Zelaya was deposed June 28 – was stalling on negotiations, Mr. Micheletti said his willingness to reach a deal is a "significant concession" on his part.
"I have authorized my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country's political situation," he said in a statement.
Respect Nov. 29 election date
The deal would include the creation of a powersharing government and the promise on both sides that presidential elections slated for Nov. 29 will be respected. It also would establish a truth commission and signal an end to international sanctions – slapped on Honduras by countries, including the US –in protest of Zelaya's removal from office.
These were the original points agreed upon in a plan first unveiled by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and later in negotiations launched by the Organization of American States (OAS). Both efforts broke down over the issue of Zelaya's return to the presidency.
The difference now is that Micheletti is signaling that Zelaya could return to the helm of Honduras, pending a decision by Congress. That is a plan that Zelaya had supported.
But Micheletti also says the Supreme Court must first weigh in. The court had ordered the original arrest warrant for Zelaya, for disobeying a court order to scrap a vote to consider a constituent assembly. And Congress voted to remove Zelaya from office. Even members of Zelaya's political party feared that he was ultimately seeking to modify presidential term limits for presidents. Zelaya denies that was his motive.
Zelaya's team has not commented on the deal, but the leader said on Radio Globo Thursday night that "tomorrow will be the day that the plan will be signed to restore democracy to the country."
Many nations have threatened not to recognize the Nov. 29 race if Zelaya is not first returned to office.
Zelaya – popular among the poor who say he is the first president to pay attention to their needs – Zelaya snuck back into Honduras Sept. 21 and has since been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. Separately, the Micheletti government filed a case with the International Court of Justice in The Hague against Brazil for what it claims is the South American nation's meddling in its internal affairs by granting Zelaya refuge.