TEGUCIGALPA – The U.S. government has canceled the visa of Honduras’ de facto president, Roberto Micheletti, who took power in a late June coup, as well as those of his foreign minister and 14 Supreme Court justices.
Micheletti and lawmaker Marcia Villeda, whose visa was also revoked, told reporters on Saturday about Washington’s decision; the “interim” president said from the northern city of San Pedro Sula that he was informed of the move by the U.S. consulate in Tegucigalpa.
He complained that the letter addressed him “not as the president of Honduras” but as speaker of Congress, his position before elected head of state Mel Zelaya was dragged from the presidential palace on June 28 and flown to Costa Rica.
Micheletti said the letter indicated that his visa was canceled because of Zelaya’s ouster, although he once again reiterated to the reporters that no coup occurred and soldiers were simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.
After Zelaya’s expulsion from the country, Honduras’ Congress named Micheletti as “interim” head of state ahead of presidential elections scheduled for November.
Micheletti told HRN radio that while he respects the United States’ decision, he will not be pressured into accepting Zelaya’s reinstatement as Honduras’ president.
“We’re not going to take one step backwards. We Honduras have our dignity, so I accept this situation. I respect the U.S. government’s decision to suspend the visa.”
For her part, Villeda, like Micheletti and Zelaya a member of the Liberal Party, told Radio Cadena Voces that the visas of 14 Supreme Court justices, “interim” Foreign Minister Carlos Lopez and several unidentified Tegucigalpa- and San Pedro Sula-based business leaders also were revoked.
Following the coup, the U.S. government revoked the diplomatic visas of the current president of Congress, Jose Alfredo Saavedra; Supreme Court Justice Tomas Arita; “interim” Defense Minister Adolfo Sevilla and the country’s human rights commissioner, Ramon Custodio.
The U.S. government announced Thursday that more than $30 million in aid to Honduras suspended in the wake of the June 28 ouster of President Mel Zelaya – a former logging magnate who moved to the left after taking office – was being formally halted.
Perhaps more significantly, Washington said that if the de facto regime in Tegucigalpa remains intransigent on the question of Zelaya’s reinstatement, the United States would not recognize the winner of the Nov. 29 presidential election in the Central American country.
The State Department outlined its tougher stance shortly after Zelaya met in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“(Thursday’s) action sends a clear message to the de facto regime that the status quo is unacceptable and that their strategy to try to run out the clock on President Zelaya’s term of office is unacceptable,” Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley told reporters.
“There’s a sense that the de facto regime was thinking if we can just get to an election that this will absolve them of all their sins,” he said. “That is not the case.”
Also Thursday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that as things now stand, the U.S. government “would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections” in Honduras.
Both Crowley and Kelly said the only way out for Roberto Micheletti’s de facto government lay in accepting the San Jose Accord, the proposal put forward by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias in his role as mediator.
The accord calls for Zelaya to return and serve out his term, which ends in January 2010, and for a political amnesty that would protect both the coup plotters and the ousted head of state, who stands accused of various offenses by the de facto regime.
While Zelaya has accepted the plan, Micheletti flatly rejects the reinstatement of the elected head of state.
The State Department said that Honduras, the third-poorest nation in the hemisphere, would continue to receive humanitarian aid, but through channels other than the government in Tegucigalpa.
While the coup leaders accuse Zelaya of seeking to extend his stay in office, any potential constitutional change to allow presidential re-election would not have taken place until well after the incumbent stepped down.