Voice of America and State Dept.: Honduras, It’ Your Mess Now
12 November 2009
Efforts to return deposed President Manuel Zelaya to office and end the crippling political crisis in Honduras have hit another roadblock.
The United States is disappointed that both parties haven’t been able to reach agreement on the creation of a government of national unity under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose accord, and it urges leaders there to stay focused on it. While the U.S. and other hemispheric nations worked hard to bring the parties together, the stalemate is a Honduran problem that must have a Honduran solution.
Under the terms of the agreement, signed late last month, President Zelaya and Honduras’s de facto regime agreed to let Congress decide on the president’s return. A presidential election set for November 29 will determine who succeeds President Zelaya and a government of national unity will operate until the new president takes office, among other provisions.
Both sides need to return to the table and fulfill their commitment to forming a government of national unity, and all parties should avoid provocative statements and actions that could upset the process.
Before voting on the president’s return, congressional leaders have asked for input from the Supreme Court, attorney general and human rights ombudsman. This is consistent with the accord and was agreed to by both parties during the negotiation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord.
The United States’ commitment is to the accord and its implementation and to the restoration of democratic constitutional order in Honduras. It provides a pathway to free and fair elections, the outcome of which will be widely accepted both within Honduras and abroad.
The United States will respect any decision by the Honduran Congress, and is working to create an environment in which Hondurans themselves can address and resolve the issues that precipitated the crisis. With this behind them, the nation may move forward to address the many other challenges facing it. ”
IAN KELLY, SPOKESMAN
NOVEMBER 12, 2009
EXCERPT ON HONDURAS (with a few non-Honduras questions in the middle)
QUESTION: Okay, now I have a battery of questions about what’s going on in Latin America. One thing is Honduras, that we can talk, because two days ago there was a mission from the U.S. that visit Zelaya. Maybe you have some update? How is Zelaya, the situation there going on?
And the other thing is that also next week is going to be in Brazil Ahmadinejad. He’s going to be the 23rd in Brazil. Lula is becoming like a negotiator. He wants to do that between the Middle East countries. I want to know if the U.S. has been in touch with Brazil about this, especially for the Americans that are now in Iran. Maybe Lula can help in that.
MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, on Honduras, as you know, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Craig Kelly was in Tegucigalpa the last few days. He’s now returned. His goal down there was to urge both parties to sit down and implement the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, which they’ve already committed to do, of course, on October 30th. He met with President Zelaya, he met with Mr. Micheletti, and he also met with representatives of the Verification Commission.
I think the message that he had was that it’s really – it’s up to the Hondurans to implement this agreement that they’ve already actually agreed to, and this is in the interest of Honduras. Our role in this is to support this process. There are right now still smart, patriotic, and pragmatic Hondurans who are working towards the implementation of this accord. And as I say, we support those efforts and we want to give those efforts a chance to succeed.
QUESTION: Did he receive any special message from Zelaya?
MR. KELLY: Sorry?
QUESTION: Did he receive any requests from Zelaya? He’s living there in the Brazilian Embassy. He’s still in a lot of pressure with —
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I understand that he’s still at the Brazilian Embassy. I just – this – as I said before, this is a Honduran process. It’s not an American process. And we just want to support this. And there are people down there – there are Hondurans who are working hard on this, and we just want to give that a chance to succeed.
Regarding the visit of Mr. Ahmadinejad to Brazil, I don’t really have any information about that. We would hope that in any bilateral meetings that they had with Mr. Ahmadinejad that they would stress the importance of Iran living up to its international obligations, of giving the IAEA a response to this proposal to enrich uranium outside Iran, which is in the interests of the international community and the interests of Iran.
And finally, I would hope – yes, I hope that they would – the Brazilians would raise this case of American citizens who are being detained in Iran.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Honduras? Is that —
MR. KELLY: A follow on Honduras?
QUESTION: Just following up on Iran —
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just a real quick one. We’ve been getting reports from Vienna that the IAEA believes that Iran has very seriously slowed down its enrichment processes now, and they’re not quite sure why. I was wondering if the U.S. has been apprised of this, if you guys have the same or similar information. And I’m looking just to update us on where things stand with the offer and the Iranian response.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Regarding the first question, I think all I can say is that we’ve seen those reports and I don’t really have any information to add to those press reports. Regarding the IAEA, we’re at the same place we were yesterday and the day before, and that’s that we’re still waiting for Iran to respond to the proposal of the director general to enriched uranium outside of Iran.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Honduras. What does the U.S. think about the human rights situation there right now? There have been mass arrests, curfews, an emergency decree, and a ban on protests and media closures for three weeks during the presidential campaign. Does that undermine the electoral process, in the view of the U.S.?
MR. KELLY: Regarding the – well, first of all, our real priority here is to see this accord implemented step by step. We’ve only gotten through step one, and we need step two and step three to be implemented.
Regarding the – these reports, I’m actually not aware of these reports of any actions to – you say ban rallies and – no, I’m not just aware of those reports. I think that we would need to have more details about it for us to really comment on it.
And I’m sorry, what was – you had another question, too?
QUESTION: Well, it was just related to the – whether that undermines – whether the restrictions undermine the election. There’s a U.S. congresswoman who’s going to be talking about this in Tegucigalpa tomorrow, so I assume she’s going to be talking about the human rights situation.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we support the elections process there. We have provided technical assistance. I think that we want, the Honduran people want, the countries of the region want a – free, fair, and transparent elections. And these elections will be important to restoring democratic and constitutional order in Honduras, but elections in and of themselves do not guarantee national reconciliation, which is another important goal. And that’s why the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord includes provision for a government of national unity and a truth commission. And I’d just go back to what I said before. The important thing is that we implement this accord, and that’s what our main focus is right now.
QUESTION: Zelaya has seemingly made that link between the two, and he is calling on the U.S. to not recognize the outcome of the elections if the San Jose Accords were not realized by November 29th. Does the U.S. agree that there are going to be diplomatic problems, or should be diplomatic problems, if he is not the sitting president on November 29th?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, again, we want the restoration of the democratic and constitutional order in Honduras. There are a number of ways to get to it, and there are – these steps are outlined in the accord, and an important part of this is for these elections to be internationally recognized. And I think that in order to ensure that, ensure that kind of outcome of internationally recognized election results, the two parties have to implement this accord. And this is what we’re focused on. And as I said, there are Hondurans who are hard at work right now trying to get a resolution to this problem, and we just need to give them time to work this out, to find a Honduran solution to this Honduran problem.
QUESTION: Is – are you saying that the U.S. would recognize the outcome of that election even if the San Jose Accord was not implemented? If in the U.S.’s judgment —
MR. KELLY: There was a lot —
QUESTION: — the elections —
MR. KELLY: A lot of “woulds” and “ifs” in that sentence. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, I knew that. But still, you know, we’re coming on three weeks now. Is it a legitimate election if the current government has been supplanted by an interim military-backed government?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, it’s in everybody’s interest that these elections are seen as free, fair, transparent, and enjoy international recognition.
QUESTION: So that just wipes the slate clean over the past five months?
MR. KELLY: Well, they need to be recognized as free, fair, transparent. There are also – we also need to address this question of national unity and reconciliation. There’s been a fracture in the Honduran body politic, and we need to repair that. And that’s what this accord does. And that’s – again, I’ll just say it again, that’s what we’re focused on is the – this accord.
QUESTION: Will there be discussions in the American Organization of States about this? Because some countries in the meeting extraordinary that they had two days ago, they said that they will not recognize the election if Zelaya’s not in power?
MR. KELLY: Well, I know that there are people from the OAS who are – who are involved in the Verification Commission. There are senior OAS staff members who are in Tegucigalpa there to help facilitate an accord. I would just urge everybody to keep focused on that, getting the accord implemented.