Transcript of State Dept. Press Briefing: Visas, Military Coups and Recognizing the Winner of Next Honduran Election
Yesterday, the State Department held a telephone conference with reporters to give them an opportunity to ask questions about the US decision not to offer any new visas to Hondurans other than those in the immigrant and emergency categories. The visa issue was a minor aspect of the briefing and a few of the reporters decided to put the screws to the State Dept. representative on two issues in particular: Was it or was it not a military coup ? and If Zelaya is not returned to the presidency by the time the elections are held, will the US recognize the winner regardless?
The star of the show was Jose Cordoba of the Wall Street Journal who is not at all confused about what is going on in Honduras.
Following is a transcript of the conference call. Oh, the twists and turns and the weaving of the wicked web. It’s fairly long, so get yourself a beer or a cup of coffee and get comfy.
Senior State Department Officials on Honduras
Via Conference Call
August 25, 2009
OPERATOR: Welcome, and thank you all for standing by. At this time, all participants are on listen-only mode and for the question and answer session. At that time, you may press *1 to ask a question. I’d also like to inform parties that the call is now being recorded. If you have any objections, you may disconnect at this time.
And I’d now like to turn the call over to Mr. Fred Lash. Thank you, sir, you may begin.
MR. LASH: Thank you all for joining us today. We have with us a Senior State Department Official for a on background briefing concerning the situation in Honduras with the recent OAS mission there. I will turn it over to our Senior State Department Official for an opening remark – opening remarks and then we will begin taking calls after that. Please begin.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for calling in. As you know, since yesterday, there has been an OAS delegation in Honduras. They – this is the delegation that the United States was very supportive of and we were happy to see them get started. Their mission was to talk to all sectors in Honduras to try to urge the two relevant parties to come to closure on this crisis and to find the San – what we’re calling the San Jose Accord, that was worked out with President Arias.
The delegation – we’ve been keeping – we’ve been tracking the delegation very closely, have received intermittent reports from them, and we understand that they have spoken with – they’re currently in meetings with president – the de facto president Mr. Micheletti. We know that they spoke with supporters of President Zelaya, that they spoke with businesspersons and church groups in the country.
What we’ve also learned over the course of these two days is that there still seems to be very strong resistance or reluctance among some members in the de facto government to signing the San Jose Accord. And the United States continues to believe that that accord was very painstakingly worked out, that it is the best way forward for a negotiated solution to this crisis. And because we feel so strongly about that, today the United States did decide to take an additional measure in support – in hoping that this would help advance the process. And the measure, as you read probably on our announcement, is to temporarily suspend the non-immigrant visa services in Honduras, that will be non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services. That will be effective as of tomorrow.
We really believe that this will help and signal how seriously we’re watching the situation there. We believe that this will help advance coming to closure, and we thought it was important to take this step – to take this step – to take this step at this time.
I’m open for – ready for questions.
MR. LASH: Coordinator, can you begin with the first question, please?
OPERATOR: Yes, thank you. We’ll now begin the question and answer session. To ask a question, you may press *1. It is required for you to record your name when prompted so that your name may be introduced for a question. Once again, it is *1 to ask a question. One moment, please.
Our first question will come from Arshad Mohammed. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s Arshad Mohammed of Reuters. Why – you said that this was a signal of how the decision to suspend visa services, except for emergency and immigrant or potential immigrants, why – of how closely you’re watching the situation, what does this – beyond that you’re watching the situation, which we’ve known since June 28th, does this presage or hint at the possibility of greater U.S. sanctions against the de facto government if it fails to accept the San Jose Accords?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you for your question. As you know, we are looking at this situation as it evolves. At this point, we felt like this was an appropriate measure to take. As you know earlier, we supported when the OAS – we voted with the OAS when they voted to suspend Honduras’ participation in the OAS. We have suspended some of our bilateral – direct bilateral assistance. We suspended certain diplomatic visas of the regime. This is just another measure, one more measure.
Does that mean that there might be other measures that we will consider? Yes. That means that there are others, but we – but what’s in that menu or what those will be yet, it would be premature for me to say.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say that you would consider those other measures, whatever they might be, if the de facto government fails to accept the Arias plan?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think what I’m trying to say is that we really think that both sides need to accept the plan. And we will consider – we will continue to try to work with both sides that they will reach that same conclusion, and we will do what we think we can to help them move in that direction.
OPERATOR: Our next question will come from Sergio Davila. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. It’s Sergio Davila from Folha de Sao Paulo. I have two questions, actually. Does the State Department consider what happened in Honduras a coup d’état? If not, why not? And also, is there any other country that is under the same visa suspension as Honduras is now?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you also for you question. We have already stated that we do believe that this was a coup against the genuinely elected president. I can’t comment about what’s going on in other parts of the world. Right now, we’re focused right here, right on Honduras.
QUESTION: And so – sorry, just a follow-up. If this is a coup – the State Department considers this a coup, what’s the next step? And I mean, there is a legal framework on the U.S. laws dealing with countries that are under coup d’état? I mean, what’s holding you guys to take other measures according – the law?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think what you’re referring to, Mr. Davila, is whether or not this is – has been determined to be a military coup. And you’re correct that there are provisions in our law that have to be applied if it is determined that this is a military coup. And frankly, our lawyers are looking at that exact question. And when we get the answer to that, you are right, there will be things that – if it is determined that this was a military coup, there will be things that will kick in.
As you know, on the ground, there’s a lot of discussion about who did what to whom and what things were constitutional or not, which is why our lawyers are really looking at the event as we understand them in order to come out with the accurate determination.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Our next question will come from Jordi Zamora. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Jordi Zamora from AFP. Thank you. I have a couple of questions. First of all, I’d like to know whether this measure of today about visa, have you taken this measure, as you say that you were in close contact with the delegation in Tegucigalpa, have you taken these measures then – I don’t know, today or tomorrow, according at what you have known from those meetings? Have you taken the decision – I don’t know, today – because of what you have been told by this delegation? And second question, had you warned the regime in Honduras that you were about to take this decision, this measure if nothing happen at – during this meeting?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Thank you, Mr. Zamora. It’s more in regard to – I think I need to clarify a couple of things. While we are aware and have been trying to track very closely exactly what the delegation in Honduras, I don’t want to give you the impression that we’ve been getting a full debrief from them, because we have not. But if – rather than what we’ve been told by them, it’s what we haven’t been told by them that is leading us to this conclusion. In other words, there has still been no indication, and that much is pretty clear, that the de facto regime is really prepared to embrace the Arias accord. And we do think it was important for the delegation to finish all of its work and to come – and come back to Washington and make some proposals to us perhaps, if they can’t get – I guess, people to sign.
But we think that taking this measure now is very important to signal – we have certain expectations of the two, the two main parties, i.e., the Zelaya – President Zelaya and the de facto regime. So this is our way to say yes, there’s an OAS process that is ongoing, but also we are trying to frame this in such a way to help advance that process.
And you asked something – did we warn the regime. As I think I mentioned earlier, we have had contact with both President Zelaya and his supporters as well as persons who are affiliated with the de facto regime, and they are well aware of our thinking about what’s going on there.
OPERATOR: Our next question will come from Jose. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. This is Jose De Cordoba from The Wall Street Journal in Mexico City. A couple questions. I’m not quite sure as to what visas are affected. Is it basically tourist visas that are being affected?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’re talking about non-immigrant visas, so that would be tourist visas – non-emergency, non-immigrant visas.
QUESTION: So it’s basically tourist visas. And what – how many would you be putting out? I mean, the tourism season is over, but school is about to begin. So I don’t think that it’s a big impact. I think it’s a minor action to make a lot of noise, but really very little, it seems to me.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Are you asking me how many non-immigrant visas we issue in a year?
QUESTION: Will, you’ll be issuing, say, in the next per month or something.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, in a year, I guess you can do the math, but in a year, we issue about 45,000 roughly.
QUESTION: Tourist season?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, we do – we interview about 45,000 persons who want to come either as – well, whatever their – in a non-immigrant way. And we issue about 30,000 a year.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Now, this could be business visas. It could be people coming on temporary work visas. There’s lots of different categories —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: — besides tourist visas.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I guess most businessmen would probably have multiple entry visas, which I assume would not be affected by this.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: That’s correct.
QUESTION: So we’re talking basically about tourist season, so about 45 – or rather, 30,000 tourist visas a year that you’re talking about. That doesn’t seem very – like a big deal.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What we have said is that we are temporarily suspending services because we want to do a review.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And once we do that review, then we’ll see what kinds of changes, if any, we need to make. And therefore, I think it’s a little premature to talk about exactly how many people this is going to affect and how it’s going to affect them.
QUESTION: Okay. And another question, if I may. It seems to me that the Arias agreement is dead. I mean, all Honduras’s institutions – you know, supreme court, the congress, the attorney general’s office – have said that the central tenet of the Arias plan, the return of Zelaya, is nonnegotiable because it’s illegal. So it seems to me, you know, you’ve got to rethink things. Where do you go – where are you going to go from there?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We don’t have that same reading, actually. We don’t think the Arias – we think the Arias plan is the only viable plan at this point. And I think that we are seeing – we are hearing enough even in the various institutions that you mentioned, if you talk to two or three persons from each institution, you get a nuance.
What we’re really looking for is some leadership or people to say, all right, it’s time to bring this to closure, and we can work out the differences. We will agree all on the basic premises that are in the plan and work out the details of the solution and verification as we go forward.
QUESTION: Is the return of Zelaya still the basic fundamental part of the plan, I mean –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The return of Zelaya as the elected president, and to finish out his term is still a core tenet in the plan.
QUESTION: Is still what?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Core tenet in the plan, yes.
QUESTION: If — will you recognize the winner of the November election if Zelaya is not allowed to come back as elected president?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think it —
QUESTION: And if not, why not?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: – that is premature for us to talk about that.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Do you have any idea when the – whether – when you will determine whether Zelaya’s coup is a military coup, and is there any other type of coup? Is there a –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure, there are – there have been other types of coups, but —
QUESTION: Like what?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, over a decade ago, I was in Panama when they basically had a legislative coup. There are different kinds of coups that you can have. But we are hoping very, very soon to have a readout from our lawyers to get back to today – get back to —
QUESTION: Yeah. Can I have – ask one more question or –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. Yes, you may.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. What have been the cutoffs in aid? I mean, I know about the $16 million military aid cutoffs. But I – what I understand, the World Bank, the IMF and the IADB had not been able to give any money, any aid to Honduras because Zelaya has not – had not submitted a national budget for a year. So when all these institutions said that they were suspending their aid it was basically an empty gesture. Isn’t it – is that the case?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I’m speaking for the United States Government today.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And our gestures are quite meaningful and quite full.
QUESTION: I’m sorry?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Our gestures were the suspension of all direct assistance to the government and all military assistance.
QUESTION: And the direct assistance to the government, how much did that come to?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I have a chart, but it’s on my computer. Roughly, about $35 million.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. And that goes to –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: If you don’t mind, we can take the question and get you a figure if – I don’t have it right at my fingertips. I apologize.
QUESTION: The $35 million, that includes the military aid?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, it does.
QUESTION: And so roughly $16 million for military and the rest going to what?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m – you know what, I don’t want to – can I just get like a fax number from you or something, because I can get —
QUESTION: Yeah, sure.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I can pull it out of my machine, but I can’t do it while I’m talking on the phone.
QUESTION: Sure, no problem.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So do you want to give me your number or you’re going to give it to the –
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know, it’s – let me see –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Oh, well, people will have it. Our press people say they can take care of it. Okay?
QUESTION: Okay, fine.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll get this to you, okay?
QUESTION: Sure, thanks.
OPERATOR: Our next question will come from Monica Showalter. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s Monica at Investor’s Business Daily. My question is this: Is there any potential for flexibility or for modification of the San Jose Accords in the things it’s stipulating? It seems to me that if the OAS made an early mistake by marching into Honduras and saying my way or the highway, wouldn’t there be potential to repeat that if the San Jose Accords stay equally inflexible? I just wanted to ask if – you know, is there any potential at all for changing any aspects of that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Our view is that President Arias has done a tremendous job in trying to pull out – pull together what are the core tenets for a possible agreement. The entire purpose, however, of a negotiation is just that, to have an negotiated agreement. If President Zelaya and de facto – and Mr. Micheletti were to get together with President Arias and work out something that all three of them thought that they could agree with and they thought that represented the best way forward that also held on to the underpinnings of the democratic and constitutional rule, then, of course, the United States would have to look at that. What we are trying to do is help Hondurans forward and move out of this impasse. So I think that would be something that the leaders would have to take to Arias.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. I found it interesting. There was a letter sent to – sent to the Senate that said that it was unlikely that big trade sanctions would be made on Honduras. I wanted to ask, and this is sort of a technical question, is that due to the structure of CAFTA, which is a six nation treaty? Like for instance, if you cut one off, you’d have to cut all six off? Does it have to do with that or does it have to do with perhaps the interconnectedness of industries through Central America, and if you disrupted one you might disrupt them all?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It has to do with the provisions in CAFTA.
QUESTION: It does have to do with CAFTA, okay – how it’s structured?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The binding agreement with CAFTA.
QUESTION: Exactly. Okay, thanks.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Patricia Campos Mello. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. I would like you elaborate why – because some analysts have been saying that the most effective way to pressure the de facto regime would be to suspend trade preferences. And so I wanted to know why exactly that’s not a possibility? And also, the OAS has indicated that they are not going to recognize the new president, even if it’s democratically elected, if Zelaya has not returned to power before that election, so –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what organization you represented.
QUESTION: It’s Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazilian newspaper.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay, thank you. I didn’t hear that, I’m sorry.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Maybe – or someone else just asked about the trade preferences question —
QUESTION: Yeah. I just wanted you to elaborate why that’s not a possibility.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have an agreement called the CAFTA agreement, and apparently provisions in that make it impossible – very difficult, if not impossible, for us to do that, so we can’t – it looks like we cannot go down that route.
We have not made a determination yet. You said the OAS has said that the United States —
QUESTION: They have indicated, not said on the record, but they have signaled to that.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay, we’ll we certainly haven’t signaled that.
QUESTION: You have not?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We haven’t made it – we haven’t – we’re not even looking at that point yet, because we are – we are really hoping to get this agreement signed.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Juan Vasquez. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. I just wanted to get a clarification on – I’m Juan Vasquez with the Miami Herald – just on a couple of points. On the visas, you are still interviewing people, if you think there’s an emergency, but you are not issuing any new visas at all. Is that correct?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No that wouldn’t be correct. We’d be interviewing and, if they were eligible, issuing to emergency cases.
QUESTION: Right. Well, obviously, you’re saying non-emergency, so emergency cases. And secondly, are any visas being revoked at all, on the part of those who do have multiple entry visas and who might be connected in some way to the de facto government?
QUESTION: Hello? Hello?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Hello. I didn’t know which one. As part – we were going to be looking – as part of our review, will help us to look at that question.
QUESTION: At the possible revocation of visas?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, on the question – I just need a clarification on what it is that the lawyers are looking at involving a military coup. Maybe I missed something there.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: When events evolved about a month ago, we had very conflicting stories as to what exactly occurred. And we have tried very hard to get to the bottom of what has occurred. And we have, to our best ability, put together what we understand to have been the chronology of events — the sequence of events, I should say. And judging from that, our lawyers are looking to say, well, are we going to call — is this a military coup, or was this in fact something that was done by the judiciary, was it done by the legislature, et cetera? There’s a difference.
QUESTION: Okay, but — still just trying to get a clarification. As I recall, earlier in this same briefing, you said that it — you have called it a military coup.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, we’ve called it a coup. He said, “Is this a coup d’état?” I said, “Yeah.”
QUESTION: Oh, I see.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We have said from the very beginning, what we do know is that the legitimate government, the legitimate president, was taken out of office in a way that was not prescribed, in a way that was unexpected and forced. And we call that a coup, a coup to the head of the government.
There are specific – we have laws – there’s a – I forget the exact section of the law that deals with our – the way we can handle assistance and the way we can handle our relationship with a country if there is a military coup, if the person in charge of, leading, and then taking over the government after the coup are the military. And we are examining to determine whether or not that’s the case here.
QUESTION: Thank you. One last question. Just when would you expect to finish that inquiry?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Immediately.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Gilberto Scofield. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Gilberto Scofield from Globo, Brazil. I just would like to know, can you please tell us at which point inside Mr. Oscar Arias’s plan are facing more resistance from the Honduras de facto government, because you listen to —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Our understanding is – the main point that is facing all the resistance from the de facto government is a sentence that says: The return of President Zelaya to finish out his term.
QUESTION: Okay. And do — and did they propose anything? I mean, did the de facto government say, okay —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They proposed that he not return. But the – I don’t know currently if they’re proposing anything to the delegation that’s down there now.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We do understand that the delegation had tried to make earlier appointments in their arrival in Honduras, and those things were put off. But apparently, Mr. Micheletti wanted to say something to them, so I really don’t know what’s going on, what he’s saying now. But that had been the only sticking point.
QUESTION: Yeah, because now we have listened to interpretations of people saying that, for example, that Zelaya could come back, but without any power at all. So that would be unacceptable for the de facto government – and, you know, a lot of suggestions like this. But now you said that the core of the discussions is this – the coming back with full power.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I said that the main sticking point – I don’t know if it’s the core of all their discussions, because as I said, I don’t know the realm of all of their discussions – but the main sticking point had been Zelaya’s return, and return as president to finish his term.
There isn’t any discussion, really, if you look at the Arias accord, that talks about how well he’s endowed upon coming back. I mean, he comes back as president, he comes back to finish out his term. But part of the verification commission and the ideas of the truth commission had to do with how both sides were going to feel comfortable in this small interim period before they got to elections.
So I – had there been some creativity or had there been an ability for both sides to understand that, we might have already had a signature to this accord already and be working on those kinds of details. But right now, the sticking point is Zelaya’s return as president just for the remainder of his term. Other conditions, it would seem to me, would be with Arias and the group to work out.
QUESTION: And – okay. And since the elections are just around the corner, do you work – you, United States – work with a reasonable deadline, you know, for a result or, I don’t know, any kind of signal from an agreement or whatever? Do you think that it’s reasonable – say, okay, in one month, if that’s not decided, then –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll be honest with you. Yes, we love timelines, but the beauty of them ends when the ink dries up off the page. So we are looking to try to find this – to bring this to closure as quickly as possible, the sooner the better, but we have not put a date certain on – we have not drawn a line in the sand as to – well, okay, that’s all – do you understand what I’m saying? Sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Inaudible.)
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m kind of mumbling. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay, thank you.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Celine. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, hi, Celine Aemisegger with EFE News Service. Actually, the other colleagues have already asked for – a few of my questions. It’s just that it seems that this could go forever on, because today, Roberto Micheletti said to the OAS delegation that he will hold the elections on November 29th, either way, if the world recognizes them or not. So actually I don’t see any other possibility the OAS or the international community could have, other than step up with other measures, more sanctions. Or I don’t know – how do you see that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m pausing because I – you’re right. These things look difficult, but the job of the diplomat is to never say that things look impossible. And we have a very good group of diplomats from the OAS who are – and from the various countries of the OAS – who are in country now.
Mr. Micheletti has said a number of things. So we are hoping that we will be able to induce him and his supporters to come to a more reasonable conclusion than the one you just suggested. But I will tell you this: The United States will not think that this thing will go on forever.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Tim Padgett. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Tim Padgett from Time Magazine. I just wanted to follow up on Jose de Cordoba’s question regarding whether or not we would recognize the winner of the election in November, if this were – situation were still going on. Wouldn’t that, in and of itself, become a mechanism of pressure, to get the Micheletti government to agree to the San Jose accord? That threat of not recognizing the winner of that election and the subsequent government, wouldn’t that, in and of itself, be a useful form of leverage?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We are looking at all these questions. I’m not – clearly you’re – we’re thinking about the same questions that you’re thinking about. We haven’t made a determination about that. There are – it’s possible that it would be perceived that way. It’s possible that it wouldn’t be. I mean, certainly, we’ve told the Micheletti organization that we don’t recognize them now, and that doesn’t seem to have much of an effect.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So we’re – we are – we understand that the elections loom in the not-distant future. We certainly want this resolved before then. But you’re right; we are looking at all facets of the prism to figure out the clearest light.
QUESTION: And then just one other quick question, following up on Juan Vasquez’s* question about what constitutes a military coup. Are we to understand, then, that when civilian institutions use the military to perform a coup, that then is not designated a military coup?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, we’re not necessarily to understand that. We’re waiting for our lawyers to help us to understand what we’re supposed to understand.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Thank you.
MR. LASH: We have time for one more question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Celia. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Celia (inaudible) from the German Press Agency, the Spanish wire. My question would be, apparently Roberto Micheletti is proposing an alternative way – a third way, let’s say – that would be neither him nor Zelaya taking power. It would be a third person that would assume the presidency until Zelaya’s time runs out. And my question would be, would the U.S., if nothing else works, be comfortable with this solution? Thank you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I suspect not. You’re making news now, because I haven’t really heard this. So – well, we haven’t really looked at this, and I don’t —
QUESTION: Apparently –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, I don’t see the difference at this point. Now I’m really just speaking from my own perspective. I don’t see what changing the body in the chair does if there isn’t any acknowledgment that the legitimately elected president has still not returned. But it would be premature for me to make any kind of comment about this, because it really hasn’t been assessed. I haven’t looked at it.
MR. LASH: I’d like to close the session here today. Thank you very much for the Senior State Department Officials. This is, again, a reminder, an on-background briefing today on the situation in Honduras. We thank you for your questions and hope it’s been useful for you. Again, thank you for the participants as well. Thank you all very much.