If you thought the White House response to the crisis in Honduras was confused before yesterday, you’ll need a scorecard to figure it out now. After successfully imposing American will on Honduras to return Manuel Zelaya to the presidency, the Obama administration apparently reversed course and told the Hondurans that we would recognize their elections this month whether Zelaya was back in office or not. Zelaya sent a plaintive request for clarification from underneath the bus:
Ousted President Manuel Zelaya is asking the Obama Administration why, after pressing for his reinstatement, it now says it will recognize upcoming Honduran elections even if he isn’t returned to power first.
In a letter sent to the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, Zelaya asked Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “to clarify to the Honduran people if the position condemning the coup d’etat has been changed or modified.”
His request came after Washington’s top envoy to Latin America, Thomas Shannon, told CNN en Espanol that Washington will recognize the Nov. 29 elections even if the Honduran Congress decides against returning Zelaya to power.
A U.S.-brokered deal reached last week leaves Zelaya’s reinstatement in the hands of Congress, but sets no deadline as to when lawmakers must decide. Delays in the expected vote have generated fears in the Zelaya camp.
The threat from Obama to Honduras was entirely predicated on recognition of their national elections. Even though all of the political parties had agreed to proceed with the regular election — even Zelaya’s party — the White House warned that sanctions would continue indefinitely, even after the country picked Zelaya’s successor. Without that threat, Honduras would have ignored attempts to mediate the crisis and agree to returning Zelaya to the country at all, let alone to the presidency for the few weeks left in his term.
Now, the Honduran Parliament that unanimously authorized Zelaya’s removal has no particular reason to reinstate him. Zelaya knows that, which is why he’s demanding an answer from Hillary Clinton over his abandonment by the US. Thus far, he seems to be the only one who doesn’t realize that the entire affair has embarrassed the US, particularly since the Law Library of Congress report that concluded that Honduras acted legally to remove Zelaya and didn’t conduct a “coup”.
State Department Ian Kelly says the US is now focused on having the Honduran people resolve the issue themselves:
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday that the United States considers what happened in Honduras a coup and that Zelaya should be reinstated, but he said the focus now should be on implementing last week’s deal between the ousted president’s representatives and the interim government of Roberto Micheletti.
“We’ve made our position on President Zelaya and his restitution clear. We believe he should be restored to power,” Kelly said. “Our focus now is on implementing this process and creating an environment wherein Hondurans themselves can address the issue of restitution and resolve for themselves this Honduran problem.”
Which is exactly what the US position should have been all along.