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U.S.: Elections Only Way Out

November 13, 2009

The United States is pushing forward in support of elections in Honduras, despite a failed peace accord and without the restitution of President Manual Zelaya.

In an apparent shift from its previous policy – in which it refused to recognize the eventual results of the Nov. 29 election unless a peace agreement were signed – the United States sent a top-level official to Tegucigalpa this week to “move the process forward towards a free and fair election.”

Craig Kelly, principal deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department, arrived in Honduras on Tuesday with plans to stay two days in order to move the situation toward a fair election.

“We recognize that the only path out of this is through an electoral process where the people of Honduras get to speak,” U.S. State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley said in a daily press briefing on Tuesday. “ … (Then) you have a new government that can go about the work of serving the needs of its people.”

His words seemed to confirm a statement from U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, just days earlier in which he predicted a reversal in U.S. policy.

“I am happy to report the (U.S. President Barack) Obama administration has finally reversed its misguided Honduran policy and will fully recognize the Nov. 29 elections,” he said in a statement. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Assistant Secretary Thomas Shannon have assured me that the U.S. will recognize the outcome of the Honduran elections regardless of whether Manuel Zelaya is reinstated (as president of Honduras).”

Only two weeks ago, the U.S. moved from its spot as a bystander in the Honduran crisis to a major player, when a handful of senior officials landed in Honduras on Oct. 27. They did in two days what other international negotiators couldn’t do in four months: they saw the signing of a peace agreement.

But Zelaya, who was ousted in June and accused of violating the constitution, renounced the agreement days later, saying the resulting unification government was assembled without his input.

“The negotiations have come to an end. We have declared that there is no possibility of recognizing that accord,” he said, according to The Associated Press. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly expressed “disappointment with both sides” for the abrupt failure of the accord, which senior State Department officials worked to broker last month. However, without naming the interim president, Kelly implicitly pointed the blame at Roberto Micheletti. “It was a unilaterally decided government. And a unilaterally decided government is not a government of unity,” Kelly said during a press briefing in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

For his part, Micheletti is urging the international community to remain neutral on the matter and to stop accusing his administration of sabotaging the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord – named after the Honduran and Costa Rican capitals where the terms of he pact had been negotiated.

“Our country should not be punished because one of the parties unilaterally declared (the agreement) a failure,” said a statement issued Sunday afternoon by the Micheletti administration. “Mr. Zelaya is trying to act like the ‘victim,’ when in reality his leading role has been (the pact’s) ‘executioner,’ with the erratic behavior that characterizes him.”

The statement goes on to make a plea to Zelaya camp to rejoin Micheletti in carrying out the terms of “the government of unity and national reconciliation, without looking for pretexts with which to break an agreement whose content they’re having doubts about after having signed it.”

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