[Guest post by DRJ]
For months, the Obama Administration claimed the Honduran government illegally removed President Manuel Zelaya and insisted he be reinstated. Honduran leaders resisted, stating they followed the law when they ousted Zelaya. Following the U.S. imposition of economic sanctions, Honduras accepted a U.S. brokered deal in late October that required the Honduran Supreme Court and Congress vote on reinstating Zelaya and that all parties recognize the results of the November 29 presidential election.
However, in a bold move, the President of the Honduran Congress has set the date for the vote after the November 29 Presidential election — rendering Zelaya’s reinstatement moot or, at most, making him a lame duck since he is not eligible for another Presidential term. Brazil and Argentina announced today they will not recognize the Honduran election results if Zelaya is not first restored to power, but the United States may be relenting:
“Under the October 30 deal, both sides agreed that Congress would vote on whether to return Zelaya.
But the agreement set no timetable for the 128-member body to vote, and the president of Congress said Tuesday that it would to decide on whether to reinstate Zelaya three days after the November 29 elections.
The US State Department insisted Wednesday that the Congress decision did not undermine the accord.
“Since the accord never actually gave any kind of deadline… scheduling the vote on December 2nd… isn’t necessarily inconsistent,” spokesman Ian Kelly told journalists.
Kelly said that the democratically-elected president “has to be restored before the end of his term.” Zelaya’s term expires on January 27.
“We will decide how to — how to pronounce on the election when we see how it is conducted,” Kelly added.
This is a good result for democracy and the Honduran leaders seem like modern-day Profiles in Courage. U.S. leaders, however, are not as steadfast. Even the very disappointed Manuel Zelaya “criticized the ‘contradiction’ of the US stance in comments from his embassy refuge.”
NOTE: Today’s Department of State briefing regarding Honduras is below the fold. It’s quite humorous.
QUESTION: Ian, on Honduras, the parliament seems to have put off until after the election a decision on whether Zelaya will be restored. What does that do for the possible credibility of these elections?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, let me give you kind of an update of where we are. Craig Kelly, of course, has been in Tegucigalpa. He’s been down there to help support the implementation of the accord. He held a series of meetings down there to support the OAS efforts to have it fully implemented. He’s met with President Zelaya and he met with the de facto leader Mr. Micheletti. He told us that these were very frank and open talks.
Regarding the reports on the Honduran lawmakers will not decide on whether or not to restore Zelaya until after the elections, according to the accord, the – it called for the national congress to issue a pronouncement on the restoration of a democratically elected authority, Mr. Zelaya. As you know, it never stipulated a timetable for the congressional action. All along, we’ve called on the congress to act expeditiously in the spirit of the accord. We believe that steady steps towards the implementation of the accord will enhance the prospects for transparent, free, and open elections that will ultimately resolve this crisis and allow Honduras to rejoin the international community of nations.
Another one of these important steps towards the implementation of the accord and resolving this crisis is the formation of the – of a government of national unity. So that’s also an important component to this.
But since the accord never actually gave any kind of deadline by – to have this vote by the national congress, scheduling the vote on December 2nd doesn’t necessarily – isn’t necessarily inconsistent with the accord.
QUESTION: What – I’m sorry. That’s – you’ve just opened your – this is – they’re going to have a field day with this. So it’s okay with you if five years from now, they go and come back and say, all right, yeah, Zelaya can go – he’s restored, when you can’t – you can’t be restored after you’re voted out of office if you’re not – he’s not even running.
MR. KELLY: That’s right. I mean, he – his term ends the end of January.
QUESTION: Yeah. And so it’s okay – so it’s okay with you, and you’ll – it will be all right and you’ll accept the results of the election, if they – even if they don’t put him back in when you —
MR. KELLY: Well, he’s not running. He’s not running for the election.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he’s going to be out – he’s effectively out of office. I mean, talk about – that’s the lamest of lame ducks. He’s not – he is – I’m confused. You no longer think that he has to be restored before he is voted out of office?
MR. KELLY: Well, it has been a very strong principle of ours that in order for the country to be reconciled, there has to be a restoration of the democratically elected president. That implies that he has to be restored before the end of his term, okay?
QUESTION: So basically —
QUESTION: All right. So 10 minutes – 10 minutes before the end of his term?
QUESTION: December – until the end of January it can be.
MR. KELLY: Look, I mean, clearly, he has to be restored in a timely way. And I don’t think we’ve ever said anything but that.
QUESTION: Well —
MR. KELLY: But what we’re focused on is the implementation of the accord. I mean, that’s – and – I think that’s what everybody has to be focused on is. And that’s what Craig Kelly was down there for to make sure that it’s done step by step. And there are a number of steps that have to take place. Now, the national congress has set a date to pronounce on this, to pronounce on this issue of the – what – I mean, the accord calls it a pronouncement on the reversion of the executive branch, a pronouncement on the – whether or not Mr. Zelaya should return.
This is a – this is basically – it’s a – we have a lot of interests, obviously. This is – the Organization of American States have a – has a lot of interest in having a government down there that reflects the will of the people and having reconciliation between the Zelaya camp and the Micheletti camp.
QUESTION: Am I correct in thinking that there’s —
MR. KELLY: And the accord is the best to do this.
QUESTION: Am I correct in thinking that there is no way to guarantee that this pronouncement will even restore him to office?
MR. KELLY: It’s up to the congress.
QUESTION: They could come –
MR. KELLY: The both sides —
QUESTION: — back and say no, he can’t come back and —
MR. KELLY: They could come back. I mean, that is —
QUESTION: Well, what happens then?
MR. KELLY: Well, we’ll – let’s see then.
QUESTION: Then you walk into —
MR. KELLY: It’s now. It’s not then.
QUESTION: Ian, will the election —
MR. KELLY: It’s a Honduran crisis. And we want to make sure that —
QUESTION: Well —
MR. KELLY: — the Hondurans are able to sit down —
QUESTION: — you inserted yourself into it —
MR. KELLY: We have.
QUESTION: — quite – so it’s no longer just a Honduran crisis. You’re involved.
MR. KELLY: Of course, we’re involved. We are involved because we want to be involved, because it’s important for us to be involved. We’re involved because they want us to be involved.
QUESTION: Ian, the election will enjoy international support, including that of the United States, even if at the time they vote the Congress hasn’t decided?
MR. KELLY: It all depends on how the vote is conducted. It depends on how the campaign is conducted. We will decide how to pronounce on the election when we see how it is conducted.