The U.S. State Department this week joined the political fray in Honduras just as the calendar marked four months since the toppling of President Manuel Zelaya.
A delegation led by Thomas Shannon, principal deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, traveled to the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa Wednesday and extended their stay at least through today.
Shannon told reporters in Washington via teleconference he hopes to see a resolution to the deadlocked dispute over Zelaya’s return to office before the U.S. delegation departs, according to a report by newswire Bloomberg. The report said Shannon has met with Zelaya, de facto President Roberto Micheletti as well as candidates in Honduras’ questioned upcoming presidential elections.
The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama had said earlier that it preferred to support the Organization of American States (OAS) – and, before that, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias – in their efforts to broker a deal between Zelaya and the Micheletti government.
“We continue to support the OAS involve ment in this,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Tuesday. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “decided that it was the right time to send this senior delegation down to get more directly involved in the process.”
The visit follows repeated stop-and-go’s in the negotiation process, which began in President Arias’ living room in the weeks following Zelaya’s June 28 ouster (TT, July 10).
Kelly said both sides should feel a “sense of urgency” as the Nov. 29 vote approaches.
World leaders, including the U.S. and European Union, have said they would not recognize the elections unless a deal is brokered between Zelaya and the interim government before then.
Negotiators in the Honduran crisis say they have reached agreements on every issue except Zelaya’s return to power. Both sides have made a flurry of proposals and counter-proposals to settle the issue, but each has been soundly rejected.
Zelaya has said he would give up his earlier campaign to hold a public referendum an amending the constitution, which brought government charges against him and ultimately led to his exile. Critics say Zelaya wanted to use a constitutional assembly to abolish presidential term limits and remain in power, something he denies.
After tours across the region to muster support and two abortive missions to end his exile, Zelaya covertly entered Tegucigalpa Sept. 21 and took shelter in the Brazilian Embassy, where he has been ever since.
Micheletti’s administration has filed a case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing Brazil of meddling in Honduran affairs.
–Alex Leff and Mike Faulk