Honduran candidates look to distance themselves from San José Agreement

September 11, 2009

Four of the five leading presidential candidates in Honduras are unwilling to accept the San José Agreement to restore their deposed president to power.

In a meeting with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias on Wednesday, they refused to support Manuel Zelaya´s return to carry out his term, which ends in January.

Zelaya, who was ejected from his country by the military on June 28 after allegations that he violated the constitution, has been passing time in Nicaragua, waiting for an opportune time to return home.

But support for him is absent on the campaign trail, as the candidates – even that of his own Liberal Party – look to distance themselves from him and the San José agreement.

“We ask that our election process be independent from what happened on June 28,” said Elvin Ernesto Santos, who represents the Liberal Party. “We´d like to maintain our separation from the agreement, but we´d like to indicate our respect for it.”

Arias, who mediated between the feuding parties during an intensive four-day process in July, invited the five politicians to San José with a warning.

If Zelaya were not reinstated as president, the elections on Nov. 29 would not be recognized by the international community and Honduras would remain cut off from the rest of the world, he said.

Since the coup at the end of June, the Central American Integration System suspended Honduras´ participation, the United States cut off $30 million in aid and the European Union is withholding another $95 million.

With a full understanding of how isolation could tear at their country, the candidates came to Costa Rica on Wednesday in the hopes of negotiating with international players.

“We are in an economically precarious position, which will directly affect our people,” said Santos. “We want a harmonious exit to this situation and that is why we are here.”

Though they could not come to an agreement over Arias´ draft accord, they did sign a statement indicating their support for some of the ideas behind the document.

César Ham, candidate with the Democratic Unification Party, was the lone voice in support of the agreement, which was drafted in July as a proposed solution to the conflict.

Identifying himself as a representative of a “leftist party,” he said “We think we need to reinstate the democratically elected President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales. The rest of the candidates do not agree … They say the San José Agreement is insufficient … Yet, if there is no resolution on the San José Agreement, the election will not be recognized.”

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