Honduras deal collapses; Zelaya’s backers blame U.S.


CARACAS, Venezuela — A U.S.-brokered accord that was
supposed to return ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power has
collapsed and his supporters pinned much of the blame Monday on the Obama

Honduras’ Congress has made no plans to vote on whether to
enact the agreement following remarks by Assistant Secretary of State Thomas
Shannon that seemed to remove U.S. pressure.

Shannon said last week that the deal meant that the Obama
administration would accept the outcome of the Nov. 29 presidential and
congressional elections, regardless of whether Zelaya was back in power.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., lifted a hold on Shannon becoming
U.S. ambassador to Brazil after Shannon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
privately reiterated this view on the elections, DeMint said.

Analysts said Monday that Shannon’s statement in a
television interview Wednesday undercut most of Zelaya’s leverage, gave
Congress a good reason to dodge a tough vote and strengthened the resolve of de
facto President Roberto Micheletti to remain in power.

“The United States is no longer interested in punishing
a coup-installed government,” Honduran Congresswoman Elvia Valle said by
telephone from Tegucigalpa Monday. Shannon’s declarations “have left a
bitter taste in our mouths.”

Zelaya supporters, who have been organizing street protests
against the Micheletti regime, are down to their final card: Calling on Hondurans
to boycott the elections.

Carlos H. Reyes, the presidential candidate who was favored
by the leftist Zelaya’s hard-core supporters but had no chance to win, withdrew
from the race Monday.

“For us to participate in the elections would mean
following the strategy of the coup-installed government,” Reyes said.

Zelaya, holed up in the Brazilian Embassy, is running out of
options, said Orlando Perez, a political science professor at Central Michigan
University who follows Honduras.

“At the end of the day, it seems like the coup will
stand,” Perez said from Michigan. “It is an ominous sign for
democratic governments and elected leaders in the region.”

Micheletti is moving forward with plans to organize the
upcoming elections, which both sides had hoped would propel Honduras past a
political crisis that exploded when soldiers hustled Zelaya out of the country
on June 28, and the Congress immediately voted to name Micheletti as his

The Obama administration and foreign governments throughout
Latin America called for Zelaya’s return to power. The Obama administration
also cut $30 million in aid to Honduras and revoked U.S. travel visas held by
Micheletti and his powerful supporters.

Zelaya’s ouster and the political machinations have thrust
Honduras — a small Central American nation that looks to the U.S. for political
and economic support — into the news for months.


Zelaya and many analysts inside and outside Honduras hailed
the Oct. 30 agreement between him and Micheletti, although it actually left his
return to power up to the country’s Congress.

A Micheletti spokeswoman on Monday called on Congress to
vote on the agreement.

Heather Berkman, a Washington-based analyst with the Eurasia
Group, said that she had expected the presidential campaign frontrunner,
Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the National Party, to push his party’s
members of Congress to join with Zelaya’s supporters to approve the agreement
and guarantee international recognition of the election outcome.

“But Pepe Lobo was in a tough position and has decided
that he doesn’t want to alienate his supporters,” Berkman said Monday.

Micheletti reiterated his accusation Monday that Zelaya
broke the agreement late last week by failing to offer a list of candidates for
senior positions in the “unity” government called for under the deal.

Zelaya on Sunday said he didn’t put forth his candidates
because the agreement called for him to oversee the unity government.

Calling the agreement “a failure,” he added,
“The de facto president who carried out a coup is going to direct the
cabinet? This is reconciliation?”

Perez said he thought the Obama administration decided it
had no option but to recognize the election result after concluding that
Honduras’ political, military and economic elite wouldn’t accept Zelaya’s

The deposed president had been on the outs with the elite
since he shifted mid-term to become a free-spending leftist allied with
Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez. Zelaya said he’d like to extend
his stay in office, as Chavez has done.

DeMint is also taking credit for the U.S. support for the
election after receiving private assurances from Shannon and Clinton.

DeMint said last week that Shannon and Clinton both had
assured him that the Obama administration would accept Honduras’ winner, even
if Zelaya weren’t president.

As a result, DeMint released his hold blocking Shannon from
becoming ambassador to Brazil and another on Arturo Valenzuela to replace
Shannon as the top diplomat for Latin America. However, Sen. George LeMieux,
R-Fla., then put on a new hold on Shannon.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.