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Panama to back outcome of Honduran elections

September 18, 2009

Easing away from the rest of the region´s policy of maintaining pressure on Honduras, Panama´s top diplomat has said his government will recognize whomever is voted into Honduras´ presidency in the November elections.

“We see the democratic elections as a departure from the current situation, as long as they are held in a transparent manner and they are part of the national dialog,” said Juan Carlos Varela, Panama´s vice president and foreign minister.

The Panmanian vote of confidence for Honduras´ upcoming elections came as a departure from firm stances held by the international community. In a recent announcement to slash millions in aid to Honduras, the U.S. State Department said that it will not recognize the result of the Honduran elections slated for November as long as the terms included in a Costa Rica-brokered accord are not met (TT Daily News, Sept. 4).

Among its primary, and most contentious, points, the San José Agreement – drafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias after four days of intense negotiations in his home – calls for an amnesty and reinstatement of deposed President Manuel Zelaya. Only one of the country´s leading presidential candidates, César Ham, of the Democratic Unification Party, has said he would support the terms of the San José Agreement if elected (TT Daily News, Sept. 17).

In a televised interview Sunday with “Al Punto,” a program on Hispanic TV channel Univision, U.S. President Barack Obama avoided saying whether his administration would flatly refuse to recognize the elected leader after Honduras´ Nov. 29 vote. However, he reiterated that Arias´ proposal will bring legitimacy to the elections.

The government of recently elected Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, a conservative, has offered to work as a mediator in the Honduran crisis, which has resulted in a standoff following Zelaya´s June 28 ouster. Martinelli´s administration remains in contact with Honduras´ de facto President Roberto Micheletti.

Martinelli, who took office July 1, is due to leave Monday with his foreign minister and other members of his cabinet for New York to participate in the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly from Sept. 23 to 30.

Varela added that “several countries” – without specifying – have felt “that in some way they see the elections as an exit from the current crisis” in Honduras, and that Panama will convey its backing of the final election results in meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Chile´s Michelle Bachelet, among other top officials.

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