TEGUCIGALPA – Supporters of ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya said Monday that they will boycott the Nov. 29 presidential election even if the deposed head of state is restored to office before then.
The only leftist in the presidential contest, Carlos Reyes, withdrew from the race, while the anti-coup Resistance Front said it is already too late to ensure a free and fair ballot.
To take part in the vote would be “to legitimize the coup d’etat,” Reyes, who has been running at only 4 percent in the polls, told reporters when he arrived at the Supreme Electoral Court to formally renounce his candidacy.
“Participation in such a process would give legitimacy to the coup regime and to its successor,” the Resistance Front said in a statement.
Members of the Resistance Front have mounted daily demonstrations since June 28, when soldiers dragged Zelaya from the presidential palace and put him on a plane to Costa Rica.
Many of those protests have been broken up violently by soldiers and police on the orders of the coup regime, with a toll of a dozen deaths and hundreds injured and arrested. While the leader of the de facto regime, Roberto Micheletti, resorted at one point to a state of siege and has forced anti-coup media outlets off the air for weeks at a time.
“The army has its nose in everything, there is repression throughout the country,” Reyes said Monday. “All state institutions are run not only by the military, but by the putschists.”
But David Matamoros, one of the three members of the Electoral Tribunal, insisted “there are more than sufficient factors for the elections to be considered clean and transparent.”
Zelaya, who slipped back into the country Sept. 21 and remains holed up at the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, said boycotting the election to choose his successor is the “correct” decision.
The electoral process is “hardly clean,” given that it is unfolding “under repression, under dictatorship, with political persecution, violations of human rights and suspension of news media,” Zelaya said.
The U.S. government expressed disappointment last Friday over the breakdown in implementation of the accord meant to end the standoff between Zelaya and the Micheletti regime.
Signed Oct. 30 by representatives of Zelaya and Micheletti, the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord called for the formation of a national unity government by midnight last Thursday.
The pact also required Congress to vote on restoring the elected head of state.
But the text did not lay down a timeframe for that process and the congressional leadership put off a debate, choosing instead to first seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court, the very institution that has sought to give the coup a veneer of legality.
Zelaya maintains that the installation of the national unity government and undoing the putsch are inextricably linked, but the Micheletti camp insists on treating them as separate issues.
Soon after last Thursday’s deadline, Micheletti took to the Honduran airwaves to unilaterally announce a new administration, with himself at its head, made up of candidates proposed by political parties and other sectors of civil society.
Zelaya responded Friday by pronouncing the accord dead, prompting U.S. officials to urge both sides to resume negotiations.
Some members of the Resistance Front have blamed the United States and the Organization of American States for failing to compel the Micheletti regime to comply with the accord.
“We hold the OAS and the United States responsible for being accomplices in this coup d’etat, which, after 131 days, they have done nothing to resolve,” Juan Barahona told Efe last week. “They show no interest in the definitive exit of the putschists from power.”
His comments followed a statement by the top U.S. diplomat for the Americas, Thomas Shannon, that Washington would accept the Honduran Congress’ decision on whether or not to restore Zelaya to office for the less than three months left in his term.
The remark by Shannon, whose presence in Tegucigalpa two weeks ago was credited with spurring agreement between Zelaya and Micheletti, seemed to go back on Washington’s earlier threat not to recognize the winner of Honduras’ Nov. 29 presidential election unless the deposed leader was reinstated beforehand.
And last week, Shannon told a U.S. senator that Washington would recognize the election results regardless of what happened with Zelaya.
Barahona said that the OAS and Washington “could have forced the putschists, within 24 to 32 hours, to give back power they usurped.”
“The United States hasn’t done it because it is in agreement with the coup d’etat. The OAS hasn’t done it because that has been its role forever: to talk and not to do,” he said.
Micheletti has contended all along that Zelaya’s ouster was not a coup, insisting the army was simply enforcing a Supreme Court ban on the president’s planned non-binding plebiscite on the idea of revising the constitution.
But while the coup plotters 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. EFE