Costa Rica became the first country to officially recognize Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo as president-elect of Honduras, elected by 56 percent of voters on Nov. 29.
The center-right politician, who comes from a land-owning family, was in San José this week to accept the support of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who scheduled a last-minute trip to Costa Rica.
“We want to turn the page on the coup,” said Arias at a press conference following the meeting on Tuesday. “The Honduran people, one of the poorest on the continent, do not deserve the agony of the international community not recognizing what it expressed at the polls.”
Lobo’s election has been dismissed by many world leaders who refuse to accept a new president until Manuel Zelaya, the president who was ousted in a coup on June 28, is restored to power.
Zelaya, a childhood friend of Lobo’s, continues to hide out in the Brazilian Embassy, in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, where he’s been since late September. Members of the Honduran Congress don’t want him back.
One hundred and eleven of the 125 legislators voted on Dec. 2 against his return to the presidency.
While Lobo said he respects the decision of the congress, he’s also flirting with international entities to win their support before he takes office on Jan. 27. He told reporters on Tuesday that he is committed to working toward the “San José Agreement (so that) everything is normalized well before Jan. 27. I hope that (by then) Honduras is in agreement with the international community.”
Lobo stopped short of offering full amnesty to Zelaya. Amnesty is one point outlined in the San José Agreement, a 12-point document negotiated with the assistance of Arias in July in an attempt to resolve the Honduran crisis. He said he could offer political amnesty, but amnesty from prosecution would be left to congress.
According to news reports Thursday, a petition by the Mexican government to grant Zelaya safe passage to Mexico was rejected by the Honduran government on the grounds that the request did not refer to the legal status that Zelaya would have while in Mexico.
After campaigning in his home country for well over a year, Lobo is now lobbying for votes on the international front. From Costa Rica, Lobo said he will visit any country that will invite him. He had planned to visit the Dominican Republic, but President Leonel Antonio Fernández cancelled the visit at the last minute.
Arias said he expects Lobo will get more support from international leaders as time passes.
“It’s still early for them to change their opinions,” he said. “But I think their positions will change (in time).”
He added, “It was not possible to restore Manuel Zelaya (to power) … but the Honduran people have been punished enough … They shouldn’t be punished further.”
At a press briefing Wednesday, United States State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that “more work needs to be done” by Honduras in the area of national reconciliation and to comply with the San José Agreement.