The White House and the State Department are finally doing what they should have done long ago: putting a high-level delegation on the ground on Honduras and talking to all parties including the interim government of Roberto Micheletti.
The U.S. hopes to end the political crisis that began on June 28 when President Manuel Zelaya was removed from the presidency for gross violations of the Honduran constitution and for aspiring to extend the term of his presidency. For months the Obama Administration dodged leadership responsibility and handed the problem off to the Organization of American States, to Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, and U.S. embassy officials.
Now, with just a month to go until the November 29 elections, the Administration is desperately playing catch-up. Although the Administration may have already shot itself in the foot with its pronouncements about a “coup,” not a constitutional crisis, with its readiness to punish Hondurans with aid cut-offs and visa denials, and with threat to reject the legitimacy to the November 29 elections, it may yet help negotiate a solution. The press says an idea put forward by Mr. Micheletti, but turned down by Mr. Zelaya, calls for both men to renounce the presidency in favor of an interim president who would preside over upcoming elections, offering a genuine “Honduran solution.”
The Obama Administration knows the November 29 elections are the only way to end the crisis. By refusing not to recognize the outcome, the Administration runs the risk of promoting lawlessness and violence for years to come. Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and Raul Castro may gain advantages by the non-recognition of the elections as will Manuel Zelaya who still hopes to engineer a return to the presidency. The U.S. will not. It will see our friends turn away from us; commerce and trade suffer; poverty increase, and lawlessness and drug trafficking go on a rampage.
In the eleventh hour, it is critical for the talks to succeed and for the U.S. to stand behind the November 29 elections with observers, electoral support and a spirit of constructive impartiality.