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Honduran Accords Hung Up on Zelaya's Reinstatement

Laura Carlsen: Americas MexicoBlog

Talks between representatives of the coup regime and the constitutional government of President Manuel Zelaya reached consensus on eight of nine points yesterday. But the missing point is the same one that that has has held up any agreement to end the stand-off since Day One of the coup d'Ă©tat over three months ago.

Coup leaders once again balked at the reinstatement of Zelaya in the presidency, which the resistance and many neighboring nations have demanded be "unconditional." According to declarations from the leader of the de facto regime, Roberto Micheletti, the current reason for refusing reinstatement hinges on whether it will be the Congress or the Supreme Court that decides. The original proposal was for Congress to revoke its destitution decree, but Micheletti stated that restitution is a legal matter, "It would definitely be the Supreme Court that would have to make this decision."

Neither body has much credibility within the resistance movement. Moves that range from Zelaya's destitution—and subsequent kidnapping—to falsifying a resignation letter with a forged signature and implicitly supporting violent repression have eroded trust in the institutions within the polarized society. The many legal arguments posed to delay an agreement to reinstate Zelaya have caused skepticism and the belief that the coup is merely making time before the upcoming Nov. 29 elections. All nations, with the exception of Panama, have stated they will not accept the results of elections carried out by an illegal coup regime.

Today's talks will concentrate on the sole point of the president's reinstatement. It will be a make-it-or-break-it session, since Zelaya has placed a deadline of Oct. 15or his restitution.

OAS Secretary General Jose Insulza said he was optimistic yesterday that "a Honduran solution to the Honduran crisis" is imminent. He enunciated the points of agreement, based on review of the San Jose Accords as follows:

1. The creation of a government of national reconciliation that includes cabinet members from both sides was agreed upon.
2. Both sides agreed that they would not promote a vote on holding a Constitutional Assembly before Jan. 27, when Zelaya's term ends.
3. A general amnesty for political crimes was rejected by both sides.
4. The original proposal to move up the elections was discarded by both sides as obsolete.
5. The proposal to place the command of the Armed Forces under the Electoral Tribunal during the month prior to the elections was agreed on.
6. There is no agreement yet on restitution of Zelaya.
7. It was agreed to create a Verification Commission to follow up on the accords, consisting of two members of the OAS, and one member each from the constitutional government and the coup regime.
8. The creation of a Truth Commission to begin work in 2010 was agreed on.
9. Revoking sanctions against Honduras following the accords was agreed on.

The point on the Constitutional Assembly, a central demand of the organizations in the National Front against the Coup, led to the resignation of resistance leader, Juan Barahona, from the Zelaya negotiating team. Barahona said he would not be part of an agreement that set aside this crucial demand.

Although Zelaya negotiator Victor Meza stated that there was agreement on restitution, Micheletti stated publicly that in fact he would not agree to the terms presently on the table. An official declaration from the Presidential Palace yesterday stated, "There is no final accord on this point. Press reports indicating the contrary are false. We ask the national and international press to be cautious in their reports on the negotiation since they have a responsibility not to hinder the dialogue."

Some leaders of the Front against the Coup were pessimistic. EFE cited farm leader Filadelfo Martinez saying that the movement will not be content with only restoring Zelaya to the presidency and wants "a national accord that includes the possibility of reforming not only the Constitution, but also the legal framework that gives campesinos access to the land and children access to quality education" to reduce the extreme social inequality that exists in the country.

A Wednesday public declaration from the Front reveals the deep class divisions that have been exposed in the conflict and the determination of grassroots organizations to fight for the Constitutional Assembly. "We once again declare our commitment to installing a National Constitutional Assembly, democratic and inclusive, that has as its principal objective to create a new foundation for Honduras to overcome the oppression and exploitation of the popular sectors by an elite minority that unjustly concentrates wealth created by the workers."

Today's negotiations will be difficult, to say the least. And while a peaceful return to the rule of law is the immediate goal, it will not resolve the deeper problems that have divided society and mobilized thousands of Hondurans. This stage is critical, but many challenges remain even if the two sides manage to reach agreement.