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July 1, 09

NEWS / Honduran Crisis Must be Resolved Peacefully and Lawfully

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — Political tensions in Honduras must be resolved peacefully and with respect for democratic norms, President Obama says, voicing his concern over the June 28 detention and expulsion of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

In a June 28 statement, Obama called on all of the political and social entities in Honduras to “respect democratic norms, the rule of law, and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

The president added that the ongoing tensions and disputes in Honduras “must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.”

The Honduran military forcibly removed Zelaya from the presidential palace June 28 and expelled him to Costa Rica before the start of a survey he had called for June 28 to gauge popular support for a second term despite a Honduran Supreme Court order to the contrary. Under the Honduran Constitution, a president may serve only one term. Also, the country’s congress voted June 28 to remove Zelaya for repeatedly violating the constitution and disregarding other government institutions.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said June 29 that the restoration of full democratic and constitutional order in Honduras is the “immediate priority” of the United States.

The events are a test for the region’s ability to “support and defend democracy and constitutional order,” Clinton said.

The United States is working with its partners in the Organization of American States (OAS) to “fashion a strong consensus” that condemns the detention and expulsion of President Zelaya and calls for a restoration of democratic order in the country, she said.

The Obama administration will also continue to work with other countries in the region to facilitate dialogue between the parties in Honduras, restore confidence in the country’s democratic institutions and ensure that the country successfully moves toward the presidential election scheduled for November.

“As we move forward, all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday’s events, in a way that enhances democracy and the rule of law in Honduras,” Clinton said.

The secretary said the situation “has evolved into a coup,” but added that the United States is currently withholding a formal legal determination over what has taken place. Under U.S. law, no bilateral assistance other than for democracy promotion can be given to a country when its elected leader has been ousted by a military coup.

She said the United States, which provides assistance to Honduras under programs such as the Millennium Challenge Account, is looking at the situation and considering its implications.

“Much of our assistance is conditioned on the integrity of the democratic system,” Clinton said. A return to the rule of law and a restoration of constitutional order “within a relatively short period of time … would be a good outcome.”

The secretary said “all parties” in Honduras need to “take a step back and look at how the institutions within their democracy are supposed to be working.”

She also said the initial OAS response to the situation has reaffirmed the organization’s support for the principles of democracy and constitutional order.

OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza warned Honduran officials June 28 that they face “international isolation” based on the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states that an unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order constitutes “an insurmountable obstacle to its government’s participation” in the OAS.

The Permanent Council of the OAS also adopted a resolution on June 28 that “vehemently” condemned Zelaya’s expulsion and detention and demanded his “immediate, safe and unconditional return.”

The resolution declared that “no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized,” and called for a special general assembly meeting at its Washington headquarters June 30 to discuss the crisis.

In a June 28 teleconference, a senior State Department official told reporters that the United States views Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras and called for his immediate return.

The official said that in recent weeks, the United States and other countries in the region have been working to address the underlying causes of the conflict and the political polarization in Honduras, “and especially to facilitate dialogue between competing institutions” in an effort to ensure that there was a democratic resolution of the differences that would respect the country’s constitutional order.

While the United States views Zelaya’s forcible removal as “extra-constitutional,” the president’s proposed survey to extend his term is “an internal domestic Honduran issue” to be resolved by the country’s institutions, the official said.

Tags: secretary of state,


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