San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Hondurans Back to the Negotiating Table

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Repres– entatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and interim President Roberto Micheletti met Wednesday for the first time since July, but if and when an agreement will be reached is still very much up in the air.

Negotiations in July led to the proposed San José Agreement drafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. That proposal went nowhere, as both sides dug in their heels against a compromise that would return Zelaya to power but forbid him from seeking constitutional reform.

The spirit of that accord was evoked on Wednesday by Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, who outlined the resolutions he would like both sides to agree to in negotiations supervised by a mission of OAS representatives.

Insulza said he wants the negotiations to end with the restitution of Zelaya to the presidency. However, he said Zelaya would have to agree not to pursue constitutional reforms while finishing his term of office, which would end Jan. 27, 2010.

Zelaya was removed from office on June 28 and expatriated following his efforts to promote a referendum on a constitutional reform before the nation’s elections on Nov. 29. His opponents argue that Zelaya wanted the referendum to change presidential term limits so that he might stay in office past his four-year term. Zelaya’s camp denies this was the motive.

Insulza said the formation of a united government of Zelaya’s representatives and those of Micheletti also would be necessary for Honduras to move forward. He added that both sides should be granted amnesty from being tried for possible political crimes allegedly committed during the crisis.

The OAS secretary general said these goals must be met or the international community likely won’t recognize Honduras’ presidential elections in November. He also called upon the de facto government to allow pro-Zelaya media, such as Radio Globo – still off the air even after the executive order used to close it was lifted this week – be allowed to broadcast again.

“None of this should take a long time if there is a real will to solve this issue,” Insulza said at a press conference prior to the start of negotiations on Wednesday.

At the same press conference, Carlos Contreras, foreign minister for the interim Honduran government, advocated for the legitimacy of the elections regardless of what emerges from the negotiations with Zelaya. Contreras said the Supreme Elections Tribunal will invite government representatives from the United States to supervise the elections in November.

“I would urge the other countries to accept our elections,” Contreras said.

In a meeting with OAS officials Wednesday evening, Micheletti said the international community fails to understand Honduras’ right to democracy, reaffirming that Zelaya’s ouster from office was legitimate and he should not be allowed to return to power.

“But I’m open to changing my mind if you can convince me,” Micheletti said.

The San José Agreement isn’t the only proposal that has been put forth since the coup. A plan to end the crisis was also proposed by Honduran businessman Adolfo Facusse in late September. It calls for the restitution of Zelaya but would also require that he face trial to confront the accusations made against him.

The plan also calls for some 3,000 international peacekeeping troops to supervise implementation of the plan and the elections.

“The plan is a product of discussions between a large group of businessmen and other Honduran citizens,” Facusse told the AFP news agency. “The main idea is part of the Costa Rican president’s plan, with additional modifications to meet the concerns of some sectors.”

Facusse told the newspaper La Tribuna that Micheletti is open to the plan but that  he had received no response from Zelaya.

Zelaya’s top negotiator, Víctor Meza, said he wants negotiations in keeping with the spirit of the San José Agreement. Meza condemned actions taken by the Micheletti government against pro-Zelaya demonstrators and media, but he said he is happy to be at the negotiating table.

“Democracy puts in our hands the mechanisms of dialogue,” Meza said.


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