AS/COA Online | An End to the Honduran Waiting Game?

With a delegation from Washington in Tegucigalpa to push for an end to Honduras’ ongoing political stalemate, negotiators reached a power-sharing agreement late Thursday. The pact, termed a “breakthrough” by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, allows for a “reconciliation and unity government.” The accord also lays a path for answering the sticky question of whether deposed leader President Manuel Zelaya will regain office. Approval of the deal could build international support for recognizing the November 29 elections.

With less than a month to go before those elections, the pact allows the Honduran Congress to vote on Zelaya’s reinstatement—a proposal the deposed leader’s negotiators previously put forth. Following news of the October 29 agreement, Zelaya said he was “optimistic I will be restored to the presidency.” The accord’s provisions call on both sides to recognize election results and the subsequent power transfer, ask the international community for normalized relations, reject amnesty for political crimes, and require creation of a truth commission to investigate events leading up to and following the June 28 coup.

In an address to the Honduran public, interim leader Roberto Micheletti indicated Congress’ decision would come after the country’s Supreme Court delivers its own opinion on the deal. The accord reached Thursday puts the final say in the lawmakers’ control, though some say this does not signal a done deal for the ousted leader’s reinstatement. “Zelaya won’t be restored—I don’t think so,” Micheletti advisor and congressional Vice President Marcia Facusse de Villeda told Bloomberg. “But just by signing this agreement, we already have the recognition of the international community for the elections.”

Four months after the overthrow of Zelaya, Honduras continued to face international pressure and aid suspensions while the deadlock dragged on. Most countries in the Western Hemisphere voiced opposition to recognizing the elections without the return of Zelaya, who was ousted for what critics say was an attempt to illegally push through constitutional amendments that may have led to his reelection. With the clock ticking down to election day, Washington sent a delegation headed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon on October 29 to push through a deal. As the two sides neared agreement Thursday, Shannon told reporters: “[I]f there’s an agreement in the national dialogue, we think that is sufficient to open a space for international support for Honduras’s elections.”

News of the deal was met with international support. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza expressed “great satisfaction” and congratulated Shannon and Costa Rican President Óscar Arias, whose San Jose Accord served as a framework. France praised the deal and offered to send electoral observers. Brazil released a statement saying it “trusts that the agreement reached yesterday will allow the full reintegration of Honduras into the inter-American and international systems and the prompt normalization of the situation of its Embassy in Tegucigalpa.” Zelaya has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy since he snuck back into Honduras in September.

The deal is seen as a win for Washington. “For as often as we've been criticized for our activities in Latin America, this shows that we remain the indispensable nation,” COA’s Eric Farnsworth told Reuters. He also suggested the coast is not yet clear. “My prediction would be there will be people who will keep trying to complicate the election on November 29.”

Writing for Foreign Policy's The Argument, AS/COA's Christopher Sabatini and AQ blogger Daniel Altschuler warn against U.S. conservatives who attempt to depict Zelaya's overthrow as anything but a coup. "If adopted by policymakers, their views would risk throwing Latin America back to the dark days of military governments and sham elections of the 1970s and 1980s," they write, heralding Thursday's accord as a way to move forward.

In the race to be Honduras’ next president, frontrunner Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the National Party outpaces  Liberal Party’s Elvin Santos by 16 points in a CID-Gallup poll.