Four of the five leading Honduran presidential candidates are unwilling to accept the San José Agreement to restore their deposed president to power.
Despite threats that their country would remain isolated from the world and that their election would not be recognized by the international community, the presidential hopefuls remained steadfast this week in their conviction that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya should not be allowed to finish his term, which would end in January.
Zelaya, who was ejected from the country 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 Zelaya is absent on the campaign trail, as the announced candidates – even the one representing his own Liberal Party – seek to distance themselves from him.
“We ask that our election process be seen as independent from what happened on June 28,” said Elvin Ernesto Santos, a 46-year-old businessman and a candidate for the Liberal Party. “We’d like to maintain our separation from the agreement, but we’d like to indicate our respect for it.”
César Ham, candidate with the Democratic Unification Party, was the lone voice of support for Zelaya’s return and the San José Agreement, which was offered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias in July as a potential solution to the conflict.
The five candidates came to Costa Rica on Wednesday to meet with Arias about the ongoing situation in their home country.
Santos, Porfirio Lobo of the National Party, Felícito Avila of the Christian Democracy Party, Ham and Bernand Martínez of the Innovation and Unity Party accepted Arias’ invitation in hopes a new agreement could be forged with international players.
Though they signed a document endorsing the San José Agreement (the international answer to the crisis), the candidates said they could not accept the one pivotal point – Zelaya’s reinstatement.
To some, their signatures on the document was an apparent contradiction as the agreement includes a clause allowing for Zelaya’s return. But the candidates justified that by saying that, while they wanted to see peace and reconciliation in their country, they were not in a position to effect a change.
“We have our limitations,” said Felicito Avila, former secretary general of a worker’s union in Honduras. “I do not represent a state power. I represent a party and a citizenry.”
But Arias’ warning was clear: If Zelaya were not reinstated as president, the elections on Nov. 29 would not be recognized by the international community, and Honduras would continue to be cut off from the rest of the world.
Since Zelaya’s ouster 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 continued isolation could stymie their country’s progress, the candidates visited Costa Rica to open dialogue.
“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.”
Roberto Micheletti, who stepped in as president in Zelaya’s absence, condemned Arias’ suggestion that the elections in November will not be recognized.
“We have no doubt that Oscar Arias has ceased to be a proper mediator,” Micheletti told Radio America on the same day Arias met with the candidates.
“Not only is it his position, but the way he has expressed his position, when one day he says we should proceed to elections and the next he says we should not. It’s like a puppet being manipulated (by different interests.)”
Some material contained in this article is from EFE wire services.