Hopes high for reconciliation as Zelaya ‘deadline’ reached

As a deadline imposed by ousted leader Manuel Zelaya is reached, negotiators say they are close to an agreement to end Honduras’ political crisis, while the de facto president said no deal was made.


Negotiators were scheduled to meet again on Thursday, the deadline imposed by ousted President Manuel Zelaya, to find a solution to Honduras’ political crisis. While de facto leader Roberto Micheletti repeated Wednesday that no final agreement had been reached, negotiators were optimistic that a legitimate government could be established before regularly-scheduled presidential elections in November.

“The dialogue on this point has been cordial and both sides have made important advances. However, at this moment, there is no final agreement,” Micheletti’s negotiators said in a statement on Wednesday.

The last point of contention in the negotiations is reported to be Zelaya’s full reinstatement; a possibility the coup government does not appear ready to accept outright.

Zelaya's representative had told a news conference that negotiators had reached agreement on a point relating to the restoration of "the powers of state to where they were before June 28, 2009," when Zelaya was exiled in a coup.

“This is the closest we have come to a deal to get out of this crisis since the coup was carried out three months ago”, added FRANCE 24 correspondent Ioan Grillo. The draft text put together by the two parties is believed to contain plans for an interim government with representatives from both camps.

Forcing negotiations with a covert return

Zelaya was toppled and forced into exile by soldiers on June 28, but slipped back into Honduras last month and took refuge in the Brazilian Embassy.

A wealthy rancher who wears a cowboy hat, Zelaya angered powerful conservatives when he was in power by building close ties to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez and proposing constitutional reform to allow the re-election of presidents.

It was Zelaya’s clandestine return that effectively forced the two sides to the negotiating table, although Micheletti’s government failed to win the support or recognition of any country.

International pressure

The United States and other foreign governments have repeatedly condemned the coup against Zelaya and threatened not to recognise elections called for November 29 if democracy is not restored before that date.

US President Barack Obama has called for Zelaya’s return, and backed this up by cutting some aid to the country and turning down visas for Honduras’ unrecognised leaders.

Few options remain for de facto president Michelletti, who appeared to concede a decision on Zelaya’s potential reinstatement to the Honduras’ judiciary. “As I understand it, Zelaya is asking that Congress determine if he can return or not,” Micheletti said. “But it is the Supreme Court that has to decide.”

After months of political turmoil, Hondurans finally had something else to cheer about on Wednesday night, as the national soccer team qualified for the World Cup finals next year.

It is only the second time Honduras has ever made it to the finals, and celebrations erupted across the country as the team booked its place with a 1-0 win over El Salvador.

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