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Zelaya Pleased With Get Out of Country Free Pass

January 22, 2010

Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in his country’s capital city of Tegucigalpa, can have safe passage to  the Dominican Republic next week, thanks to an agreement reached Wednesday.

Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernández agreed with Porfirio Lobo, Honduras’ president-elect, to offer Zelaya a salvoconducto (safe passage) to allow the ousted leader to take residence in the Dominican Republic with “complete citizens’ rights,” according to a statement from Fernández’ office.

Zelaya, who has lived in the embassy since he sneaked back into Honduras in September, appeared content with the deal.

“As president-elect (Lobo) is distancing himself from the dictatorship, it’s a good gesture for national reconciliation,” Zelaya told Honduras’ Radio HRN.

By “dictatorship,” Zelaya was referring to the government of de facto President Roberto Micheletti, who was sworn in within hours of the June 28 military ouster of Zelaya. Micheletti’s administration insists that Zelaya sought illegal constitutional reforms geared toward eliminating presidential term limits.

Ahead of Lobo’s Jan. 27 inauguration, Micheletti was to give a televised address last night (Thursday) to announce he would step down.

Observers wonder if such a move would appease critics such as Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who served as mediator after Honduran troops forced Zelaya from home and onto a plane to Costa Rica. Arias’ mediation laid the foundation for the Tegucigalpa-San José Accord, which was signed by both Micheletti and Zelaya but which never entirely took effect.

Pending major changes in Honduras, Arias will protest by not attending the swearing in ceremony for Lobo.

“It pains me greatly that some of the most important points in the San José Agreement could not be met, such as Roberto Micheletti stepping down before the handover of power,” Arias said Jan. 15 during a meeting with Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza.

However, Arias said Jan. 28 should mark Honduras’ return to the international community. The OAS suspended the impoverished country’s membership after the coup.

Many countries withdrew their ambassadors and froze aid. The United States revoked visas for high-level Honduran officials. Arias said he hopes healing will begin when Lobo is sworn in.

In addition to offering a safe passage for Zelaya, Wednesday’s agreement calls on “the international community to reactivate as soon as possible its current cooperation projects with the Republic of Honduras,” according to the Dominican government’s communiqué.

Costa Rican foreign relations officials told The Tico Times on Thursday that Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno will not attend the inauguration, although they will watch the situation closely for changes. It remains to be seen whether Micheletti’s speech – scheduled after press time – will change the dynamics of the situation.

–Alex Leff

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