After seeing itself isolated in the hemisphere after expelling its president for a series of constitutional violations, the interim government of Honduras got a lifeline from its neighbor earlier today. Costa Rica has offered to mediate a solution to the standoff over Manuel Zelaya’s arrest and exile last week. Roberto Micheletti, the interim president, embraced the offer immediately:
Honduras’ interim government gave hints Tuesday of a possible solution to a crisis caused by a coup, expressing the first signs of flexibility about the possible return of ousted leader Manuel Zelaya.
Roberto Micheletti, who took over following the June 28 coup, applauded the announcement that Costa Rican President Oscar Arias has agreed to mediate efforts to end the standoff.
Arias “is a man with a lot of credibility in the world,” Micheletti told HRN radio. “We are open to dialogue. We want to be heard.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that Arias would take part after met privately in Washington with Zelaya.
Micheletti said he would send a delegation soon to Costa Rica — a reversal from past days, when he said he would not negotiate until “things are normal.” Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for efforts to help end Central America’s civil wars.
The parameters of a mediated conclusion would be difficult to imagine. Zelaya wants a return to office, albeit with restricted authority and a promise to stop pursuing constitutional changes. The interim government is thinking more along the lines of dropping political charges against Zelaya, but leaving 18 criminal charges in place. There would have to be something in the middle, but it’s hard to imagine that the legislature or the Supreme Court would agree to allowing Zelaya to return to office at all.
What changed? The US may have lost its taste for “meddling,” as more of the details of Zelaya’s actions came to light. Mel Martinez and Jim DeMint took to the Senate floor today to outline Zelaya’s attempts to thwart the Honduran constitution and seize personal power for himself. John McCain began using his Twitter feed to make the argument that the US had backed the wrong horse. Hillary Clinton refused to meet with a delegation from the Micheletti interim government, which created even more visibility to what has been a heavy-handed response from Barack Obama and his administration towards what would have been an internal matter for Honduras had they not expelled Zeleya. And it certainly didn’t help Obama at home to keep arguing on the same side as Hugo Chavez and the Castro brothers.
Costa Rica may have thrown a lifeline to more than just Honduras.