U.S. Warns Honduras on New Vote
By Jose de C&oacurte;rdoba
The U.S. said it will cut off some aid and may not recognize the result of Honduras's upcoming presidential election, in an attempt to pressure the country's interim government to accept the return of its deposed president.
The U.S. on Thursday terminated some $30 million of aid that had been suspended after Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was ousted on June 28, U.S. officials said in a conference call with reporters. But the officials said the U.S. hadn't determined that the ouster of Mr. Zelaya was a military coup.
Mr. Zelaya met Thursday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington to discuss ways to bring an end to Honduras's political crisis.
Honduras's ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, in Washington on Thursday, met with Hillary Clinton and discussed ending his country's political crisis.
The actions are unlikely to please either Mr. Zelaya's friends or his foes. His supporters were hoping the U.S. would take much stronger action, such as freezing assets and bank accounts of officials and backers of the interim Honduran government. His opponents say the U.S. is misguided in insisting on the return of Mr. Zelaya, who they view as a continuing threat to Honduran democracy.
U.S. officials also said they would revoke some visas of members and supporters of Honduras's interim government. Potentially more significant were the U.S. comments on the elections set for November. The interim Honduran government hopes that the inauguration of a new president will provide a path out of the country's current isolation.
"At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections," a statement by State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. U.S. officials declined to comment further on the implied election threat.
Candidates from all of Honduras's political parties, including Mr. Zelaya's Liberal Party and other Zelaya supporters, are running in the elections. All of the candidates were chosen before Mr. Zelaya's ouster. President Roberto Micheletti, the interim president who will step down in January, has promised to hold fair elections and invite international observers.
But officials said the U.S. was sending out a "clear message" to the Honduran government not to try to "run out the clock" to keep Mr. Zelaya from returning before the end of his term in January.
Mr. Zelaya said he appreciated that Mrs. Clinton had "made it clear" the U.S. wouldn't recognize any government arising from elections held by the interim government. "This sends a message to the de facto government that it is alone, totally isolated," a statement issued by Mr. Zelaya said.
Echoing President John F. Kennedy, Honduras's Interior Minister Oscar Raul Matute said, "We will pay any price, support any friend, oppose any enemy to assure the survival and the success of the liberties of our people and of our democracy."
"Our conscience is clear," Mr. Matute said.
Mr. Zelaya was ousted when soldiers, serving a Supreme Court warrant issued for his arrest, rousted him from his bed and put him on a plane for exile. The court acted after it determined that Mr. Zelaya had violated the constitution by pushing to hold a referendum that would have allowed him to run for a second term. But the soldiers, saying they wanted to stop possible bloodshed, put Mr. Zelaya on a plane to exile instead of arresting him. That also violated the constitution.
Since then, the U.S. has backed a meditation plan drawn up by Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias. But the interim government has been unwilling to sign on to the plan's central point -- allowing Mr. Zelaya to return to finish his term, which ends in January.
Since his ouster, Mr. Zelaya has become an itinerant figure, flying between Washington and diverse Latin American capitals in his quest for support.
Write to José de Córdoba at email@example.com