Arias to watch Honduran elections from Europe

November 20, 2009

Costa Rica was thrust into a central role when the Honduran crisis began, but its climax might find this country´s leader watching from the sidelines.

As the Honduran people prepare for presidential elections on Nov. 29, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is getting ready for an international tour of the Middle East and Europe.

He´ll spend part of Honduras´ election day in the air, traveling from Jerusalem to Lisbon to participate in the 19th Ibero-American Summit. And while he´ll be far from the Central American isthmus when the polls close Sunday, member of his cabinet expect Honduras to top the agenda of the following day´s conference.

“Honduras will certainly be of interest,” said Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, who will be traveling with the president. The conference will begin only “hours after the electoral process is concluded.”

Costa Rica has yet to take an official stance on whether it will recognize the results of the election.

Instead, leaders seem to be leaving the decision in the hands of the rest of the international community, saying there are “sufficient actors involved” to determine the best response. Originally, most countries – Costa Rica included – had said they would recognize the winner of the elections only if ousted President Manuel Zelaya was restored beforehand. However, the United States recently indicated a change in its policy by focusing more on keeping the elections fair than on pushing for Zelaya´s reinstatement.

Even though President Arias will be watching the elections unfold from Europe, his participation early in the crisis will make his an important voice during the Ibero-American Summit.  

When Zelaya was ousted from his home country for an alleged violation of the constitution, he landed in Costa Rica – still in his pajamas.

He returned to Costa Rica weeks later to take part in a mediation process with the de facto government, facilitated by Arias. Despite the group´s inability to successfully negotiate an agreement acceptable to both parties, Arias continued to be an important player in the crisis, sending envoys to Honduras or receiving the candidates in the upcoming presidential elections in San José.

Arias has come under criticism for his tour of Middle East and Europe, with some questioning the benefit to the nation of the outgoing president´s travels.

“We are not an island,” Stagno said in rebuttal. “Throughout this administration, we have made an effort to break down barriers…. This is a continuation of that effort.”

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