Leaders of Honduras’ two largest and most dangerous gangs announced a truce today during press conferences held in a San Pedro Sula prison. “We ask society and authorities to forgive us for the damage we have done,” said the head of the Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, of the agreement forged with the 18th Street gang. Eight months in the making, the truce was mediated by Roman Catholic Bishop Romulo Emiliano, with the backing of the Organization of American States’ Secretary for Multidimensional Security Adam Blackwell. The Honduran president voiced his support on Monday. The deal gives a heavy nod to a gang truce negotiated last year in neighboring El Salvador. That truce led to a hefty reduction in homicides, an accomplishment that Honduras—with a murder rate 10 times the global average—hopes to emulate.
More than two years since Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya was forced into exile, an agreement signed over the weekend paves the way for him to return home and for Honduras to return to the fold of the Organization of American States. Zelaya met with current President Porfirio López on Sunday in Cartagena, Colombia, to ink the pact brokered by the host country and Venezuela. “I am pleased to come to sign a reconciliation agreement for the democracy of the Honduran people,” said the ex-leader, who was overthrown in June 2009 after signaling he intended to ignore a court order halting a constitutional referendum. “Return to Honduras without any fear because you will be treated with the respect due a former president,” Lobo told Zelaya in Cartagena.
Honduras found itself caught in an political stalemate after the June 28 overthrow of Manuel Zelaya. Explore a timeline of key dates in the months-long crisis.
June 25: Tensions flare in Honduras when President Manuel Zelaya leads supporters to air force headquarters to seize ballots needed for a June 28 referendum deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Critics say the referendum would have opened the door to a constitutional reform allowing presidential reelection. The Court also reinstates armed forces chief, Romeo Vásquez, whom Zelaya dismissed a day earlier.
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 a dispatch, Reuters photojournalist Edgard Garrido describes the current scene inside the embassy compound, where he is confined with Zelaya supporters, a handful of journalists, and the ousted leader. The unlikely residents face food shortages, tear-gas fears, and concerns about what comes next. “With both sides so far apart, it's not at all clear when there will be an end to the crisis, or my unusual and uncomfortable assignment,” writes Garrido, who snapped a widely circulated photograph of Zelaya napping on an embassy sofa.