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  HOME | Central America

Mediators Say Honduran Coup Leader Willing to Step Aside

TEGUCIGALPA – The leader of the de facto regime that has ruled Honduras since the June 28 ouster of elected President Mel Zelaya is ready to give up his ambition to head the national-unity government mandated by last week’s pact aimed at ending the crisis, the Verification Commission overseeing the accord said Wednesday.

“Mr. (Roberto) Micheletti made it clear he would be willing to step aside,” commission member Hilda Solis, the U.S. labor secretary, told a press conference in Tegucigalpa after she and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos met with the head of the coup regime.

Micheletti, according to Lagos, “understands that the formation and installation of a government of national unity is bolstered” if he is prepared to resign as “interim” president.

Zelaya’s representative on the Verification Commission, Jorge Reina, said the deposed head of state was stepping back from his earlier threat to renounce the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord if he is not reinstated in time to lead the national-unity government scheduled to take office Thursday.

“We don’t want to put it in those terms because we have felt the will of the international community to support us,” the erstwhile Honduran envoy to the United Nations said.

Reina also said it was still possible that Honduran lawmakers could decide to reinstate Zelaya by Thursday’s deadline for the formation of a new government.

But hopes for that appeared dim, as the congressional leadership has yet to even convene the full legislature for a debate pending receipt of advisory opinions from the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court, the very institution that has sought to give the coup a veneer of legality.

Lagos and Solis were expected to leave Honduras later Wednesday, their places on the Verification Commission to be filled by appointees of Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza.

Though the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord leaves the question of Zelaya’s reinstatement up to Congress, the ousted president says the deal is off if lawmakers refuse to restore him for the less than three months left in his term.

The Micheletti camp, however, insists Zelaya must accept the verdict of Congress, whatever it may be.

Micheletti has contended all along that Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, insisting the soldiers who dragged him from the presidential palace and put him on a plane to Costa Rica were simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.

But while the putschists 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 in January.

Hondurans are set to go the polls Nov. 29 to choose Zelaya’s successor, but most foreign governments have said they will not recognize the process as legitimate unless the deposed head of state is reinstated beforehand. EFE

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