Stand-off resumes as crisis deal 'fails'
An agreement to end the political stand-off in Honduras has failed after interim leader Roberto Micheletti (pictured) formed a "unity cabinet" without representatives of Manuel Zelaya, a spokesman for the ousted president says.
A spokesman for ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya declared on Thursday that a unity agreement signed last week was no longer valid after the country’s interim leader, Roberto Micheletti, announced the formation of a new government without Zelaya’s participation. The return of the political feuding has once again cast doubt on the legitimacy of a presidential poll slated for 29 November.
Last week the two camps agreed to a power-sharing deal brokered by the US and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Under its terms, Zelaya would return to the presidency but forgo seeking a second term in the election later this month. The deal was subject to the approval of Honduras’ Congress.
The agreement also called on the international community to lift all sanctions, recognise the November 29 elections and send observers to oversee the polls.
The poor Central American country has been hit with sanctions from the international community since Zelaya was forcibly exiled in a June 28 coup. The Organisation of American States (OAS) and the European Union (EU) also threatened not to recognise the results of the upcoming poll and to prolong Honduras’ costly isolation.
A wealthy rancher, Zelaya angered powerful conservatives when he was in power by building close ties with Latin America’s political left and proposing constitutional reforms that would have potentially allowed him to seek a second presidential term. Honduras’ constitution forbids the country’s president from serving two consecutive terms.
Racing against the clock
Negotiations to restore democracy have been marked by numerous deadlines. The latest race against time called on the two camps to form a so-called unity and reconciliation cabinet by Thursday, but Zelaya refused to present the names of his ministers if he was not reinstated as president first.
Earlier on Thursday, Zelaya said the pact was at risk of failing unless Congress held an immediate vote to return him to power. Micheletti retorted on Thursday night by installing a national unity government without the participation of Zelaya.
After the reconciliation deal was reached last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that Washington would recognise the outcome of the elections, regardless of whether Zelaya is returned to office, a break with previous demands for his full reinstatement.
Since the start of the crisis, hundreds of Zelaya supporters have continued protesting to demand the leader’s return to office despite a clampdown on civil liberties and confrontations with security forces. A rise in violent incidents, including a grenade detonation at a radio station sympathetic to Micheletti, has been reported in recent days.