Honduran Elections “Necessary but Not Sufficient,” U.S. Says
By Stephen Kaufman
Washington — The November 29 presidential election in Honduras is a “very important” and “necessary” step forward, a U.S. official says, but the country’s political leaders need to take the additional steps called for under the Tegucigalpa–San Jose Accord to restore democratic order and bring about reconciliation following the June 28 coup, which ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
The elections “are not the last step,” State Department Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela told reporters ( http://www.america.gov/st/texttrans-english/2009/November/20091130172310eaifas0.1986353.html ) in Washington November 30. Over the next few months, he said, the leadership in Honduras will need to try to follow the framework that was agreed to between Zelaya and the leader of the de facto government, Roberto Micheletti, in the Tegucigalpa–San Jose Accord, which was negotiated through the Organization of American States (OAS).
In particular, Valenzuela said, the accord calls for a government of national unity, a vote in the Honduran Congress on the reinstatement of Zelaya, and the creation of a truth commission to look into what led to the coup.
The accord also would provide “the elements to help the Hondurans make the necessary reforms to their constitutional process and to bring about a fuller reconciliation of the Honduran people,” he said.
Valenzuela urged the Honduran legislators to proceed with the reinstatement vote, scheduled for December 2. The issue at hand is “whether the legitimate president of Honduras, who was overthrown in a coup d’état, will be returned to office by the Congress,” as called for under the accord.
Porfirio Lobo, who was the opposition National Party’s presidential candidate and had run against Zelaya in 2005, won an “ample victory” on November 29, Valenzuela said. According to press reports, he won 56 percent of the vote, and voter turnout reportedly was at more than 60 percent. The elections “met the international standards of fairness and transparency, despite some incidents that were reported here and there,” he said.
“The United States takes note of [Lobo’s] election. ... He will be the next president of Honduras,” Valenzuela said, adding that the turnout “met the same range that elections in Honduras have had in the past,” and that many voted for the opposition candidate, showing “their wish to move forward.”
The election provides “a legitimate way out” of the country’s crisis, and the Honduran people “are looking for an exit strategy,” he said. The November 29 election resulting in Lobo’s victory was “not a whitewash” planned at the last minute by the de facto government, he added.
In the wider Latin American region, which had a long history of governments changing through extra-constitutional means, the precedent of a coup d’état “is one that cannot stand,” Valenzuela said. And for Honduras’ OAS membership to be restored, he added, “it's going to have to show that … the situation was grave and … that it's taken steps to restore the constitutional and democratic order.” Until June 28, the last coup in the region occurred in Haiti in 1991.
President Zelaya, who has been taking refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, withdrew his participation in efforts to set up a national unity government and has said he would not recognize the results of the election. However, Valenzuela said he and other U.S. officials are continuing to urge Zelaya to return to “a process of dialogue with others to achieve this government of national unity.”
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)